August 27, 2002
Dorm Room Safety 101: Recent Death in
Fraternity House Fire Suggests Student Awareness and Responsibility Are
- On Tuesday, Aug. 13, a 20-year- old student at Michigan Technological
University (Houghton, Mich.) died in a fraternity house fire. Five other
students narrowly escaped the fatal, early morning blaze. Authorities
believe the fire started on an unattended stove and quickly spread,
destroying the entire house.
This is the first reported campus fire of the new school year, but if
statistics are any indication, it is certainly not the last. According to
the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an average of 1,700 fires
occur in dormitories and Greek housing each year. This means firefighters
respond to fires on college campuses four times every day somewhere in the
United States. Last year alone, 19 students died in fires in dormitory,
Greek and off-campus residences, according to Campus Firewatch, a monthly
electronic newsletter focusing on the issues of college and university fire
safety. The safety professionals at Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) are
offering tips that will keep the more than 5.6 million students enrolled
full time in colleges and universities safe no matter what their living
"One tragic death is one too many," said John Drengenberg, manager of
Consumer Affairs, who reminds students that each year fire kills more
Americans than all natural disasters combined. "Whether you live in a
dormitory, sorority house or even a small off-campus apartment, your living
area is likely overfilled with books, paper, bedding, clothes and other
combustibles that make your room a bonfire waiting to happen. Even the
smallest spark can be deadly. We urge students to start the year off by
taking steps to decrease potential hazards and make sure a fire this tragic
does not happen again."
Electrical Safety Tips
-- Do not overload extension cords, power strips or outlets.
-- Get a power strip with an over-current protector.
-- Be wary of electrical outlets that are too hot to touch.
-- Do not connect multiple extension cords together.
-- Do not route cords under doors or carpets.
-- Do not staple extension cords.
-- Look for the UL Mark on any electrical product you use.
-- Use light bulbs with correct wattage for lamps.
-- Pay attention when cooking.
-- Cook only where rules allow.
-- Look for UL-Listed appliances that feature automatic shut-off buttons.
-- Never plug more than one high-wattage appliance into a single outlet.
-- Have plenty of fire-resistant potholders and oven mitts ready for use
-- Keep curtains, towels and potholders away from hot surfaces.
-- Store solvents and flammable cleaners away from heat sources.
-- Keep surfaces clean of grease.
-- Never pour water on a grease fire.
-- Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher handy.
What if there is a fire?
-- Never ignore a fire alarm.
-- Never disable a smoke alarm by removing the battery.
-- Always call the fire department or 911 immediately.
-- Know your building's escape plan.
-- Know two ways to exit the building from your room.
-- Memorize the number of doors to the nearest exit.
-- Close, but do not lock, doors behind you as you leave the building.
-- Protect yourself and your roommates before property and valuables.