Fire Safety Dos and Don’ts
University and other experts offer advice on how to be safe
Want to save your property—and your life? Passing on candles just might do the trick: wax-with-wicks are the most common fire-starters among college students. That’s why University dorms ban candles, as well as incense, open flames, and smoking.
If you happen to live off campus, beyond the purview of BU’s rigorous fire safety plan, it might be instructive to consider that federal statistics say 86 percent of college fire deaths since 2000 happened in off-campus housing. The University and the city of Boston provide online resources to help protect against such misfortunes as the enforced homelessness last winter of eight students following a Brookline apartment fire.
Every tenant should make sure that smoke detectors are working, and notify the landlord immediately if they’re not. Three quarters of residential fire deaths occur in homes without a working smoke detector. Another city web page, Ten Tips for Moving to Boston, lists resources like the mayor’s 24-hour service center for reporting problems and requesting services. BU’s safety website details the University’s fire regulations and fire safety advice. The University also posts a fire-safety-at-a-glance page.
The US Fire Administration’s safety tip sheet notes five common factors in fires in off-campus student housing: lack of fire sprinklers; missing or disabled smoke alarms (do not disable smoke alarms, no matter how annoying the occasional cooking-triggered blast); haphazard disposal of cigarettes; tenant drunkenness leading to misjudgments; and combustible upholstered deck and porch furniture.
Highlights from these various safety experts:
- Don’t overload electrical outlets.
- Have a fire extinguisher within easy reach. Know where it is. Also purchase flashlights and extra smoke detectors and batteries for both. The University is working to have local stores, including Barnes & Noble at BU, stock these items and fire safety information sheets.
- Have an escape route planned and make sure it’s always debris-free.
- Whenever an alarm sounds, assume it’s for a reason and get out.
- Make sure there is a smoke detector outside each sleeping area in the apartment.
- Have a carbon monoxide detector on each level of the house.
- Never use a gas stove or oven to heat your place; it could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
- If you grill, watch where you do it. Boston and Brookline ban charcoal grills on wooden porches. And make sure you put out the embers with water when you’re finished. As for gas grills, state law forbids their use or storage inside and above the first floor of any residence.
BU’s Environmental Health and Safety website includes information that is also distributed to students at housing fairs on both campuses, typically in April and May, says Bob Whitfield, director of campus and clinical safety. That information includes a fire safety checklist, emergency preparedness kits, fire safety questions to ask before signing a lease or moving into an apartment, how to host safe parties, and more, Whitfield says.
If precautions fail and a fire breaks out, the best advice is the most obvious, according to the experts: get the hell out and call the fire department.2 Comments