Monday, September 19, 2011

Educating college students on fire safety tips

The Michigan Bureau of Fires Services is urging college students living on- and off-campus to be aware of fire risks and know the preventative measures that could save their lives.
"Unfortunately, many college students don't see fire as an actual risk or threat, nor do they realize how quickly a fire can spread; and many don't know what to do when a fire does happen," said State Fire Marshall Ronald Farr. "Fire safety education is so important, but it's probably the last thing on students' minds, especially those living away from home for the first time."
September and October are the worst months for fire-related emergencies and fatal campus fires; an estimated 3,800 university housing fires occur each year in the United States; and 83 percent of university housing fires are cooking fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
"Common factors in deadly campus fires include lack of fire sprinkler systems; missing or disabled smoke alarms; careless smoking; unattended candles; overloaded electrical circuits and extension cords; and misuse of alcohol, which impairs judgment and hampers evacuation efforts," said the report by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Having working smoke and carbon monoxide detector can save (lives), provided they are working properly and have fresh batteries. Never remove the batteries or disable the alarm, and test them regularly. That's one tip students should consider.
Fire safety officials also recommend the following fire safety tips:

* Candles. Consider using battery-operated flameless candles that can look, smell and feel like the real thing (really, they do exist). This is one website where I found a large selection at www.batteryoperatedcandles.net/?gclid=CK__g4LxnKsCFQIEQAodhi27iQ.
Never leave a candle unattended. Extinguish it before you leave the room.
Keep the candle away from your homework, draperies and linens and make sure it's sitting on a solid surface with no chance of being tipped.
Invest in a reliable flashlight and battery-operated lantern to have on hand for nights when the power goes out.

* Cooking. Follow the school's rules when it comes to in-house cooking and, when you do cook, stick with it. Never leave a pot or pan unattended.
Toss the pizza box when it's empty and keep the cooking area free of clutter that might catch fire.
If you're lucky enough to have a microwave or toaster oven, plug it directly into an outlet. Using an extension cord for appliances can overload the circuit and cause a fire. If a fire starts in the microwave, unplug the unit and keep the door closed.
Make sure the cooking area is equipped with a working fire extinguisher. Check with the housing management to see if it supplies one.

* Smoking. Make it the house rules: No smoking anywhere in the dorm or apartment. If you've got a smoker among you, create a designated area outside.
Never toss cigarette butts in the trash and, just in case someone isn't following the rules, after a party, check for smoldering cigarette butts. Check under cushions.

Expresso makers and neon lights. Check with your school's rules before purchasing electrical appliances for the dorm or apartment.
If your dorm room or apartment gets cold, instead of using a stove to heat the room, pile on the blankets and throws.
Purchase items that have automatic shut-off switches and never overload electrical outlets.
Make sure the light bulbs you use match the recommended wattage for the lamp or fixture.
If you've got a computer in the dorm, use a surge protector plugged directly into the outlet.

Fire drills. Just as you did at home with the family, create a plan of escape with your fellow students. Know all of the emergency exits and do a couple practice runs.
If there's a fire, use the stairs rather than the elevator.
Smoke is toxic and dangerous, so avoid it. If you must escape through a smoke-filled area, get low and try to go under it.
If you're trapped, call 9-1-1 and tell the operator exactly where you are, seal your doors with rugs, rags, clothing, etc., and signal from your room.
Once you're out of the building, do not return until the fire officials give the OK.

For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/lara. Send your comments or home and garden tips to Gina Joseph, The Macomb Daily, 100 Macomb Daily Drive, Mount Clemens, MI 48043, or email them to gina.joseph@macombdaily.com.

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