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A College Student's Guide to Picking Fire Safe Housing

College Friends In Between Classes | EFPD | Eureka MO

For many American families, September marks summer's end and the school year's beginning. As elementary, middle, and high school students adjust to early wake-up times and homework, college kids excitedly acclimate to independent living. Moving to student housing is a thrilling part of university life as long as the living conditions are safe. Unfortunately, college and university students on and off campus each year experience hundreds of fire-related emergencies nationwide. The Eureka Fire Protection District urges all college parents, students, and housing administrators to understand the fire risks most common to dormitories, fraternities, sororities, and off-campus housing and the preventive measures that could save lives.

5 Common Causes for Fires on College Campuses

Off Campus Cooking | Eureka Fire Protection District | Eureka, MO

According to FEMA research, the leading causes of campus-related fires include:

  1. Cooking Equipment

  2. Arson

  3. Careless Smoking

  4. Unattended Candles

  5. Overloaded Extension Cords, Power Strips, and Outlets

In some instances, alcohol is a contributing factor to fire fatalities. Drinking excessively often impairs judgment and hampers evacuation efforts.

Tips to Prevent Campus Fire Risks & Save Lives

Automatic Sprinkler in Campus Housing | Eureka Fire Protection District | Eureka, MO

The Eureka Fire Protection District, in conjunction with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and The Center for Campus Fire Safety (CCFS), offers these tips to students to help reduce the risk of fire and save lives:

  • Know and practice the building's evacuation plan and alternative routes.

  • Cook in intended areas only; never leave cooking equipment unattended, even briefly.

  • Test smoke alarms monthly in an apartment or a house. Ensure smoke alarms throughout the sleeping and common areas and on every level of the apartment or house.

  • Keep combustible items away from heat sources and never overload electrical outlets, extension cords, or power strips. Many fires are caused by portable light and heat sources, like space heaters and halogen lamps.

  • Keep common areas and hallways free of possessions and debris. Never block exit routes.

The most effective fire loss prevention and reduction measure for life and property is the installation and maintenance of sprinklers. Sprinklers offer the greatest protection because they quickly suppress fire at the point of origin, reduce property damage, and give people more time to exit the building. Parents and students should look for buildings with automatic sprinkler systems when choosing campus housing.

How to Pick Fire-Safe Campus Housing

College student studying in dorm | Eureka Fire Protection District | Eureka, MO

For some students, the last fire safety training they received was in grade school, but with new independence comes new responsibilities. If you are a student, a family member, or a loved one of a student, make sure you review fire safety rules for your housing unit before signing a contract. Survey each room and identify two escape exits. Be sure also to know where the fire alarms and fire extinguishers are. After moving in, participate in all fire drills. Always assume that a sounding alarm indicates a fire, and vacate the building until you have confirmation that it is safe to return. Here are additional questions for college students and parents to ask property managers before moving into a dormitory or signing a lease:

  • Are there exit signs in the hallways to show the way out?

  • Has the building's heating system been inspected recently (in the last year)?

  • Is the building address posted so emergency services can find it quickly?

Be Aware & Stay Safe

On and off-campus housing fires occur for many reasons, many of which are avoidable. Knowing the most common threats and the measures that reduce them will help college students and their parents to pick a fire-safe living place.


About the Author:

Eureka Fire Protection District is an EMS, Fire, and Rescue service provider located in Eureka, Missouri. Staffed with nearly one hundred volunteer and career Paramedics, EMTs, Firefighters, Junior Firefighters, and administrative teams, the department provides its local community with fire prevention, education, safety resources, and emergency relief. Eureka Fire Protection District maintains a reputation as a well-run, high-performing fire department by keeping up to date with the latest in life-saving training and technology.

1 Comment

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