Many moms are sending their kids off to college this year for the first time. As mothers we pour our heart and soul into raising our children for 18 years before we launch them out into the world. A myriad of questions are likely to race through a mother’s mind as she waves goodbye to her college student. Does he have everything he needs? Will he starve without knowing how to cook? How will he know how to find his way around campus? Will he be safe?
While some concerns are more legitimate than others, there is no more serious concern than your son or daughter’s safety. Is your son or daughter prepared with knowledge about fire safety? There are several things you can do to help them know what to do in case of a fire.
Talk to Your Child About Fire Safety
Many college students have not received fire safety education beyond the “Stop, Drop, and Roll” they acquired in grade school. Living on their own in on-campus or off-campus housing presents new risks they may not be aware of. A large number of students may be living together. Students can often be distracted, drowsy, or exhausted which can lead to carelessness. Have a conversation with your child about the risks including:
- Candles burning
- Overloaded power outlets
- Excess lint left in the dryer
- Cooking, grease fires
- Using space heaters
- Using kitchen safety
- Checking the batteries in the smoke detector
Understand Campus Fire Safety Protocol
Find out what your child’s university offers in terms of fire safety. The University of Miami provides a number of services to students, faculty, and staff focused on fire safety preparedness.
If your student opts to live on-campus be sure to understand the procedures the dorm or housing location has in place for fire safety. A list of questions to ask your child’s school officials can be found here. Be sure to ask housing officials:
- Does every student’s room have a smoke alarm?
- What is the school’s disciplinary policy towards students that cause false alarms or fail to evacuate during an alarm?
Which buildings are protected with an automatic fire sprinkler system? Are all residential buildings equipped with sprinklers?
As a college student I remember that our on-campus housing was frequently evacuated because a student overcooked their popcorn or blew out a candle in their dorm room. The entire dorm would have to exit the premises while firefighters inspected the building. I never once lit a candle because I was too afraid the smoke would accidentally set off the sprinklers ruining everything in our room. The truth is, the sprinklers are activated by heat one at a time after the temperature reaches 135-165 degrees.
As a college student I viewed those “random” evacuations as annoying interruptions to my day. However, now as a Mom, I understand the seriousness of fire safety in a shared living space and the dangers of failing to be prepared.
Communicate with Landlords
If your child is living off-campus the threat of a fire still exists. It is important to talk to landlords to be sure they are following proper safety practices. The Center for Campus Fire Safety has a resource filled with questions to ask a landlord about fire safety. Your child’s safety is at stake in the housing decisions you make so don’t be shy to ask questions. Inspect the location for fire alarms, smoke detectors, and fire extinguishers. Housing may need fire sprinklers. Fire sprinklers save lives and provide additional time to evacuate.
Stay in the Know
As parents, we play a vital role in our children’s understanding of fire safety. Let’s be proactive and intentional about learning more so that we can teach others. It is imperative that college students know the preventive measures they can take to save their lives and the lives of others.
According to The Center for Campus Fire Safety, since January 2000 more than 90 fires have occurred in on-campus and off-campus housing resulting in 132 deaths. Smoke alarms and sprinkler systems save lives. Be sure your child’s dorm or Greek Life housing is equipped with a fire sprinkler. Choose the safest place for your child to live.