Many college-related fires result from a general lack of knowledge about fire safety. According to the United States Fire Administration, from January 2000 to May 2015 there were 85 fatal fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities and off-campus housing, resulting in 118 fatalities – an average of approximately seven per school year.
94 percent of campus fire fatalities occur in off-campus housing where approximately 2/3 of the students live. This has a direct impact on the prevention, planning and response activities for fire and emergency services departments located near colleges and universities.
The lifestyle of a college student differs greatly from that of civilians in the general population. For many, it’s the first time they’ve lived away from home and they are embracing the independence, and in some cases the new responsibilities, that come with this freedom. For most students, the last fire safety training they received was in grade school.
Fortunately, on-campus residential housing has become safe, with modern alarm systems and fire sprinklers protecting students. However, off-campus living remains the highest risk for fatal fires, with more than 90 percent of campus fire deaths occurring in these dwellings. Colleges need to work with surrounding neighborhoods. Universities are often the financial juggernaut in these towns and cities, and they have the ability to effect change.
Here are some important campus fire facts:
- Of the 85 fatal campus fires referenced above, there were no fire sprinklers present.
- Smoking (29 percent) was the leading cause of fatal campus fires.
- Alcohol was a factor in 76 percent of fatal campus fires. Alcohol abuse impairs judgment and hampers evacuation efforts.
- Smoke alarms were either missing or tampered with (disconnected or battery removed) in 58 percent of fatal campus fires.
- 70 percent of fatal campus fires occurred on the weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday)
- 67 percent of the victims were males.
- 73 percent of the fatal fires occurred between midnight and 6 a.m.
- Saturday is the peak day of the week (32 percent) for fatal campus fires.
- April was the peak month (13 percent) for fatal fires in campus housing.
- Nearly half (49 percent) of the campus fire fatalities were 20 and 21 years old, the age of most sophomores and juniors, with their first foray into independent life ending tragically.
- An estimated 3,800 campus fires occur each year in the United States.
- Cooking causes more than 2/3 of fire injuries at college campuses, followed by careless smoking, arson, unattended candles, and the overloading of extension cords and power strips.
E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire Safety offers some fire safety tips that could save your life:
- Select a residence hall or off campus housing that has smoke alarms and fire sprinklers. These mitigation devices reduce the risk of dying in a fire by 82%.
- Cook only where permitted and never leave cooking unattended.
- Don’t smoke. But if you must, only smoke outside away from the building.
- Do not overload electrical outlets or power strips.
- Never leave candles unattended, provide a one-foot circle of safety clear of anything that might come in contact with the candle like table clothes, curtains, or papers and put candles out after each use.
- Always have and practice an escape plan.
- Look for an alternate exit from every room whether at a party or in class.
- If you must escape through smoke, Get Low and Go under the smoke toward an exit.
By following these tips and using common sense, injuries and even deaths will be prevented. Remember, Fire Is Everyone’s Fight ™ where you live!