As college students begin to return to campus, Chief Paul Januszewski and the North Haven Fire Department would like to remind students how to avoid fire dangers in their dorms and apartments.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), close to 4,000 fires occur each year in university housing across the nation, with a majority caused by cooking. The other leading causes of campus housing fires include arson, careless smoking, unattended candles and overloaded extension cords, power strips or outlets.
The most effective fire prevention measure is the use of fire alarms and sprinklers.
Fire alarms keep residents safe by warning them of a potential fire. Sprinkler systems can help to control the fire immediately, often extinguishing the fire or greatly limiting a fire’s ability to spread.
According to the USFA, the combination of working smoke alarms and fire sprinklers reduces the likelihood of dying in a fire by more than 82 percent.
"Many of the fires that occur in campus housing are caused by unattended cooking," Januszewski said. "When cooking, students should always keep a close eye on foods, especially when using oils or greases."
To prevent accidents and injuries, the North Haven Fire Department recommends the following safety tips from the USFA:Escape plans
Always know two ways out, no matter where you are. Plan and practice your escape routes.
Keep escape routes clear of clutter.
Determine an outside meeting place with roommates or neighbors.
Get low to the ground and go under the smoke to escape to your safe exit. Keep your mouth covered.
Feel the door before opening it. If it is hot, use your second way out.
Use the stairs. Never use an elevator during a fire.
Leave immediately, closing doors behind you, and knock on roommates’ and neighbors’ doors as you exit.
Once you’re out, stay out. Never go back inside a building until it is cleared and determined safe.Fire sprinklers and smoke alarms
Never disable or remove batteries from smoke alarms.
Don’t hang things on or cover fire sprinklers. This can affect their ability to work properly.
When the smoke alarm sounds, immediately evacuate the building. Don’t assume it’s a false alarm.
When looking at a prospective building for housing, ensure it has working smoke alarms and sprinkler systems.Cooking
Cooking is the cause of over 80 percent of campus housing fires.
Never leave cooking unattended.
Cook only where it is permitted.
Stand by your pan — if you leave the kitchen, turn the burner off.
If a fire starts in a microwave, keep the door closed and unplug the unit.
Frying poses the greatest risk. Never put water on a grease fire — put a lid on it.Smoking
Smoke outside of the building and always put it all the way out before you discard it.
Soak smoking materials in water before throwing them away.
Use deep, wide and sturdy ashtrays. Place ashtrays on something sturdy and difficult to ignite.
After a party, check under cushions for smoking materials — furniture burns fast.
It is risky to smoke when you have been drinking or are drowsy.Candles
Candles are one of the leading causes of fires in both on and off campus housing, despite the fact that most colleges and universities do not allow candles in residence halls. Approximately 20 percent of fires in dorm rooms are started by candles.
Make sure candles are in sturdy holders and put out after each use.
Never leave a burning candle unattended.
Use a flashlight — not a candle — for emergency lighting.
Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn.
It is better to use flameless candles, which are both safe and decorative.
The North Haven Fire Department also reminds students that alcohol or drugs and fires don’t mix. These substances increase your chance of falling asleep while cooking or while a candle is lit and limit your ability to respond to an alarm.
As always, the North Haven Fire Department wishes all college students a safe return to campus!