Tallahassee is a college town. With at least nine colleges and an estimated 70,000 students, there are lots of opportunities for learning — and for learning the hard way.
Take fire safety.
Kids are on their own for the first time. They’re meeting new friends. They’re staying up late to study. They might even be — gasp! —cooking.
In short, their still-developing brains are thinking about the cute boy next to them in quantitative analysis, their grade in advanced rhetoric or an upcoming party. Chances are, they are not thinking about the possibility of a fire. That’s where you come in, mama. You are not being overprotective — you are simply trying to ensure that your baby makes it to adulthood.
Residential Fire Hazards
Learning “stop, drop and roll” and evacuation procedures for a one-story elementary school is one thing. But in college housing, the situation is more complicated. Hundreds of students are living together. They’re often exhausted, drinking or distracted and that can lead to carelessness.
A few of the risks:
- Burning candles
- Using space heaters
- Overloading electrical outlets
- Draping material over lamps/lights
- Disabling smoke detectors
Since 2000, the Center for Campus Fire Safety has documented 92 fatal fires on college campuses, in Greek housing or within three miles of a college campus. Those fires have injured many and killed 132 people — kids with bright futures.
Whether your college student is living in a dorm, a Greek house or an off-campus apartment, it’s important to check for fire hazards, make sure fire alarms are working and ask about fire sprinkler systems.
In 58 percent of the fatal campus fires, smoke alarms were missing, had no batteries or were disconnected. Fire sprinkler systems were not present in any of the documented fires.
A few years ago, a trash compactor fire filled Florida State’s Salley Hall dormitory’s seventh and eighth floors with smoke, forcing residents to evacuate. Fortunately, an automatic fire sprinkler system kept the fire under control until firefighters arrived. No injuries were reported.
Alarms and fire sprinkler systems are key to your child’s safety. They can provide lifesaving protection and buy time to evacuate.
Fire Safety Resources for You and Your Child
Whether you’re buying bedding for your child’s first semester away or you have a fifth-year senior, it’s always the right time to talk about fire safety. Here’s a helpful sheet to get the conversation started. It’s meant for students to share with friends. And here is a fire safety checklist for students.
Living in campus housing? Here’s a great list to help parents and students ask school officials thoughtful questions.
Off-campus housing requires some additional precautions. The vast majority of fatal fires near colleges in recent years have happened off campus. With less-stringent regulations than dorms, it’s important to talk with the landlord about smoke detectors, fire sprinkler systems, power outlet capacity and other concerns.
Alarms matter. Escape plans matter. Fire sprinkler systems matter.
That’s because even if your child follows the rules and does everything right in college, the student next door might not.