Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has proclaimed September as Campus Fire Safety Month to raise awareness of the fire risks when living on- or off-campus, urge young adults to practice life-saving fire safety measures, and encourage Michigan colleges and universities to provide fire safety education programs.
"Many students are living away from home for the first time and simply don't realize the fire risk," said State Fire Marshal Richard Miller.
"Fire safety education of our college students is vital in reducing the number of fires and the resulting loss of life and property damage. These are lessons for a lifetime not just college days," Miller said in a statement.
September is one of the worst months for fire-related emergencies and fatal campus-related fires according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
From 2007 to 2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 3,800 university housing fires, averaging $9.4 million in direct property damage.
Fires in dormitories and residence halls account for 94 percent of all university housing fires; of those, 84 percent are cooking-related fires.
Fires in sorority and fraternity houses, while fewer in frequency, account for larger, more deadly fires.
According to Miller, there are five common factors contributing to these fires: lack of automatic fire sprinklers; careless smoking; impaired judgment from alcohol consumption; upholstered furniture fires on decks and porches; and missing or disabled smoke alarms.
"Having working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in all student housing saves lives," said Miller.
"Students must take responsibility to make sure that where they're living is equipped with properly working alarms, that they are tested monthly and have fresh batteries. Smoke alarms must never be tampered with," he said.
Students are advised to take care in not overloading electrical outlets, power strips and extension cords, or misuse cooking appliances and space heaters.
Also important to note is the strong link between alcohol and fire deaths because alcohol abuse impairs judgment and hampers evacuation efforts.
Here are more fire safety tips for college students:
- Avoid using lighted candles. Instead, use battery-operated, flameless candles which look, smell and feel like real candles.
- Never leave a lit candle unattended; keep candles away from papers, draperies and linens.
- Extinguish all candles before leaving a room or going to sleep.
- In emergencies, always use a flashlight, never a candle.
- Follow school rules on in-house cooking and never leave cooking unattended.
- Keep cooking areas clean (stovetop, burners, oven) and uncluttered.
- Plug microwave ovens or other cooking appliances directly into an outlet. Never use an extension cord for a cooking appliance as it can overload the circuit and cause a fire.
- If a fire starts in a microwave, keep the door closed and unplug the unit.
- Keep a working fire extinguisher nearby the cooking area and know how to use it.
- Don't allow smoking inside a dorm room or apartment and never smoke in bed. If necessary, smoke outside in designated areas.
- Make sure cigarettes and ashes are out. Never toss hot cigarette butts or ashes in the trash can.
- After a party, check for smoldering cigarette butts, especially under cushions. Chairs and sofas catch on fire fast and burn fast.
Electrical and Appliance Safety
- Know school rules on using electrical appliances in dormitory rooms.
- Don't use stoves and microwaves to help heat a cold dorm room or apartment.
- Select appliances with automatic shut-off switches.
- Don't overload outlets; don't use a series of adaptors to connect numerous machines or devices to an electrical outlet that may result in a power outage, spark or fire.
- Use a surge protector for a computer and plug the protector directly into an outlet.
- Identify all emergency exits; practice an escape plan; know two ways out of every room.
- Use the stairs; never use an elevator during a fire.
- Smoke is toxic. If the only way out is through smoke, stay low, below the smoke.
- If trapped, call 9-1-1 and tell them where you are. Seal doors with rages and signal from a window.
Colleges and universities throughout Michigan are encouraged to implement the following life-saving measures:
- Set up campus programs for fire safety and prevention.
- Conduct regular fire drills and practice escape routes with students.
- Teach students proper notification procedures using the 911 system.
- Ensure smoke alarms and fire sprinkler systems are installed in every dormitory room and on every level of housing facilities regularly tested.
- Inspect rooms and buildings for fire hazards. Local fire departments can help.
- Inspect exit doors and windows to ensure they work properly for evacuation.
- Have detailed floor plans of buildings readily available to emergency personnel, resident advisors and students.