The safety of our students is a major concern for universities and colleges across the nation. One of these issues is campus fire safety. Since January, 2,000, 135 persons have died in campus-related fires, with 84 per cent of the fires occurring in off-campus housing. This year marks the sixth year for Campus Fire Safety Month being observed in September, as students are returning to campus.
A letter written by parents of students who lost their lives in campus-related fires was sent to every state governor and the mayor of Washington, D.C. this past January. So far, 31 states have issued proclamations supporting the promotion of fire safety between schools and fire professionals. Both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have issued proclamations, as well.
A portion of the proclamation from Governor Rick Perry of Texas, reads : “For many young people, going away to college marks the first time they have been away from home for an extended period of time. It is important to remember that the freedom of living away from home comes with strings attached. When out from under their parents’ roofs, students are responsible for themselves and others. It only takes a moment of forgetfulness or carelessness to start a fire. Fires on and near campuses still result in the loss of valuable property and historic buildings. In the worst outcomes, they result in injury and even death. September is a time when students across the nation will be settling into new residences on and off campus. Recognizing the importance of fire safety, I urge all Texans to learn more about the steps they can take to prevent fires. With preparation and planning, you can make a difference.” s/Rick Perry
Each state that has issued a proclamation may word theirs a little differently; however, as Governor Perry points out, there are simple safety precautions that students can take to minimize the threat of fire. By working with the State Fire Marshal’s Office, hazards can be identified and corrected. Most fires are preventable.
Colleges are encouraged to start the semester off by teaching their students about fire safety. Students living on campus should know what is expected in regard to cooking in their dorm room, use of candles, smoking safety (if permitted), and determine the location of two exits in case of an emergency. Off-campus student-residents should also be familiar with emergency escape routes in their apartments, check for working smoke detectors, ask about sprinkler systems in their building, cooking safety, alcohol and fire safety, and decide to “party safely.”
One of the keys to making this a successful year is to highlight the importance of fire safety – it must be a priority. Schools can contact their local Fire Marshall or fire department and work together to educate all students in the importance of knowing how to prevent fires. This could be one of the most important lessons that they learn; one that will remain with them the rest of their lives.
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