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2014 Edition, February Issue

Off-Campus Housing Fire Prevention and Safety Tips
by Ed Jones

    The importance of understanding how to take care of your self during a fire cannot be understated. Many times people hear a fire alarm and do not take it seriously. Involvement in a fire only needs to occur once to suffer serious injury or death. Do not let apathy rule the day. Be smart and remember these fire prevention safety tips.

  • Take all fire alarms seriously and get out.
  • If you hear a fire alarm or are aware of a fire, leave the building immediately.
  • Feel the door handles, if they are warm, do not open them. Look for another way to get out of your room.
  • Close the doors behind you.
  • Stay low in smoke where there is cleaner and cooler air.
  • Always use the closet exit or stairway; never use elevators.
  • If the alarm is on your way out, pull it.
  • Once outside, stay outside. Call 911
  • If your clothes are on fire, stop, drop, and roll.
  • Cool burns quickly with water and seek medical attention.

Exits and Fire Safety Equipment

  • It is important to have more than one exit from the building. Map out a second exit from the building that can be used in case the main door is made impassable.
  • Make sure that stairways and hallways are clear of material that may hinder evacuation. Do not place barriers that will hinder your escape.
  • Check your windows to make sure they open fully. Windows may be the only avenue for your escape; this is especially true for bedrooms.
  • You should know where all fire extinguishers are located in your building if they have them. Only use fire extinguishers if you have been trained and the fire is small.
  • In a multiunit building the fire alarm may have hand-pull stations. Be sure they are visible.

Fire Hazards

  • Using extension cords in place of permanent wiring creates a fire hazard. Extension cords should be temporary.
  • Overloaded electrical outlets are another common fire hazard. Too many devices plugged into one outlet may start a fire.
  • Buildings that are not clean and orderly are likely to have fire hazards.
  • Floor heaters are dangerous. Keep combustibles away form them.
  • Space heaters are not recommended. If they are used place them at least three feet from combustibles.

Contributing Factors

  • In 50% of all fires, alcohol was a contributing factor.
  • Unattended cooking is the leading cause of injuries, closely followed by careless smoking and arson.
  • Fireworks are dangerous and can cause serious damage in not used properly.
  • Barbecue coals and fireplace ashes can stay hot up to three days. Use only metal containers for disposal and never place the container near the building.
  • Never leave candles lit while unattended.
  • Candles should be of low-flame variety, placed well away from combustibles, and in a properly fitted non- combustible holder.

House Parties and Special Events

Many fires that involve student housing start after a house party. If your house or dwelling unit hosts a party, pay attention to these essential issues to reduce the likelihood of a fire.

  • Limit the number of guests to avoid overcrowding.
  • Assign one or two people to monitor the event for safety. These monitors should stay sober during the event and be familiar with the building.
  • Look for discarded smoking materials throughout the house, including under furniture and between cushions.
  • When the party is over, place all trash outside. Many fires are started by smoldering materials.

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