When it comes to on-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.

Fire alarm systems. Every residence hall should have a fire alarm system with smoke detectors in every single room that is connected to the building’s fire alarm system. Don’t just assume-ask!

What happens when the fire alarm is activated? Is the alarm sent to the fire department and they begin responding? At some schools, security investigates the alarm first and then notify the fire department if it is an actual fire, which is a bad idea. In some places, this is even illegal! Again, ask!

What are the policies on smoking, candles, incense and cooking in the rooms? All of these are common ignition sources for fires in residence halls.

What are the policies for fire safety infractions? This includes false alarms, cooking in your room, candles and smoking. Does the school take this seriously?

Fire safety education. What type of fire safety education is provided to the Resident Assistants and to the students? Is it really enough, or just a quick, short presentation? Remember, the fire safety education they get in the dorm might be the last they receive before moving off campus, so it should be really, really good!

Take every alarm seriously. This might be a problem in a residence hall where there are false alarms, but 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