Some of the biggest parental fears sending kids off to college concern safety. While safety is a top priority, I suspect that many parents rank fear of kitchen fires well below safety concerns about drugs, alcohol, crime and other campus issues. They shouldn’t. In fact, dear parents, college fires should move up to the top of your list of concerns since 72 percent of college campus fires are cooking-related. Campus cooking fires cause more than $25 million in damages each year.
Besides rigorous college courses, there are so many demands on young adults’ attention in today’s busy world – texting, emails, friends visiting, the hectic start of college life and possibly alcohol consumption. It’s pretty easy for college kids to start to cook a meal and forget about it. I’ve done it myself. Next thing you know, a fire spreads from a stove or hot plate to curtains and other highly-flammable material in a dorm room. Putting the fire out quickly is imperative to minimize injury to students and damage to the building and belongings.
Most college fires are due to lack of knowledge about fire safety and prevention. So what can parents do to help minimize risks? We work with state fire marshals and fire inspectors and others who spend years helping to educate others about the risks of cooking fires. Here’s some basic advice to discuss with your college students and the college administration.
- Make sure there are smoke detectors installed and that the batteries are fresh.
- Teach your kid how to use a fire extinguisher. Before they leave for school, practice using one with your child and make sure there is at least one available in the cooking area at the dorm.
- Discuss escape routes when you deliver your college student to the dorm.
- Emphasize that leaving a building when a fire alarm goes off is imperative. It could save your child’s life. Emphasize that no property or memento is worth dying for.
- Learn to properly use and maintain stoves and cooking appliances.
It’s also a good idea to talk to the head of the cafeteria on campus and dorm manager about fire safety. Make sure that they:
- Install smoke alarms in every room and test weekly.
- Inspect rooms and buildings for fire hazards regularly.
- Make sure exit doors and windows are working properly.
- Conduct fire drills and practice escape routes.
- Get to know on-campus public safety personnel
An inexpensive way to prevent tragedies from cooking is to have the college install an automatic range top suppression system over each stove in dorm room cooking areas. They are designed to detect and extinguish cooking fires and at the same time prevent re-ignition. Installed sprinkler systems can also prevent deaths and injuries, as well as reduce millions of dollars in property damage.
College life is meant to be a wonderful beginning not a tragic end. Take these steps to protect your precious children. A few minutes of your time and attention will ensure a safe and fun college experience.