Campus fire safety - a lesson for every student

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August 15, 2019

As college and university students make their treks to campuses nationwide, whether into residence halls, apartments or fraternities, it is imperative that they first learn about electrical safety. Safe Electricity urges everyone to make sure their college-bound students take precautions to prevent and protect themselves from campus-related fires and shocks.

Campus fire safety - a lession for every student

Reports throughout the years of campus fires have been on the rise. Just like any other area, a campus is prone to a variety of violations, and dorm rooms are not immune. Oftentimes students innocently plug in all of the typical college tools – study lamps, laptops, TV’s, stereos, grooming and other electrical devices – unaware of the potential dangers. Rather than chance a mishap that could be avoided, be sure that your student is educated on safe appliance use and precautions against electrical hazards.

According to Campus Firewatch, the most common causes of student residence fires are due to “careless smoking, unattended candles and cooking, and overloaded extension cords and power outlets.”

“The limited number of electrical outlets in student rooms tempt many to use multiple extension cords and power strips, which can cause cords to overheat, creating shock and fire hazards,” warns Jay Solomon, Extension Engineering Educator and member of the Safe Electricity Advisory Board. “Student residences crammed with books, papers and bedding can allow the smallest spark to quickly become a blaze.”

Safety steps to prevent and reduce the risk of electrical fires in student housing include:

  • Purchase and use only electrical appliances and power cords which have been tested by UL and other nationally recognized testing labs.
  • Do not overload extension cords, power strips or outlets.
  • Never use extension cords on a continuous basis; they serve as temporary solutions only.
  • Use power strips with an over-current protector that will shut off power automatically if there is too much current being drawn.
  • Never tack or nail an electrical cord to any surface, or run cords across traffic paths, under rugs or furniture.
  • Use light bulbs with the correct wattage for lamps; if no indication is on the fixture, do not use a bulb with more than 60 watts. Check with your campus about possible restrictions regarding the use of halogen lamps. Always keep halogen lamps away from curtains, loose bedding, or other fabrics.
  • Keep all electrical appliances and cords safely away from bedding, curtains and other flammable material.
  • Make sure outlets around sinks are GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) equipped. Test any GFCI’s upon first use and monthly thereafter.
  • Unplug small household appliances when not in use and all electronics when away for extended periods.

Older wiring in student housing and apartments may not be able to handle the increased electrical demand of today’s college student. If use of an appliance frequently causes power to trip off, or if its power cord or the outlet feels hot, disconnect the appliance immediately and report the condition to the landlord or campus housing staff.

A fire escape plan is essential. It is important that apartment and dorm residents know evacuation procedures and emergency exit locations in the event of a fire.

Emphasize to students that smoke detectors should never be disabled, nor should fire alarms ever be ignored or taken casually as a drill. If a fire alarm sounds, residents should calmly and quickly follow practiced procedures and immediately exit the building. Apartment and dorm doors should be closed behind to prevent fire spread.

“It is important to remind and stress to students that in the event of a fire, follow safety procedures and get out of harm’s way immediately,” remarked Solomon. “Property and valuables can be replaced, but lives cannot.”