This fall, college students are returning to campus, many for the first time in over a year, marking the start of new classes, new friends, and new living spaces. Through their annual Campus Fire Safety for Students campaign, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and The Center for Campus Fire Safety (CCFS) are working together to ensure living spaces are as safe as possible for students heading back to school this September.
Campus Fire Safety Month raises awareness about the threat of fire among college students in both on- and off-campus housing, and puts relevant information in the hands of students, parents, and campus housing administrators and staff who are encouraged to take proactive measures to protect themselves, family members, and peers from fire. Many of the resources, including videos, checklists, infographics, and tips sheets, are designed to be shared through social media, school newspapers, college websites, and posted in dormitory common areas.
“As students return to college life to live on their own or with friends after being home for much of last year, it is important for them to review fire safety tips to learn how to prevent fires,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for NFPA, and CCFS Advisory Council Member. “The more prepared students are, the more we can do to reduce fire risk. Campus Fire Safety Month provides a great opportunity to share materials and action steps and foster a culture of awareness and preparedness about fire safety on our college campuses.”
According to NFPA research, from 2015-2019, there were estimated annual averages of 3,840 structure fires, 29 civilian injuries, and $11 million in direct property damage in dormitories, fraternities, sororities, and other related properties. Cooking equipment was involved in nearly nine out of 10 reported fires in dormitory-type properties (87 percent). September and October have the highest incidences for fires in dormitories, and fires are also more common during the weekend and weekday evenings from 5 – 9 p.m.
“CCFS stats differ as they reflect student fire deaths within a three-mile radius of a college or university campus,” said Justin Daniels, CCFS president and fire marshal, University of Oklahoma – Norman Campus. “In the last 20 years, 92 documented fatal fires have occurred on a college campus, in Greek housing, or in off-campus housing within the three-mile definition – sadly, claiming a total of 132 student victims. The majority of fires occurred in off-campus housing, and more than half of these fires were accidental and included cooking, candles, smoking materials, or electrical equipment.”
NFPA and CCFS offer these tips to students to help reduce the risk of fire and save lives:
- Know and practice the building’s evacuation plan, as well as alternate routes.
- Cook in intended areas only, and never leave cooking equipment unattended when in use, even briefly.
- Test smoke alarms monthly in an apartment or a house. Ensure smoke alarms are installed in all sleeping areas, outside of all sleeping areas, and on every level of the apartment or house. NEVER remove or disable smoke alarms.
- 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.