For many young adults, college represents the first opportunity to live independently. And while this can be an exciting experience, campus housing also includes unique fire hazards that students need to be aware of.
Here are some suggestions to stay safe while living in the dorms.
Hear that Sound?
Be aware of the smoke alarms provided in your residence. At a minimum there should be one smoke detector in each sleeping area. If you live in a suite-style dorm, there should be a smoke detector in each living space, as well as the sleeping areas. Ideally all alarms in the same suite should be connected so that if one is triggered the others will be too.
Pay attention during fire drills that will likely happen early in the school year. How loud is the alarm? Keep the volume of music low enough that you can easily hear the alert should it sound. This is especially important when wearing headphones while sleeping!
Related: Testing Your Fire Alarms (the Right Way)
Spring for Sprinklers
If at all possible, opt to live in a building that is fully-equipped with a sprinkler system. Automatic fire sprinklers are remarkably effective at limiting fire size and reducing fire-related injuries. In fact, property damage in dormitory fires where there was automatic fire suppression was 65% lower than in structures where no system was in place.
Be Smoke Smart
If you smoke, only do so outside in designated areas. Not only will your roommates appreciate it, but you'll be safer too. According to the National Fire Protection Association, around 19% of residential fire deaths are related to smoking. Avoid smoking when you're feeling drowsy or have been drinking. Never remove batteries or otherwise disable a dorm smoke detector.
Because up to 84% of campus fires involve cooking equipment, take special care when preparing food in your dorm area. If the use of appliances in your dorm is permitted, make it a point to never leave cooking food or hot equipment unattended. Keep any heat sources (hot plates, sandwich grills, waffle irons, etc.) away from flammable materials, including bedding, drapery, and paper.
Don't use barbeque grills inside. Follow all local restrictions related to grills, chimineas, and fire pits when cooking near your residence.
Related: How to Handle Kitchen Fires [Video]
Surprising Fire Sources
Cooking equipment isn't the only source of fires in dormitories. Take care with all heat-producing objects, including unsuspecting sources such as curling irons, hot glue guns, etc. If open flame is allowed in your building (which is unlikely), keep candles and incense away from anything that could burn. Always extinguish open flames before leaving the room or going to sleep.
Dorm life can certainly be an awesome part of the college experience. Just be sure to follow the suggestions above to make your time living on-campus as safe as possible.
Data Source: National Fire Protection Association
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