College students on or off campus need to be fire aware

September is 'Campus Fire Safety Month'

Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal
Posted 9/1/21

The beginning of a new term means classes, homework, friends, and parties. With such hectic lives, students often do not pay attention to one thing that could seriously injure or kill them: The …

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College students on or off campus need to be fire aware

September is 'Campus Fire Safety Month'

Posted

The beginning of a new term means classes, homework, friends, and parties. With such hectic lives, students often do not pay attention to one thing that could seriously injure or kill them: The effects of fire.

As a new semester begins on college campuses throughout the state, State Fire Marshal Brian S. Geraci reminds students to take action to protect themselves and their friends from the devastating effects of fire.

An estimated 87% of college-related fire deaths occur in off-campus apartments and homes, where most college students live. This is the primary reason why the State of Maryland has declared September as “Campus Fire Safety Month.”

“Unfortunately, most college students do not fully appreciate how quickly a fire can grow out of control,” said the State Fire Marshal. “Studies have shown you have an average of three minutes from when the first smoke alarm sounds to escape the effects of fire. Students need to realize they are not invincible, fires do happen in campus-related settings, and they can take proactive steps to protect themselves no matter where they live.”

Many fatal fires involving college students have one or more of four common elements: 

(1) Carelessly disposed of smoking materials are a contributing cause of fatal fires in all residences, including rental properties where college students live. Students also fall victim to fires started by unattended open flame devices, such as candles.

(2) Missing or dead batteries are the leading cause of smoke alarms not working properly.

(3) The influence of alcohol, although not condoned by college administrators, is sometimes a factor in college-related activities. Studies show alcohol decreases inhibition and impairs judgment, increasing a student’s risk of not waking to the sound of a smoke alarm and potentially not surviving the effects of fire. 

(4) Living in properties without the life-saving protection afforded by an automatic fire sprinkler system.

The State Fire Marshal offers these safety tips for both parents and students when students are living on or off-campus:

  • Check for the proper installation of working smoke alarms. These devices provide early warning no matter where the fire starts, giving more chances for escape.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly and replace the batteries as needed.
  • Look for housing that is equipped with automatic sprinkler systems. Not every residence hall or rental property has them.
  • Know at least two ways out of every room and the building.
  • If smoking is allowed, designate an area outside. Properly dispose of smoking materials in sturdy ashtrays and ensure they are completely extinguished. Just in case, always check cushions in chairs and sofas for smoldering cigarettes.
  • If using extension cords, use only approved laboratory-listed cords such as UL®, and don’t overload the electrical outlets.
  • Consider using flameless candles or battery-operated lights instead of regular wax candles.
  • If using regular candles, never leave them or other open flame type devices unattended and keep combustibles away from their location at all times. Always extinguish the flame before leaving the room.
  • Cooking should only occur in permitted locations. Never leave cooking food unattended.
  • If using a barbeque grill, fire pit, chiminea, or other outdoor open flame devices, check out the local regulations beforehand. When these items are misused, an enjoyable time can quickly turn into a tragedy.