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Fire safety tips could save lives of students headed off to school
Aug 14, 2010

With our youngest child, Beth, heading off to college this fall, there are some safety items I will try to emphasize with her before she leaves. While I can try to teach her safety tips in the best way I know how, I sometimes worry that I may not catch her at a moment when she is receptive to the messages. She has a lot on her mind, with roommates, life away from home, friends and the whole college experience. Some of the items I will tell my college-bound child are listed below. I hope you will share them with your college-bound students as well.


  • Make your own fire escape plan. Not all colleges emphasize fire safety to incoming freshmen. The buildings may not be fire sprinkler-equipped, alarms may be disabled or malfunctioning, exits may be inadequate and a number of other issues may exist that worry parents. Plan at least two ways out of every building you spend time in, especially the dorm room. If there is a fire, try to remember the plan (that you have hopefully practiced) and act on it - following the crowd may lead to disaster. Many people fail to make escape plans, and a fire causes them to come up with plans in a split second, which may be poor plans. The Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island in 2003 killed 100 young adults, most of them very close to an exit, but they followed the crowds to the jammed-up main entrance.


  • Act upon every fire alarm as if it were the real thing. I know that many fire alarms turn out to be false alarms, or alarms that may have malfunctioned. This does not mean the signal knows the difference between a false alarm and one that kills people. A fire occurred at Seton Hall University in 2000 that killed three freshmen. Many others were injured in the blaze, as many stayed in their rooms, believing this was a prank fire alarm. The resident assistant at that dorm building spoke at a fire conference I attended, and she gave a powerful presentation about the events she experienced first-hand, and the burn injuries she suffered trying to save her friends. Her presentation is on the Internet, and her name is Dana Christmas, so look it up and spend a few minutes watching that.


  • No one cares about your safety as much as you do. As a high school student attending an English class on the second floor of my school, the school fire alarm sounded. Several of us stood up to leave. Our teacher told us to sit back down, as he didn't think there was a fire and there wasn't a fire alarm scheduled for that day. We did sit down, which was the wrong behavior to take. While the alarm turned out to be false, we should be teaching kids to take every fire alarm seriously and evacuate the building.

    Common factors found in a number of campus fires include a lack of automatic sprinklers, missing or disabled smoke alarms, the careless disposal of smoking materials, improvised cooking devices, candles left unattended and impaired judgment from alcohol consumption. I plan on going over each of these points with my daughter before she leaves. Will you do the same with your college-bound child?

    Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.


IAFF Local 1164
14910 Farmington Rd.
Livonia, MI 48154

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