National Fire Protection Association: The Hazards College Dorm Students Face
November 2, 2017
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fire departments across the United States respond to an average of 11 college campuses for reports of dormitory fires every day. Although college is an exciting experience for older adolescents who are learning to take on more responsibilities as they transition into young adulthood, it is important to recognize all of the dangers and take the appropriate precautions to decrease the likelihood of fire-related injuries and fatalities.
The Center for Campus Fire Safety (CCFS) reports that between 2000 and 2015, a total of 126 individuals perished in fires that occurred on-campus or in off-campus Greek housing. In 86% of these cases, cooking equipment like stoves, microwaves and other gas or electric-powered utilities were cited as being involved in the fires. In fact, the NFPA estimates that cooking causes 6 out of every 7 fires that occur.
When it comes to these cooking equipment-related fires, the NFPA finds that one of the most dangerous scenarios is when equipment is left unattended. Even leaving a cooking pot or pan on the stovetop for just a moment can result in a fire. Other common causes behind cooking fires are the misuse of materials, abandoned or discarded products/materials, failure to have cleaned the equipment, heat sources too close to combustible items, and cooking equipment that has not been turned off or has accidentally been turned on. Stoves are more likely to be involved these fires than any other type of kitchen equipment.
The NFPA compiles fire data and statistics annually, and finds that dormitory fires cause an average of $14 million in property damages every year, as well as injuring at least 32 people and killing 1. Most fires take place between 5 and 11 p.m. or on weekends. Other common risk factors for fires include smoking tobacco products and burning candles and/or incense.
The NFPA recommends that all students make sure to carefully follow their school’s rules on candles and smoking – and it is important to know that most colleges don’t allow students to smoke indoors and most likely prohibit candles and incense. Other important tips from the NFPA include making sure to never smoke in bed or when tired, placing candles away from flammable materials, not leaving them unattended and always putting them out before going to sleep.
Some other tips for college students who will be living on-campus or off include:
- Cook only when you feel alert –not after taking medicine or drinking alcohol;
- If possible, make sure that sprinklers are present in all on or off-campus housing;
- Ensure that smoke alarms are installed in sleeping rooms and living areas – for the best protection, all smoke alarms should be interconnected so that when one sounds, they all do;
- Never remove batteries from smoke alarms or disable them;
- Test smoke alarms every month to make sure they are working properly – if one isn’t, make sure to replace it or have it fixed right away;
- Read your school’s rules before using any electrical appliances in your dorm room as certain outlets can only handle certain wattages;
- If you live in off-campus housing, make sure you have at least two ways out of every room as part of an effective emergency plan;
- Do not ever leave the kitchen or any other room you cook in while cooking; and
- Learn emergency evacuation plans and practice them frequently. If you hear an alarm go off, evacuate the building quickly and stay outside in a safe space until you have spoken with emergency personnel or police.
It’s no surprise that fires are extremely dangerous and can grow out of control quickly. Some of the injuries most frequently associated with fires are first, second, third and fourth degree burns as well as respiratory injuries resulting from smoke inhalation. While a first degree burn is mild and similar to sunburn, fourth degree burns are so severe they inflict damage on muscles, bones and/or tendons. Smoke inhalation can result in irritation, swelling and/or blockage of the airway and lungs.
Dorm rooms and off-campus Greek housing facilities are not the only places that fires happen on university campuses. An average of 650 structure fires occur every year inside administrative and educational buildings. 30% of these fires happen in locker rooms or bathrooms and 20% in cooking areas. The NFPA requires that most colleges in session conduct monthly fire drills to ensure students know how to stay safe in the case of an emergency.
The NFPA offers multiple safety resources to prospective and current college students. It has also teamed up with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Fire Administration and Campus Firewatch organization to launch several helpful safety campaigns. The NFPA provides questions for prospective off-campus renters to ask landlords in its “See It Before You Sign It” campaign, and reminds dormitory residents to practice safety precautions in the “Best Roommates Evah!” campaign. By taking the NFPA’s tips seriously, college students can help prevent fires from happening on – and off – college campuses around the country.
Philadelphia Premises Liability Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Represents Individuals Injured in Fires
If you are a college student who has sustained injuries in a dormitory fire, please contact our Philadelphia premises liability lawyers. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Reading, and Lancaster, Galfand Berger serves clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.