For Immediate Release - August 31, 2017

Public Safety Secretary Bennett, College, Fire and Building Officials, Fire Safety Advocates Launch Campus Fire Safety Month & “Best Roommates Evah!” Campaign

WORCESTER - Surrounded by college safety, fire and building officials, and fire safety advocates, Public Safety Secretary Daniel Bennett launched Campus Fire Safety Month at The College of the Holy Cross by reminding college students and their parents to make fire safety a priority in off-campus housing. Launching the Best Roommates Evah! Working Smoke Alarms and Two Ways Out campaign, Secretary Bennett said: “Massachusetts is the home away from home for thousands of college students, many of whom live off-campus. We want to keep every one of them safe and this starts by having dwellings with working smoke alarms and two ways out.”

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State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said, “Moving into a new apartment is the best time to make sure the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working and to develop an escape plan that includes two ways out. Young adults also have a responsibility to protect other residents in the building by keeping the smoke alarms in good working order throughout the year.”

While colleges work to make sure dormitories have fire alarm systems and fire sprinklers where required, officials are most concerned about the safety of off-campus housing. Since 2006, 100% of all campus related fire deaths have occurred in off-campus housing. Five college students aged 19-22 have died in Massachusetts off-campus housing fires in the past decade. Lack of working smoke alarms or a second exit was a factor in these deaths.

Best Roommates Evah!
This is the second year the “Best Roommates Evah!” public awareness campaign formulated by a group of fire chiefs, building officials, college safety officials and campus fire safety advocates who meet to share strategies for enforcing fire and building codes in off-campus housing and encouraging students and parents to think about fire safety when they move in. The campaign includes a video PSA with Boston firefighters who responded to a fatal off-campus fire, posters, talking points, a customizable local press release, a logo, and links to other college fire safety resources for students, parents, colleges and resident assistants. There will be electronic bulletin boards and highway flash signs to remind students and parents as they head to college this fall. Go to www.BestRoommatesEvah.org.

Paul Irish, associate dean of The College of the Holy Cross said, “When students arrive to campus, fire safety is usually not among their top concerns. We must make it one of their concerns, raise awareness and provide effective education to help reduce their risk of fire. We are grateful for our partnership with the Worcester Fire Department and their long involvement helping to educate our students.”

Working Smoke and CO Alarms Required in MA
“It is imperative that landlords provide working smoke alarms, students maintain them, and develop escape plans with two ways out,” Worcester City Manager Augustus said, “Every year, Worcester is home to 35,000 college students, and we want them all to have a positive, and most importantly, safe experience. Any parents or young adults who feel their housing is not safe should contact the City for an inspection right away by calling the city’s customer line at 508-929-1300.”

Chief David Mottor, president of the Fire Chiefs’ Association of Massachusetts said, “Parents should make sure the place where their adult children live have both working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, as required by Massachusetts law. Don’t let your child sleep one night unprotected when for the price of a pizza you can make sure they have a working alarm. Consider also purchasing an in-hood fire extinguisher to go over the stove.” In Massachusetts landlords are required to provide working smoke alarms, and in nearly every home also working carbon monoxide alarms. The leading cause of off-campus housing fires is cooking and the leading cause of fatal off-campus fires is improperly discarded smoking materials.

Take Responsibility for Fire Safety of Everyone in Your Building
Worcester Fire Chief Michael Lavoie said, “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. 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.

“Campus Firewatch is launching the Town/Gown Fire Safety Community Service project in a dozen communities across the nation, including four in Massachusetts,” said Ed Comeau, publisher of Campus Firewatch. “Students will be working alongside firefighters installing donated smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in at-risk homes, learning fire safety by doing fire safety, and making their communities safer.”

See It Before You Sign It
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.

In student dormitories, fraternities, and sororities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts alone 2,796 fires have occurred from 2012 to 2016 with four civilian injuries, six fire service injuries, and an estimated $900,831 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 College Fire Safety.