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Residence Hall Fire Safety Tips

Alyssa Keehan, Esq., CPCU, ARM
October 2020
How to provide proper training so your institution can reduce fires and improve response

Proper prevention and training efforts at your college or university can reduce fires and improve response.

Many housing fires occur at U.S. colleges and universities each year. The more serious threat comes

from fires starting in student rooms and spreading elsewhere in residence halls. These fires are often ignited by heat from electrical equipment, overloaded electrical outlets, candles, incense, cigarettes, lighters, or matches.

Prevent Fires From Occurring

  • Enact policies. Policies should prohibit candles and hot plates, require the use of surge protectors for electronic equipment, and prohibit obstruction of sprinkler systems. Include these policies in the student code of conduct and in each student’s room lease.
  • Conduct inspections. Ensure residents in student rooms abide by all rules and regulations. Follow up to ensure violations are remedied. Decide how many inspections will occur each year. Reserve the right to conduct additional inspections.
  • Involve the fire department. Consider asking your local fire department for help inspecting rooms to identify fire hazards. This helps the fire department become familiar with residence hall layouts, which will improve emergency response.
  • Maintain appliances. Regularly inspect and properly maintain cooking equipment you provide residents.
  • Place traditional fire extinguishers in all kitchens. Consider installing automatic fire suppression hood systems, which release chemicals when they detect flames over cooking appliances.

Conduct Training

Residence hall staff, including hall directors and resident assistants, play an important role in fire prevention. They are usually first to respond when fires occur. Include the following topics in staff training:

  • Policies. Familiarize staff with all policies related to fire prevention and inform them where to report violations and how to ensure they are remedied.
  • Awareness. Provide staff with materials to raise fire safety awareness within the residence hall community. Materials should include institution policies and fire prevention tips such as preventing overload of electrical circuits, misuse of appliances, and the importance of not leaving kitchens unattended while cooking.
  • Fire extinguishers. Train all residence life staff on proper use of fire extinguishers and when to evacuate instead. Staff also should know where extinguishers are located throughout the residence hall.
  • Evacuations. Outline your staff’s responsibilities during an evacuation and steps to trigger an evacuation.
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