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Experts Warn Parents Of Risk Of College Fire Deaths

Posted at 7:48 PM, Aug 18, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- As students head off to college, here's one more thing for parents to worry about: fires.

Four out of five college-related fire deaths happen off-campus, where most students live.

So how do you keep your child safe if they're living off campus? Experts say there are some things to look for before your student moves in.

In the last 15 years, 170 college students have died in fires and most of those deaths have been in off-campus housing. The state Fire Marshal's Office recommends that students and parents make sure any off campus housing has what they call "proper fire protection" before a student moves in or even signs a lease.

Here's what they recommend.

  • Working smoke alarms, preferably in each bedroom and that they are interconnected so all will sound if any of them detects smoke.
  • At least two ways to get out of the bedroom and the building.
  • At least two interior stairways or a fire escape on the upper floors on the building.
  • A working sprinkler system.
  • Enough electrical outlets for all appliances and equipment so extension cords aren't necessary.
  • "EXIT" signs in the hallways that lead to escape routes in case of a fire.
  • A working fire alarm system in the building.
  • A recent inspection of the building's heating system.
  • The building address clearly posted so emergency vehicles can find it quickly in an emergency.
  • The sprinkler or fire alarm system set up to send a signal to the nearest fire department or campus security.

And students shouldn't let their guard down once they've moved in.

In many of the college fire deaths, there were no automatic fire sprinklers, smoke alarms were missing or disabled, people were careless while smoking, or they'd had too much to drink. That not only can impair judgment, but can also make it harder to get out of a fire.

Experts also recommend that students have a fire extinguisher and that they keep it where it's easy to find.