Preventing fires on campus: Steps to keep your home safe

Whether you live in a dorm, fraternity or sorority house or some other dwelling, your college campus is likely your home away from home. And just like the home you shared with your parents, it’s important to take steps to keep it safe. At the top of that list is preventing fires.

Fire departments respond to more than 3,800 campus housing fires a year, says the National Fire Protection Association.

It’s not just your stuff that’s at risk. According to the Center for Campus Fire Safety, 89 fatal fires occurred on or just-near campuses over a five-year period. Many of those fires were unintentional, involving cooking, candles, smoking or other means.

So how can you get ready? The first thing to know is where the closest fire extinguisher is. If it’s not in your room, then it should be in a hallway nearby. Memorize where it’s located so you can get there easily in an emergency.

If a fire alarm went off right now, would you know where to go? You should always be aware of emergency exits, no matter where you are. A good idea is to count the number of steps between your door and the emergency exit ahead of time, so that if there’s smoke or a loss of power you’ll know where to go. (Go ahead and do this now. We’ll wait.)

Next up? Check your smoke detector. Do a quick test to see that it’s functioning and check the batteries. Set a reminder to check the detector every time the clocks change for daylight saving time.

It’s also important to follow a few everyday steps for preventing fires. Cook only where cooking is allowed. Fires are the reason why hot plates or portable grills are banned from many campuses.

Be careful with things that use electricity. Take care with space heaters and don’t overload your power strips. Electrical fires are very dangerous and unpredictable.

Many campuses ban candles, and for good reason — they’re a big fire hazard. If you do use them, keep them far away from things that can catch fire and never leave them unattended.

For more tips, visit the National Fire Protection Association.

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