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Make fire prevention and safety education a priority

LANSING –  As young adults start another academic year at Michigan colleges and universities, State Fire Marshal Richard Miller today urges students and their parents to make fire prevention a top priority and practice life-saving fire safety measures whether living on- or off-campus.

“Fire risk and safety is often the last thing on students’ minds as they go off to school, many living away from home for the first time,” said Miller. “Now is the best time to step up our efforts to guard against the danger of fire in dormitories and in off-campus housing to help reduce the number of campus-related fires and the resulting loss of life and property damage.”

According to Miller, in 2013, Michigan had 1,453 campus-related fires. Common factors in campus fires include: lack of a fire sprinkler system; missing or disabled smoke alarms; careless smoking; unattended candles; overloaded electrical circuits and extension cords; alcohol consumption which impairs judgment and hampers fire evacuation efforts; and fires originating on upholstered furniture and decks or porches.

“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.”

Here are more fire safety tips for college students:

  • Know all emergency exits and have two ways out … of a dorm, movie theater, nightclub.
  • Use stairs to get out, not elevators.
  • Most fatal fires happen at night. Get up, get out and stay out.
  • Don’t allow smoking inside a dorm room.  never smoke in bed.
  • Make sure cigarettes and ashes are out. After a party, check for smoldering cigarette butts, especially under cushions.  Chairs and sofas catch on fire fast and burn fast.
  • Never leave a lit candle unattended. Keep candles away from curtains, furniture, bedding and papers.  Extinguish all candles when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Don’t use the stove or oven to help heat a cold dorm room or apartment.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher close by and know how to use it.
  • 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.
  • Use a surge protector for a computer and plug the protector directly into an outlet.

Miller said parents should ask a lot of questions on fire safety at the school, particularly about where the student is living.  This is especially important for off-campus housing, where 85 percent of the fire fatalities occur.

Important questions to ask about fire safety:

  • Are smoke alarms in every student’s room?
  • What items are prohibited in residence halls because of fire risk?
  • How much fire prevention training does the staff receive?
  • How often are fire safety inspections done?
  • How often are evacuation drills conducted?
  • How does the school deal with false alarms and what disciplinary actions are taken?
  • Is the fire department immediately notified whenever any alarm system is activated? Some schools investigate the alarm first and then notify the fire department. This delay can put more people at risk and can be deadly. The fire department should be automatically notified of ALL alarms.

For more information about fire safety go to the Bureau of Fire Services website at www.michigan.gov/bfs


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