- Department of Fire Services
Media Contact for September is Campus Fire Safety Month
Jake Wark, Public Information Officer
STOW — Governor Charlie Baker today signed a proclamation declaring September to be Campus Fire Safety Month in Massachusetts, and State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey reminded students, landlords, parents, RAs, and others that working smoke alarms and two ways out of a dorm or apartment are key safety measures that could save lives in the event of a fire in student housing.
Nationwide, every residential fire to claim the life of a college student in more than 15 years has occurred in off-campus housing. This includes two Massachusetts students who died in off-campus housing fires in the past 10 years. In the past five years, there have been nearly 3,000 fires in Massachusetts dormitories, sororities, and fraternities causing five civilian injuries, seven fire service injuries, and an estimated $1.8 million in damages.
“Students need working smoke alarms and two ways out of any place they live, whether it’s on or off campus,” said State Fire Marshal Ostroskey. “We’re particularly concerned about off-campus housing because that’s where the data shows the greatest loss of life, but fire safety is critical whether you live in a dorm, apartment, single-family home, multifamily dwelling, sorority, or fraternity.”
Throughout the first week of September, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation is promoting campus fire safety on electronic billboards with the message “Smoke Alarms & 2 Ways Out / Best College Roommates Evah!”
Officials noted that fire safety precautions should remain in place after move-in day and beyond Sept. 31. Windows, doors, and stairways should always be clear of boxes, furniture, or anything else that might hinder an escape. Similarly, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are required by law and should remain operational all year long.
Like other household appliances, alarms don’t last forever. Smoke alarms should be replaced 10 years after the manufacturing date printed on the back. If the alarm has replaceable batteries, the batteries should be changed twice a year, usually at the beginning and end of Daylight Saving Time. The State Fire Code requires replacement battery-operated smoke alarms in older one- and two-family homes to be photoelectric and have 10-year, sealed, non-replaceable, non-rechargeable batteries and a hush feature. Carbon monoxide alarms usually need to be replaced after five to seven years. All alarms should be tested monthly.
“We see too many disabled smoke alarms in fires when people really needed them to work,” State Fire Marshal Ostroskey said. “Modern fires burn and spread faster than they did in past decades, and alarms without batteries put everyone in the building at risk.”
Alarms and exits are crucial for when a fire breaks out, but students can also take steps to prevent them from starting in the first place. Leading causes of fatal fires in Massachusetts are:
- Smoking: There is no safe way to smoke, but if you must smoke then use a heavy ashtray or a pail with water or sand for cigarette butts. Don’t flick them on the ground, where they can smolder and ignite debris, or grind them out on porches or steps. Put it out. All the way. Every time.
- Electrical: Always plug appliances such as air conditioners and space heaters into wall sockets that can handle the current, not power strips or extension cords, and don’t overload outlets with multiple devices.
- Cooking: Stand by your pan! Don’t leave pots and pans unattended on a lit stovetop, and keep flammable items away from burners. In the event of a grease fire, smother the flames with a lid and then turn off the heat.
- Candles: Never leave candles burning unattended. Extinguish them before leaving the room. Even better, switch to battery-powered candles.
“Campus Fire Safety Month is a chance to raise awareness among young adults who may be living on their own for the first time,” said State Fire Marshal Ostroskey. “But everyone can contribute to fire safety in their homes and communities, in September and all year round.”