Shortly after 1:00 a.m. today, a fire broke out in an apartment building on Couch Street in Plattsburg, New York. Working quickly, fire crews extinguished the fire in under an hour. One resident was transported to the hospital, with unspecified injuries. Her condition is, to quote a fire department public information officer, “not good.” Unconfirmed reports state that some of the residents of this building are students of Plattsburg, a State University of New York (SUNY) school. More information will be released, once available. Information pertaining to fire detection and suppression systems within the building were unavailable at the time of press.
CCFS reflects on this tragedy and also wants to remind everyone of the importance of properly installing and maintaining smoke detectors and other fire prevention equipment, in accordance with prescribed codes and standards. But let’s look beyond requirements and ask ourselves what else we can do to avoid potential loss of life from fire.
· Plan your escape routes – Identify windows and doors, know two ways out and determine an escape route before the fire. Always choose the safest escape route – the one with the least amount smoke and heat. Be prepared to get low under smoke if necessary.
· Keep escape routes clear – do not allow objects to be stored in halls or stairwells. Make sure windows can be easily opened.
· Inspect the exterior door at bottom of stairwell. It must be able to be opened without a key from the inside. Door cannot be blocked by snow, cars or other objects.
· Keep an emergency escape ladder on upper floors. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for the safe use of emergency escape ladders. Only purchase emergency escape ladders evaluated by a recognized testing laboratory. Only use the ladder from upper floors in a real emergency.
· Choose a meeting place in advance – Pick a highly visible area, a safe distance away from the flames, to meet in case of fire related emergency.
· Be prepared – Practice your emergency exit routes with each occupant. Practice crawling low to avoid toxic smoke from a fire. Practice feeling doors for heat before opening. Practice opening windows. Practice using an emergency escape ladder from the first floor.
· Use a portable fire extinguisher only if you know how and can do so safely. Before using a fire extinguisher call 9-1-1 and sound the fire alarm. Fire extinguishers are useful only for very small fires, like those contained in a small waste basket. If the fire is larger that, exit the building immediately.
“The Center for Campus Fire Safety also wants to point out the necessity of fire sprinkler systems,” said Paul D. Martin, President of The Center for Campus Fire Safety. “To have residence halls without fire sprinklers today should be unacceptable to parents,” said Martin. Fire Sprinklers protect people and structures. Most people don’t realize that 8 out of 10 fire deaths occur at night when everyone is asleep. Fires are also fast; they can go from a tiny flame to total destruction in as little as three minutes. Fire sprinklers can suppress and often extinguish a fire before the fire department arrives, providing additional time to escape.
Fire Fatality Statistics:
83 fatal fires have been documented that occurred on a college campus, in Greek housing or in off-campus housing within 3-miles of the campus – claiming a total of 120 victims.
- » 70 fires have occurred in off-campus housing.
- » 7 fires have occurred in on-campus building or residence halls.
- » 6 fires have occurred in Greek housing.
- » 14 were attributed to arson, claiming 22 victims.
- » 36 fires were reportedly accidental, claiming 36 victims.
- » 33 fires were attributed to unknown causes, claiming 49 victims.
CCFS has been documenting specific campus related fires deaths since Year 2000. Current and more detailed statistics, along with the definition of how we define “campus related fires” are always posted on the website, along with a host of fire safety resources and tips for fire safety professionals as well as students in both universities and off-campus housing. One of the resources includes a daily and ongoing listing of other fire incidents in the higher education arena.
To learn more about CCFS and its programs, visit www.campusfiresafety.org.