My daughter recently moved out of the house and into her college dorm. She also was accepted into a sorority. Having never lived on a college campus in my college years, this opens up another new chapter in my life. Like all parents, we take the safety of our children as the highest priority. Let's take a look at college Greek housing (sororities and fraternities) as it relates to fire safety.
On Aug. 29, a fire broke out in a sorority occupied by 95 women at Purdue University. The morning fire was called in as fire was coming from the back of the building. By the time firefighters arrived, the fire was coming out two windows and there was thick, black smoke coming from every other opening into the building. Firefighters put out the blaze quickly, and we are all thankful that no one died. But they could have.
The fire started in a common area of the building. Fortunately, a smoke alarm sounded and woke up several of the women, who then woke those in their rooms who did not wake up to the sound of the alarm. The fire was the result of an electrical appliance that fell behind furniture. Damage to the building was about $50,000 and many women lost all of their belongings, and they all had to relocate.
Some students live on campus, others live in Greek housing, and others may live elsewhere. The majority of fire deaths on college campuses happen in Greek housing, as these buildings may not have to abide by the stringent code requirements of the college and community. They also have young adults who are experiencing more freedom than they may be used to and engage in risky behaviors. Add the youthful feeling of invincibility to the mix, and it can turn deadly.
Make sure you inspect the room and building your child will be living in. Check on fire and/or smoke alarms, make sure they work, and hopefully you may even find an automatic sprinkler system. Remind your child about fire safety tips, such as checking that appliances are off before going to bed, not leaving cooking unattended and avoiding candles and smoking in the building.
Most young adults are quite computer savvy so ask them to visit one of my favorite college fire safety websites. It can be found at www.igot2kno.org and recently was upgraded. It was made possible thanks to a grant from the Department of Homeland Security's Fire Prevention and Safety program. This program focuses on fire safety, alcohol awareness and egress, which are all problem areas for college students around the country. The program is entirely web-based and free, providing games, videos and other media to help drive home the lessons.
Our college children are preparing themselves for the futures ahead of them. It is our job to make sure they do it safely.
Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.