Marshal Urges Fire Safety for College Students

September 5, 2012.  Data shows that the university student population is at high risk to fire loss and injury according to the Michigan Bureau of Fire Services that today, urges students living on- and off-campus to be aware of fire risks and know the preventative measures that could save their lives.

“As college students across Michigan return to their studies, now is the best time to step up our efforts to guard against the danger of fire in dormitories and in off-campus housing,” said State Fire Marshal Richard Miller.  “With new-found independence living away from home for the first time, students may think they are invincible.  With fire, they need to realize they are not.”

According to the U.S. Fire Administration: September and October are the worst months for fire-related emergencies and fatal campus-related fires (23 percent); an estimated 3,800 university housing fires occur each year in the U.S.; and 83 percent of university housing fires are cooking fires.  Common factors in deadly campus fires include lack of fire sprinkler systems; missing or disabled smoke alarms; careless smoking; unattended candles; overloaded electrical circuits and extension cords, and the misuse of alcohol – which impairs judgment and hampers evacuation efforts.

Having a working smoke and carbon monoxide detector can save your life.  Make sure that your smoke or carbon monoxide detector are working properly and have fresh batteries. Never remove batteries or disable the alarm, and test all smoke alarms monthly.

Here are more important fire safety tips:


  • Avoid using lighted candles.  Instead, use battery-operated, flameless candles which can look, smell and feel like real candles.
  • Never leave a candle unattended.  Extinguish the candle before you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • A candle is an open flame; keep the candle away from papers, draperies and linens.
  • Always use a flashlight – not a candle – for emergency lighting.
  • Use sturdy, safe candleholders that protect the flame from contact with combustible materials.


  • Follow school rules on in-house cooking and never leave cooking area (stovetop, burners, oven) unattended.
  • Keep your cooking area clean and uncluttered.
  • Plug microwave ovens or other cooking appliances directly into an outlet.  Never use an extension cord for a cooking appliance as it can overload the circuit and cause a fire.
  • If a fire starts in a microwave, keep the door closed and unplug the unit.
  • Keep a working fire extinguisher nearby the cooking area and make sure you know how to use it.


  • Don’t allow smoking inside your dorm room or apartment and NEVER smoke in bed. If you smoke, smoke outside in a designated area.
  • Make sure cigarettes and ashes are out.  Never toss hot cigarette butts or ashes in the trash can.
  • After a party, check for smoldering cigarette butts, especially under cushions.  Chairs and sofas catch fire fast and burn fast.

Electrical and Appliance Safety

  • Check your school’s rules before using electrical appliances in your dormitory room.
  • Don’t use stoves and microwaves to help heat a cold dorm room or apartment.
  • Select appliances with automatic shut-off switches.
  • Don’t overload outlets; don’t use a series of adaptors to connect numerous machines or devices to an electrical outlet that may result in an overload, power outage, spark or fire.
  • Use light bulbs that match the recommended wattage on the lamp or fixture.
  • Use a surge protector for your computer and plug the protector directly into an outlet.

Escape Planning

  • Identify all emergency exits on your floor; know and practice an escape plan that includes two ways out of every room.
  • Use the stairs; never use an elevator during a fire.
  • Smoke is toxic.  If you must escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to exit.
  • If you’re trapped, call 9-1-1 and tell them where you are.  Seal your doors with rags and signal from your window.