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Monday, September 1, 2014

September and October are peak months for fires in college housing

The Saint Paul Fire Department and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) urge students and parents to be especially mindful of fire safety as the college season is beginning.  September is marked as “Campus Fire Safety Month” by the Center for Campus Safety.

"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,” says Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy.

In their report, “Structure Fires in Dormitories, Fraternities, Sororities, and Barracks”, the NFPA notes that U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 3,810 structure fires in college housing between 2007 and 2011. Roughly 70 percent of fires began in the kitchen or cooking area, and cooking equipment caused about three-quarters of these fires. Seven percent of fires started in the bedroom, but were responsible for 27 percent of injuries and 21 percent of property damage. The report also states that fires are most common in the evening hours between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m., and on weekends.

“Cooking is the leading cause of building fires in Minnesota,” says Saint Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard, “mostly by unattended cooking, which is very easily preventable.”  Zaccard urges everyone that, “IF YOU COOK, STAY AND LOOK!”

"Most cooking fires happen when a hot stove is left unattended. By staying in the kitchen and being alert while preparing meals, students can reduce their risk of starting a fire," added Carli. “Being sure that smoke alarms are working, and practicing a fire escape plan are also vital to reducing injuries and loss of life.”

Check out this YouTube video by the Saint Paul Fire Department and the city’s Office of Communications about a student fire safety expo at a local Saint Paul university where we demonstrate just how terribly fast a dormitory fire is and how important it is to have BOTH working smoke alarms and a fire sprinkler system:

“Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives: Test Yours Every Month!” is the theme for Fire Prevention Week 2014, NFPA’s annual awareness campaign held this year on October 5 – 11. The Fire Prevention Week website provides information and resources that can help students learn and spread the word about fire safety.  During Fire Prevention Week this year the Saint Paul Fire Department will once again have fun and educational open houses in three city fire stations.  Follow us on Twitter at @stpaulfiredept and Facebook at SaintPaulFireDepartment for up-to-date information.

The following are additional fire safety tips that can help college students living in on- or off-campus housing:

•Look for fully sprinkled housing when choosing a dorm or off-campus housing.

•Make sure your dormitory or apartment has smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside every sleeping area and on each level. For the best protection, all smoke alarms should be interconnected so that when one sounds, they all sound.

Make sure there is an operating carbon monoxide alarm within 10 feet of the entrance to every bedroom.

•Test all smoke alarms at least monthly, and never remove batteries or disable smoke alarms.

•Cook only where it is permitted.

•Learn your building’s evacuation plan and practice all drills as if they were the real thing. If you live off campus, have a fire escape plan with two ways out of every room.

While you’re away at college you should learn, have fun, and BE SAFE.  For more information about fire safety, or to participate in our Project Safe Haven, go to our website at www. or call our Public Education Office at 651-228-6203.

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