WACO, Texas — As students return to college campuses for their fall semester, the National Fire Protection Association is starting off its annual Campus Fire Safety for Students campaign in the month of September.
94 percent of fatal campus fires took place in off-campus housing from 2000 through 2015, according to the Center for Campus Fire Safety; fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities, and barracks have been rising in recent years and are most common on weekends and evenings between 5 to 9 pm.
“In the last 20 years, 92 documented fatal fires have occurred on a college campus, in Greek housing, or in off-campus housing within the three-mile definition – sadly, claiming a total of 132 student victims," said Justin Daniels, CCFS president and fire marshal, University of Oklahoma – Norman Campus.
In many Texas universities, a majority of students live off-campus; with 77 percent of students at Texas A&M University living off-campus, 82 percent of students at the University of Texas at Austin, and 66 percent of students at Baylor University.
"The majority of fires occurred in off-campus housing, and more than half of these fires were accidental and included cooking, candles, smoking materials, or electrical equipment,” said Daniels.
In 58 percent of fatal campus fires, smoke alarms are either missing, disconnected or have no batteries, according to CCFS; and 85 percent of fatal campus fires also had no fire sprinklers present.
The NFPA and CCFS suggest testing and inspecting smoke alarms that should be installed in and outside of all sleeping areas, knowing a building's evacuation plan, and cooking only in intended areas.
The University of Texas at Austin's Fire Prevention Services recommends that students ask the property’s management for a copy of their latest fire inspection report and if it's not available, or over a year old, ask them to request a new inspection of the facility.
“As students return to college life to live on their own or with friends after being home for much of last year, it is important for them to review fire safety tips to learn how to prevent fires,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for NFPA, and CCFS Advisory Council Member.
For more fire safety prevention tips visit www.nfpa.org/campus.