A Focus on Fire Safety

A Focus on Fire Safety

October 6 through October 12 is fire safety week. Every year college and university students experience a growing number of fire-related emergencies. There are several causes for these fires; however most are due to a general lack of knowledge about fire safety and prevention.

September and October were identified as peak months for fires in college housing. According to the National Fire Protection Agency's (NFPA) report, Structure Fires in Dormitories, Fraternities, Sororities, and Barracks, "in 2007-2011 U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 3,810 structure fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities, and barracks."

Small, confined cooking fires account for 81 percent of university housing fires. However, cooking fires comprise only 9 percent of non-confined (fires that spread beyond the origin of the fire) university housing fires.

Related facts and tips:

  • Cooking related fires were responsible for 27 percent of injuries and 21 percent of property damage.
  • Fires are most common in the evening hours, between 5:00p.m. and 11:00p.m. and on weekends.
  • Cook only where it is permitted.
  • Most cooking fires happen when stove or oven is left unattended.
  • Stay in the kitchen when cooking.
  • Cook only when you are alert, not sleepy or drowsy from medicine or alcohol.
  • Check your school's rules before using electrical appliances in your room.

All students should be familiar with the following:

  • Halogen floor lamps are prohibited in all dormitory rooms and common areas across the University.
  • Cooking equipment is prohibited. The City of Cambridge forbids cooking in any room or apartment not equipped with permanent cooking facilities.
  • The use of candles is prohibited in house and dormitory rooms and common areas, except in the case of those individual observing religious holiday. Students may light candles as long as they are in house common area, only with the approval of their house master, and only as long as they are always attended.
  • Extension cords must be in good condition and of proper rating. Cords should not be spliced, run through doorways or partitions, or covered with rugs.
  • Emergency exit doors within rooms/suites should not be blocked on either side by furniture or obstruction of any kind.
  • Any abuse of, or tamper with, fire alarm, smoke detectors, sprinkler system, or extinguishers is strictly forbidden.
  • Students must evacuate during all fire alarms. A delayed evacuation could result in you becoming trapped or seriously injured.
  • Fire hazards should be routinely reported to your building manager, tutor or proctor.
  • Be knowledgeable of the locations of fire pull stations, primary and secondary emergency exits, and designated meeting locations outside.
  • Be knowledgeable on the importance of keeping fire doors closed. Unless protected by hold open devices that allow the door to close if the alarm goes off, keep door closed. Fire doors separate you from the fire/smoke.
  • Do not use elevators in a fire emergency.
  • Prohibit the use of fireplaces in student rooms and suites.

Be proactive. Harvard University building owners and managers are responsible to ensure that basic fire safety equipment and emergency exit routes are maintained at all times and that employees are trained in basic evacuation procedures.

You should periodically conduct a visual inspection and highlight hazardous conditions observed during a general walkthrough of the building.

This visual inspection may include:

  • The mean of egress include corridors, exits and exterior pathways.
  • Fire doors are closed or only held open when equipped with a magnetic hold back device integrated with the fire alarm system.
  • Fire rated stairs are free of storage and easily accessible.
  • Fire protection systems are operational and inspected as required by code.
  • Fire extinguishers are charged and easily accessible.
  • General housekeeping and storage is limited. Restricted areas are secured and electrical panels secured.

For further information, please visit Fire Safety.