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State offers campus fire safety tips

Date: 9/4/2015

BOSTON – Governor Charles D. Baker has joined governors across the country in declaring September as Campus Fire Safety month.

Massachusetts has a large population of college students that fire officials and college leaders want to be fire safe whether they live on-campus, in Greek housing, or in private off-campus housing.

State Fire Marshal Coan said, “Students come to Massachusetts to learn from around the country and the world, and not all of them have received the same great level of fire education in elementary and high school as our students do through the Student Awareness of Fire Education or S.A.F.E. Program.”

Make fire safety a priority when selecting housing

The Department of Fire Services is joining forces with The Center for Campus Fire Safety,  Campus Firewatch and the U.S. Fire Administration during the month of September to urge college students and their parents to make fire safety a priority when selecting housing, whether they live on- or off-campus.

Keeping college students safe in on- and off-campus housing

Coan urged parents to make sure their college freshmen live in dorms equipped with smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms and fire sprinklers.

Coan said, “Many colleges do not provide housing for upper classmen, and college students renting off-campus housing should know the laws here in MA require working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and two ways out of every bedroom.”

There have been tragic fire deaths in substandard and illegal off-campus housing where there were no working smoke alarms, no working CO alarms, and victims were trapped in rooms that had only one way out.

Coan said, “Parents, talk to your adult children about fire safety, and look at their housing choices, especially if you are footing the bill. Contact the local fire department about any safety issues the landlord won’t address immediately, but don’t leave your child in a home without working smoke alarms for a single night.”

According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are approximately 18,000,000 students enrolled in 4,100 colleges and universities across the country. Approximately 2/3 of the students live in off-campus housing. According to information compiled by Campus Firewatch, 86 percent of the college/university related fire fatalities across the nation since January 2000 have occurred in off-campus housing. Five common factors in a number of these fires include:
• Lack of automatic fire sprinklers;
• Missing or disabled smoke alarms;
• Improper disposal of smoking materials;
• Impaired judgment from alcohol consumption; and
• Fires originating on upholstered furniture on decks or porches.

Materials for students, resident assistants and educators

Campus Firewatch has been closely involved with the Minger Foundation in the development of online training and tools for students, resident assistants, firefighters and other educators highlighting prevention and strategies to keep safe. Videos from their series Did You Know include information for students who may be living away from home for the first time, including students with disabilities (

In a fire seconds count

“In a fire, seconds count,” Coan said. “Working smoke alarms can alert students to a fire before it spreads, giving everyone enough time to get out, if they have two ways out and a practiced escaped plan.”

Questions to ask when selecting housing

The U.S. Fire Administration suggests asking these questions when choosing a housing situation:
• Are there working smoke alarms in each bedroom, outside of sleeping areas, and on each level of the building?
• Are there at least two ways out of each room and the building?
• Do the upper levels of the building have at least two sets of stairs inside and/or a fire escape?
• Are there exit signs in the hallways to show the way out?
• Are there enough electrical outlets for all appliances, computers, printers and electronics – without using an extension cord?
• Has the building’s heating system been inspected recently (in the last year)?
• Does the building have a sprinkler system?
• Does the building have a fire alarm system?
• Does the sprinkler system or fire alarm system send a signal to the local fire department and/or campus security?
• Is the building address clearly posted so emergency services can find it quickly if they need to?