Back to School Fire Safety

August 8, 2019 04:35 PM
The back-to-school season is upon us and with the hustle and bustle of moving into a dorm or off-campus apartment parents and students often may not realize the potential dangers present. The Galesburg Fire Department wants to help college students or anyone newly on their own with these fire safety tips:
See It Before You Sign It
Most fatal college-related fires occurred in off-campus housing, so officials have started a "See It Before You Sign It" campaign to encourage parents and students to make sure the housing has adequate fire protection systems in place before they sign a lease. Below is a checklist from the National Fire Protection Association, The Center for Campus Fire Safety, and Campus Firewatch of things parents and students can ask to see before they sign.
Whether living on or off-campus, look for fully sprinklered housing.  Fire sprinklers can quickly and effectively extinguish fires before they have a chance to spread.
Checklist for Students Living Off-Campus
Smoke Alarms
Does every room have a smoke detector? In most fatal fires, the smoke alarms are missing or disabled. Often, a reason for this is nuisance alarms caused by cooking. Photoelectric smoke alarms near the kitchen can help cut down on this. What kind of smoke alarms do you have?
What is the power supply to the smoke detector? (Hardwire/ battery/ both)? Who provides the battery replacements?
Are there two ways out of every bedroom? Keep in mind, the second way out may be a window. If a window is the second way out, does it open? Is it blocked by an air conditioner? Can you climb out of it? Are there security bars on the window?
If the bedroom is on a second or third floor, do you have an escape ladder? These can be purchased online or in a home improvement store.
Is there a second way out of the house or unit? Every apartment must have two ways out.
Is the second way out blocked by storage in the stairs such as bicycles or trash cans? Is the snow removed from the door and steps so you can get away from the building?
Can the exit doors be opened from the inside – without a key?
Fire Causes
The leading cause of all home fires is cooking. What condition is the stove in?
What about the electrical service? Are there enough outlets to handle today’s electrical needs?
What about smoking? The leading cause of all fatal home fires is smoking, and a contributing factor in college-related fires is fires that start in upholstered furniture on porches and decks.
Other Questions for Landlords
What is your disciplinary policy toward tenants who cause false alarms or fail to evacuate during an alarm?
How often are evacuation drills conducted? Is there an escape plan in place? Is there a designated meeting place outside your building?
What fire safety training does your building staff receive?
Does the off-campus housing have fire extinguishers?
Checklist for Students Living On-Campus
The Center for Campus Fire Safety recommends asking detailed questions to find out the school’s level of safety and preparedness for an emergency. A safe school will share these answers openly.
How many fire incidents have taken place on your campus? Are the incidents usually accidental or intentional?
Do you follow up with public education and informing students of how to prevent these events in the future?
Which buildings are protected with an automatic fire sprinkler system? Are all residential buildings equipped with sprinklers?
Does every student’s room have a smoke alarm?
What is the school’s disciplinary policy towards students that cause false alarms or fail to evacuate during an alarm?
Is smoking allowed in dorm rooms or apartments?
What items are prohibited in the residence halls? Candles, Halogen Lamps?
What are the acceptable small appliances to bring to school?
Do the dorm rooms have enough outlets with enough power to feed energy needs? Are there recommended limits or specific certified products that are safer to use?
Do the residence hall staff receive fire and life safety training? How often?
How often do students get exposure to fire and life safety training such as fire extinguisher training and evacuation drills?
What other types of exercises does the school conduct regarding emergency planning and preparedness? Parents can make sure their children, even grown children, understand the basics about fire safety including when cooking, checking smoke alarms monthly, and having an escape plan. As they go out on their own and take on more responsibility during their college years, make sure to remind young adults of the importance of fire safety.
You can find more fire safety tips for college students and children on the NFPA’s website at or contact the Galesburg Fire Department (309)345-3757 for more information. 


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