This September was the ninth annual National Campus Fire Safety Month, and a record 36 states and the District of Columbia issued proclamations, along with a resolution in the United States Senate. Schools across the country held fire safety events to help raise awareness among the students about their role and personal responsibility in fire safety.
Campus Fire Safety Month is organized each year by Ed Comeau from Campus Firewatch. He sends a letter, co-signed by two dozen parents who have lost children in campus-related fires, to all of the nation’s governors asking them to issue proclamations. Since the program started in 2005, there have been 264 state proclamations issued, plus resolutions in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. All of this helps to promote the cause of campus fire safety and encourages schools and communities to do educational programs.
An example of this is a side-by-side burn that was done by Penn University in Philadelphia. A partnership between the sprinkler industry, Penn and the Philadelphia Fire Department helped make for a very successful day with not only the burn, but hands on demonstrations and information.
It is so important for schools to teach fire safety to the new students coming in and to reinforce it with the returning students. Since 2000, more than four out of five of the campus-related fire deaths have happened in off-campus housing, where most students live. On campus residence halls and Greek housing represent only 12% of fire deaths, and a lot of this success can be attributed to fire safety education, sprinkler and fire alarm systems, and well trained staff. However, when they move off-campus, it is certainly a different story.
A tragic example of this was last April, where a Boston University senior died in her third-story apartment that had only one exit out of it, which was right through the fire. This fire broke out right across the street from another fire that had happened just about a year earlier where seven Boston University students had to jump from windows on all three stories to escape a fire. This incident was featured in the video documentary 9 Fires, which is available for free download from the Minger Foundation’s web site. This is why it is so vitally important to know two ways out, no matter where you are, you never know when or where a fire will break out.