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For most first-year students attending college, moving into a dorm is their first opportunity to live independently from family and friends for an extended time. However, while college provides many new and exciting opportunities, it also introduces a myriad of safety hazards for students in a community-living situation.

Fire is the third leading cause of accidental deaths in the U.S. A residential fire occurs every 82 seconds in this country, and once burning, the size of a fire doubles every 30 seconds. Share these safety tips with your son or daughter: 

  • On move-in day, check posted escape routes and walk through them so they become second nature – even if fire drills are scheduled later in the week. Also look for a secondary escape route in case the primary one is blocked by fire.
  • Put a small, bright LED flashlight within easy reach to take with you if you need to leave while the power’s out. 
  • At the first sign or smell of a fire in your building, evacuate immediately. Don’t try to act bravely by hanging around your room or making an effort to put the fire out. 
  • Get out as fast as you can; if possible, quickly grab your flashlight and wallet or purse on your way out the door – but don’t let searching for these items slow your exit from the building. 
  • Never exit a door if it feels hot to the touch, because flames likely are on the other side. 

Focus on fire prevention.  In a college dormitory, everyone must help make the dwelling a safer place. Here are a few easy ways your student can help prevent a fire caused by electrical hazards: 

  • Look for the UL mark on all products. It means samples of the product have been tested for safety. 
  • Check plugs and cords on appliances, lamps and other devices to make sure they’re not worn or frayed. 
  • Make sure outlets aren’t overloaded with too many plugs. 
  • Use a surge strip to cut power to the computer, battery chargers, entertainment equipment and other electrical items before leaving the room. 
  • Never run electrical wires or extension cords under carpets or furniture.
  • Don’t bunch up wires behind a hot appliance. 
  • Unplug appliances when they’re not being used. 

Because of the high risk of fire, many colleges and universities ban small appliances with open heating elements such as hotplates, toasters and toaster-ovens – as well as lamps with halogen bulbs. However, small refrigerators and microwave ovens often are allowed.


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