The school year has begun and while students attending colleges/universities have settled into their new residence - home away for home, adjusting to a new environment and all that needs to be done can be tasking. To consider anything in addition, like fire safety, is the furthest from their minds.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) (http://www.nfpa.org), fires within these group occupancies may not occur daily, but they do occur. Most involve cooking equipment that result in deaths, injuries and millions in property damage. Structure fires in student residences are common during the weekdays in evening hours between 5:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m., as well as on weekends, when students prepare snacks or cook meals.
If your child resides in a dorm, sorority, fraternity, barracks on campus, or at an off-campus residence, parents should remain adamant in educating their children on being aware and practicing fire safety. The Prince William County Fire and Rescue System in conjunction with NFPA suggest the following safety tips to keep your loved ones safe while they're away at school:
- Learn your building's fire evacuation plan.
- Participate in all fire drills so you know what to do should a fire/emergency occur.
- Leave immediately when the smoke or fire alarm sounds, get out of the building and stay out of the building; Don't assume it is a drill!
- If you live off campus, have a fire escape plan with two ways out of each room and practice all drills as they were the real thing.
- Close doors behind you and take your room keys in case you can't escape, and you need to return to your dorm room.
- Keep a flashlight handy.
- Know the location of all building exits (your building and buildings you visit).
- Make sure your building/dormitory/apartment has smoke alarms.
- Make sure your dormitory or apartment has smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside every sleeping area and on each level.
- Test all smoke alarms monthly.
- Cook only when you are alert, not sleepy or drowsy.
- Check with your local fire department for any restrictions before using a barbeque grill, fire pit, or chimenea.
- Check with your school's policy and/or rules before using electrical appliances in your room.
- Feel the door before opening, if hot use your second or alternative way out.
- If smoke is present, get low and go under the smoke.
- Use the stairs – NEVER use the elevator during a fire.
- If trapped, call 911, tell them where you are (learn how to dial out of your building. Some buildings require a 9 or a 1 before you can dial out, i.e. 9-911 or 1-911).
- If trapped, place rags around the seal of your door and signal from your window you need help.
Individuals with a Disability:
- Prior to the start of the semester, inform Housing and your Resident Advisor that you are disabled.
- Learn the alternative escape plan for classrooms and living quarters.
- Alert others as to the type of assistance you will need to leave the building should a fire/emergency occur, and the building is to be evacuated.
Tim Keen, Acting Chief for the Prince William County Fire and Rescue System would like to remind the community, "When a fire occurs, don't lose sight of the primary goal -- everyone goes home." To assure that happens, remember:
- Survival is your top priority -- not possessions.
- Get Out and Stay Out!
- Know the location of your safe meeting place.
- Individual(s) should notify on-scene fire and rescue personnel that everyone is safely out of the house/building.
To learn more on how your child, and their fellow students, can protect themselves from fire, visit the Center for Campus Fire Safety http://www.campusfiresafety.org/ and Campus Firewatch http://www.campus-firewatch.com/, and the U.S. Fire Administration https://search.usa.gov/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&affiliate=usfa&query=campus+fire+safety.