As thousands of parents bid farewell to college-age children entering student housing at universities across our nation, the Los Angeles Fire Department joins the U.S. Fire Administration and Campus Firewatch in highlighting the life-taking danger that lurks in on- and off-campus living environments.
The horror of fire in a college setting is something that few discuss, yet a tragedy that has taken more than 150 lives in the past dozen years. It is something that these families will never forget:
Among the findings of a recent National Fire Data Center Report:
- An estimated 3,800 U.S. university housing fires occur each year.
- Eighty-eight percent of university housing fires are cooking fires.
- University housing fires occur most frequently in late summer and fall.
- Fires in September, October, and November account for 33 percent of all fires.
- How many fires have occurred on campus in the past year? How about fires in off-campus student housing?
- Schools are now required to track and report residence hall fires to the U.S. Department of Education.
- Are the residence halls, Greek housing or off-campus housing equipped with an automatic fire sprinkler system?
- Sprinklers provide a vital line of defense when it comes to controlling a fire. Many residence halls are not sprinklered – ask for your student to be put in sprinklered housing.
- Does every student’s room have a smoke alarm? Does it send a signal to campus security or the fire department?
- Fire alarm systems will give everyone the warning that there is a fire, and let them know it is time to get out.
- How many false alarms have occurred in the residence halls?
- False alarms cause students to stop paying attention to the alarms, which can be a fatal decision. False alarms are avoidable, but only if the school takes action.
- What are the disciplinary steps taken against anyone who causes a false alarm, doesn’t get out during an alarm or tampers with fire safety equipment?
- 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 be deadly. The fire department should be automatically notified of all alarms.
- What items are prohibited in residence halls because of fire safety? Are smoking, candles, and Halogen lamps prohibited in the residence halls?
- If not, they should be.
- Does the school have policies that electrical appliances and power strips be certified as safe and reliable?
- How much fire prevention training does the residence hall staff receive?
- How often do the students themselves receive fire prevention education?
- This should continue throughout the academic career, not just while they are living in the residence halls.
- How often are evacuation drills conducted?
- There should be at least one per semester.
- How often are fire safety inspections of the residence halls and student rooms performed? Are the results made available to students and parents?
- For off-campus housing, are there smoke alarms in each bedroom and on each level?
- Are couches or upholstered furniture on the front porch or deck?
- Many communities are banning these outright, as fires have started in couches and then rapidly spread into the house, killing those inside.
Submitted by Brian Humphrey, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department