For Immediate Release - August 31, 2016

Lt. Governor Karyn Polito Proclaims September Campus Fire Safety Month

Joins Safety and Fire Officials in Call for Increased Focus on Off-Campus Housing

BOSTON -- Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito today proclaimed September as Campus Fire Safety Month and joined fire safety advocates and building officials in their call for greater awareness of the risks of off-campus housing, where all five campus-related fire deaths have occurred over the past decade. Apartments with no working smoke alarms, no working carbon monoxide alarms, and only one means of escape pose the greatest threat to students. 

“Massachusetts is the home away from home to thousands of college students, and many upper classmen live off-campus, where potentially dangers are much more common,” said Lieutenant Governor Polito. “Every student has the right to safe housing and that includes working smoke alarms and two exit points in the event of an emergency.”

“Over the past ten years in Massachusetts five college students have lost their lives in fires in substandard or illegal off-campus housing,” said Public Safety Secretary Dan Bennett. “Parents and students should feel free to contact local housing, building or fire authorities for an inspection if they have any concerns about the safety of an apartment they have rented.” Secretary Bennett oversees the Department of Public Safety that enforces the State Building Code and the Department of Fire Services that enforces the State Fire Code.

“While most colleges work to make sure dormitories have fire alarm systems and fire sprinklers where required, college officials have very little ability to ensure student safety in off-campus housing,” said State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey. “College should be the beginning of a young person’s adult life and death or injury from a fire should not be allowed to cut that journey short.”

“We need the help of both students and their parents to make sure smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are still working and exits are still clear three months from now,” said Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn. “If you’re old enough to live on your own, you’re old enough to take responsibility for the fire safety of everyone in the building.”

Sometimes smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working on move in day, but are later disabled by tenants, putting everyone at risk.

In April, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, NFPA, USFA, and Campus Firewatch collaborated on a national campaign called See It Before You Sign It to encourage parents to see the off-campus apartment where their child will be living before signing the lease.

A group of fire chiefs, building officials, college safety officials and campus fire safety advocates have been meeting over the summer to share strategies for enforcing fire and building codes in off-campus housing. They are also launching a public awareness campaign about the importance of working smoke alarms and two ways out, called “Best Roomates Evah!” Go to www.BestRoommatesEvah.org.

In student dormitories, fraternities, and sororities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts alone 2,737 fires have occurred from 2011 to 2015 with five civilian injuries, two fire service injuries, and an estimated $1 million in damages.

For a quick list of resources and links to educational materials, please go to the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services website www.mass.gov/dfs and click on Campus Related Fire Safety.