When it comes to off-campus fire safety, there are some very specific steps that students and parents can take. These aren’t the only things to look for, but are a very good start!

Sprinklered housing. First and foremost, look for housing that has automatic fire sprinklers. Without a doubt, fire sprinklers save lives.

Smoke alarms. Every house, every apartment, should have smoke alarms in every bedroom and in the common areas. Some might be connected to the building fire alarm system, some might be stand-alone, single station smoke alarms. Ask the building manager or landlord which one is which.

Install smoke alarms. If there aren’t enough smoke alarms, and the landlord won’t put them up, install them yourself. It is easy. And inexpensive-for the price of a pizza you can have peace of mind.

Test your smoke alarms. If the smoke alarm is not part of the building fire alarm system, then you can test it yourself to make sure it is working.

Do NOT disable or take down a smoke alarm. If it keeps getting set off, for example, by cooking or steam from a shower, then it needs to be moved further away from the kitchen or shower.

Know your smoke alarm. A smoke alarm can only save your life if it is working. Don’t disable it, don’t take it down. If there isn’t one in the house where your child is living, buy one (or two, or three) and for the price of a pizza, you can have peace of mind. The leading cause of fatal fires is cigarettes, which often start as a smoldering fire. Photoelectric smoke alarms are better at detecting these deadly fires than ionization and are generally are not disabled as much-so think about which one you want.

Take every alarm seriously. You never, ever know when it might be real. At the Seton Hall University fire in 2000 that killed three students and injured over 50, there had been close to 20 false alarms leading up to the real fire. You never know. Get up, get out.

Know two ways out, no matter where you are. If you don’t remember anything else, remember this. Knowing two ways out of a building, for any emergency, can save your life. Whether it is your residence hall, a fraternity, sorority, if you are visiting a friend’s apartment, knowing how to get out can make all of the difference in the world.

Information Resources

Here are some links to some campus fire safety resources.

Minger Foundation

Campus Firewatch

NFPA fact sheets (All PDF format)

USFA fact sheets