Local News

Colleges Urged To Teach Students About Fire Safety

Posted August 18, 2004

— Classes start this week for thousands of area college students.

Fire safety may not be top of mind for many of them. Perhaps it should be.

Every year, about 1,500 residence halls, fraternity and sorority houses catch fire.

According to

Underwriters Laboratories

, 57 students have died in fires in residence halls and greek housing since 2000, including a fire at Catawba College in Salisbury in 2001.

UL encourages parents and students

to ask questions

about fire safety: How many fires have occurred on campus in the past few years? Does every room have a smoke alarm? Do the residence halls have sprinklers?

"Sprinkling is a mandate by the state now for all residence halls in the state system," said Susan Grant, of the North Carolina State University Housing Office.

The big push for sprinklers in all-campus housing came after a deadly fraternity fire in Chapel Hill in 1996. Right now, 78 percent of N.C. State's buildings have sprinklers.

All UNC system schools are adding sprinklers to residence halls as they do renovations.

"All of the buildings that are sprinkled do have a smoke detector in the student room," Grant said. "Those that are not sprinkled do have smoke detectors in hallways and common areas."

Meredith College, a private school, is following the same policy on sprinklers. The college has smoke alarms in every room.

Meredith and N.C. State conduct fire drills.

"If you don't go out when the fire drill goes off, if there's a fire drill, they'll fine you," NCSU freshman Barry Price said.

Underwriters Laboratories wants schools to do more to teach students about fire dangers. N.C. State did just that with a safety lesson during orientation.

"The fact that they made us sign off on it, and they actually briefed us on it, it made me feel safe," student Sade Graves said.

N.C. State does a safety and wellness check of dorm rooms once a semester, looking for anything that could be a fire hazard.

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