Increase in College Dorm Fires Prompts Officials to Issue Warning

August 21, 2007
Release Number: 07-279

As students go off to college and leave the comforts of home, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is warning about the dangers of fires in college housing such as dormitories, fraternities, sororities and barracks. According to National Fire Protection Association data, the estimated number of fires in campus housing has risen dramatically in recent years, from a low of 1,800 fires in 1998 to 3,300 fires in 2005. From 2000 through 2005 there were 39 deaths and nearly 400 injuries.

"Going to college marks an important milestone, and the CPSC doesn’t want that to be marred by a potentially tragic fire," said Acting CPSC Chairman Nancy Nord. "Students bring things from home to make dorm life more comfortable, including high-powered electronics and appliances. These items can make life easier, but also more dangerous when used improperly or left unsupervised, particularly in small dorm rooms.”

Today, at a joint press conference, the CPSC, U.S. Fire Administration, National Fire Protection Association and the University of Maryland’s Fire Marshal urged students, parents, administrators and resident assistants to be aware of fire dangers. Fires in college housing are more common during the evening and weekends when students are in their residences. And, while most of the fires are cooking-related (hot plates, microwaves, portable grills, etc.), the majority of fire deaths occur in the bedroom.

CPSC and NFPA recommend following these College Dorm Fire Safety Tips:

-  Cooking equipment causes 72% of dorm fires. Students should cook in designated areas only, and never leave cooking equipment unattended when in use.

-  As far as deaths and injuries are concerned, most occur in sleeping areas, and are associated with smoking materials like tobacco products, candles, and incense. Always extinguish flames before leaving the room or going to sleep.

-  Electrical products, portable heaters, and lighting such as halogen lamps are the source of many dorm fires. Keep combustibles away from heat sources and don’t overload electrical outlets, extension cords, and power strips.

-  Take special care with holiday and seasonal decorations. Don’t use combustible materials and never block access to safety devices, doors, etc.

-  Know your building’s evacuation plan in case something does go wrong.

-  Don’t disable smoke alarms.

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