September and October are the peak months for dorm fires — these NFPA resources can help protect your campus and students

by Brianna Crandall — October 23, 2017 — Of interest to facilities managers at colleges and universities as well as campus-adjacent apartment owners and property managers, September is Campus Fire Safety Month and this year the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and The Center for Campus Fire Safety are working together to promote their national “Campus Fire Safety for Students” campaign. The campaign raises awareness about the dangers of fires among college-aged students who live in on- and off-campus college housing.

According to NFPA’s latest report, Structure Fires in Dormitories, Fraternities, Sororities and Barracks, between 2011 and 2015, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 4,100 structure fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities and other related properties. Approximately seven in 10 (72 percent) of fires in these properties began in the kitchen or cooking area, accounting for 44 percent of civilian injuries and 14 percent of direct property damage.

The report also states that fires are more common between the hours of 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. and on weekends; September and October were the peak months for fires in dormitories.

Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for NFPA, stated:

As college students settle into housing in dorms and off-campus apartments, it’s important they review fire safety tips to learn how to prevent fires, check smoke alarms and prepare escape plans. Staying in the kitchen when cooking, using flameless candles, and not overloading electrical outlets and power strips are all vital steps to reducing injuries and loss of life.

The campaign provides a host of resources for students, parents and fire safety educators that focus on fire safety in college housing. The resources have been designed for sharing via social media, on college Web sites, and for posting in dorms and on common area bulletin boards. They include:

  • Videos
  • Checklists
  • Tip sheets
  • Infographics and flyers
  • Posters

Michael J. Swain, president of The Center for Campus Fire Safety, says encouraging students to share this information with their peers will send a strong fire safety message that will be remembered going forward.

During the 2016-2017 school year, two students lost their lives in off-campus housing. From 2000 through mid-August 2017, The Center states that 128 students died in 91 fires on college campuses, in Greek housing, or in privately owned off-campus housing within three miles of the campus. Of the 91 fires, 78 of them occurred in off-campus housing.

According to Tim Knisely, a director of The Center and program manager for the organization’s Off-Campus Fire & Life Safety Alliance group:

Students living off-campus have always been the most difficult to reach, but we’ve made progress in the last 10 years. Still, there’s a great deal of work to be done, as a large number of residence halls and dormitories lack modern fire protection equipment such as fire alarm systems, bedroom smoke alarms and sprinklers. The Campus Fire Safety for Students campaign is one way we’re addressing this problem.

Learn more about the campaign and find resources for students, parents and fire safety educators on the NFPA or The Center for Campus Fire Safety Web sites.