Spring is the time when college students and their parents start looking for housing for this fall semester.
Whether you or your college student plan to live in a dorm or in off-campus housing, don’t sign on the dotted line until you see the housing first. It could be a matter of life and death.
Why? Because fires in dorms, fraternities, sororities and off-campus housing kill about seven people every year. Since 2000, nearly 120 people have died in campus fires, according to a U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) study.
Off-campus housing tops the list for fires.
Most (94 percent) fatal campus fires took place in off-campus housing, according to incidents examined by USFA between 2000 and 2015.
The best advice to keep your college student safe is this: See it before you sign it.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has teamed up with USFA, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Campus Firewatch to help get this warning out. Don’t sign a contract for housing until you see it yourself. That goes for Mom and Dad too. See it, take a housing tour and make sure you look for:
#1 Working smoke alarms
Make sure there are working smoke alarms on every level and inside each bedroom. Smoke alarms save lives. Fire sprinklers add lifesaving protection too.
USFA found that smoke alarms were missing or did not have batteries in 58 percent of fatal campus fires. None of the fatal fire locations had fire sprinklers.
#2 Two ways out of each room for a safe escape. Make sure all windows and doors open easily.
You need to be able to get out if there is a fire. Two ways out are best.
#3 Campus housing that can handle today’s electric power needs.
Laptop computers, phones, televisions and coffee makers take a lot of power. Some older homes may not be able to handle all the electrical demand by today’s students. USFA found that 11 percent of fires were caused by electrical issues.
#4 Be in the know.
Make sure that you or your college student take precautions with smoking materials and alcohol, which the USFA study found to be involved in the majority of the fires. Keep an eye on food when it is cooking. Do not walk away.
College is a time of new and exciting beginnings. “See it before you sign it” for off-campus housing so that a fire doesn’t have a chance to bring college years to an abrupt and devastating end.