Following these basic safety guidelines will reduce the chance that students are injured in academic facilities on campus.
- 1) Identify the two closest exits and all potential evacuation routes.
- 2) Know the location of nearest fire alarm and how to use it.
- 3) Never prop open hallway doors or lock fire exit doors.
- 4) Keep corridors clear of flammable materials to prevent rapid fire spread.
- 5) Report vandalized fire equipment to campus public safety.
Campus labs have high ignition potential because of chemical, electrical, and mechanical heat sources. To prevent lab fires, students should:
- Only work under supervision
- Follow campus standard operating procedures for conducting experiments and research
- Never leave experiments or pressure vessels running unattended
- Keep flammable gases and reagents away from heat
St. Michael’s College, 2/17/14: An electric space heater was responsible for an accidental fire that displaced 22 students at St. Michael’s Townhouse 105. Upon hearing smoke alarms, the residents were able to get out safely. The Colchester Fire Department responded and found the dormitory unit’s top and bottom floors engulfed in flames, police said.
University of Massachusetts, 1/18/11: A lit candle ignited a fire in a student’s residence hall room when it came into contact with a window shade. The overhead sprinkler system doused the flames. Firefighters found two other rooms with burning candles and in several rooms (including where the fire began) there were hats hung over smoke detectors.
Students have a responsibility for practicing fire safety in their dorms. It is important to follow each school’s specific guidelines about what students can and can’t have in their rooms. The items most commonly banned due as fire hazards are:
- Hot plates
- Toaster ovens
- George Foreman grills
- Halogen and lava lamps
- Space heaters
Todd Sigle, Chief of Police at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina, explains that most on-campus residence hall fires are often caused by unattended stove tops, primarily electric ranges. In addition to being left unattended, these cooking tools are also hazardous because they aren’t equipped with temperature regulating technology. Sigle noted that, according to the National Fire Protection Association, between 2007-2011, 84% of reported dormitory fires involved cooking equipment.
Sigle has noticed that shared kitchen areas are becoming commonplace as more apartment-style construction replaces traditional residence hall design. Because of this, Sigle stresses that it is critically important for college students to recognize the importance and responsibility of following fire safety practices.
Many times it is simply a matter of paying attention, especially when cooking. In 2012, there were eight cooking fires in residence halls during a very short time period at the University of Kansas. In one instance, a student made macaroni and cheese in the microwave without adding water. Another student left a plastic tray too close to a hot dog warmer.
Isolating the fire by putting a lid over it or closing the door can ensure student safety. When a fire broke out on the third floor of Brown Residence Hall at Duke University, a student’s quick thinking prevented injuries. The fire started when a backpack lying against a radiator combusted into flames. When the student found the fire, he closed the door, containing the fire.
Residence Hall Safety Guidelines
It is the responsibility of the headteacher and governing body of the premises to ensure that fire evacuation drills are carried out.
The dangers which may threaten children and staff if a fire breaks out depends on many different factors. Consequently, it is not possible to construct a model procedure for action in the event of fire which would be suitable for use in all premises.
Each fire routine must be based upon a simple, efficient procedure which is specifically designed for the premises in which it has to operate. It is therefore important that the following points must be given prime consideration.
The purpose of the fire drill
Fire drills are intended to ensure, by means of training and rehearsal, that:
- people who may be in danger act in a calm and orderly manner
- those with responsibilities carry out their tasks to ensure the safety of all concerned
- escape routes are used in accordance with a predetermined and practised plan
- evacuation of the building is achieved in a speedy and orderly manner
- people will react rationally when confronted with a fire or other emergency at school or elsewhere.
The occupancy of the premises
Consideration must be given to the age of the pupils attending the school and whether there are any children with special needs.
Frequency of fire evacuation drills
Fire evacuation drills should be held at least once per term, preferably at the start of each term.
Notices and signs
Each fire alarm point should, where necessary, be clearly indicated 'Fire Alarm' in accordance with the health and safety (safety signs and signals) regulations followed by the appropriate operating instructions (see notice 1 below).
A notice should be displayed adjacent to the telephone or switchboard giving clear instructions for calling the fire service in case of fire (see notice 2 below).
Notices should be displayed for staff detailing their actions in an emergency in visible positions e.g staff room (see notice 1 below).
Any attempt to fight the fire must always be secondary to life safety. Circumstances will clearly dictate whether firefighting should be attempted. Any attempt to fight the fire must be based upon the type and degree of training received in the use of firefighting equipment available on the premises.
Regular fire drills will ensure that the evacuation procedure fulfils its aim satisfactorily and will highlight any area which may need to be reviewed.
Many schools have more than one building on site. It is not necessary for the fire alarm systems within these buildings to be linked together.
In the event of an alarm, a procedure should be established whereby contact is made with the other buildings on site either by telephone or by a designated person. Once contact has been made, it will be usual procedure to evacuate all buildings (by operating the fire alarm, tannoy message or personally with each class).
The aim of evacuating all buildings is to attempt to carry out a roll call. Operating procedures within some schools (mainly middle and high schools) may make it virtually impossible to say with any degree of certainty that "all persons are accounted for." In these cases, management may decide to operate a 'floor warden' scheme. This delegates responsibility to members of staff to quickly search each floor (all rooms, including toilets) and to report to the a designated person that their floor is clear. Where this procedure is in operation it is not necessary to evacuate all buildings.