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August 2, 2018

College Fire Safety Tips

Does your college dorm get an A+ in fire safety?
Prepare for Campus Fire Safety Month in September by Making Smart Housing Choices

Fire sprinklers, smoke alarms, escape routes – oh my! Does your college dorm have all the necessities to keep you safe from fire? Most students heading off to college aren’t thinking about this question, but they should be.

After a fatal dorm fire at Seton Hall University in January 2000, New Jersey law requires all college buildings to be equipped with fire sprinklers. Even with the law in place, The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that fires in college dormitories, Greek housing, and barracks have been steadily increasing in frequency; and The Center for Campus Fire Safety documented 91 fatal fires claiming a total of 128 victims since 2000.

Executive Director of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NJFSAB), David Kurasz, advises parents and students to take a closer look at potential college living arrangements. “Sprinklers are critical because they can quickly suppress a fire, reduce property damage, and give you more time to exit the building,” said Kurasz. “Having a fire sprinkler can reduce the chance of fire fatality by 85%.  Selecting college housing, particularly out-of-state or off-campus that is fully sprinklered is ideal to keep students safe.”

Kurasz recommends following these fire safety tips offered by the NFPA and the Center for Campus Fire Safety:

  • Check for working fire alarms in every bedroom and outside sleeping areas on each floor, and test them monthly
  • When the fire alarm sounds, get out of the building quickly and stay out
  • Stay in the kitchen when cooking and only cook only when you are alert
  • Check with your local fire department for any restrictions before using a barbeque grill, fire pit, or chiminea
  • Check dorm/campus rules before using electrical appliances in your room.

New Jersey is a leader in policies for fire safety, but the fire sprinkler requirement only applies to on-campus buildings. With upperclassmen tending to find off-campus housing more appealing, students and parents should consider these questions before signing a lease.

  • Does the apartment or home have fire sprinklers installed? Is it possible for the landlord to install them before moving in?
  • What kind of smoke alarms do you have? Are there any problematic areas?
  • Is there an alternate escape route? Do the windows open? Is there anything preventing you from safely exiting the building using this plan?
  • Are there enough outlets to handle all electrical needs?

According to The Center for Campus Fire Safety, 78 of the 91 fatal fires since 2000 have occurred in off-campus housing, claiming 109 victims.

“Surveying your surroundings and ensuring that proper safety measures are in place is the first thing everyone should do when they enter a new environment, whether it is a dorm, apartment, fraternity/sorority house, or even a classroom,” said Kurasz. 

He adds, “Although September is National Campus Fire Safety Month, it is important to get students thinking about fire safety now, before they move into the college environment. Every second counts when a fire breaks out, preparing ahead of time could save not only your life, but the lives of others.”

The NJFSAB hosts free Fire Sprinkler Burn Trailer demonstrations for colleges and local communities, to increase awareness of fire safety and the impact sprinklers can have on saving lives and property.  

NJFSAB will be hosting a burn demonstration on August 17 for students at Drew University.  “The Burn Trailer illustrates first-hand to students how quickly sprinklers work in real-time and how effective they are in suppressing fires,” said Kurasz.

For more information about Burn Trailer demonstrations contact NJFSAB at 866-226-6006 or visit: www.njfsab.org.

August 2, 2018

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