Local News

UNC students promote fire safety

Posted September 15, 2010 10:20 p.m. EDT
Updated September 15, 2010 10:46 p.m. EDT

— Some University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students are pairing up with firefighters to make sure students have properly working smoke detectors.

“It is great going out and talking with the people. Telling them what to do if there is a fire and making sure they are safe,” UNC student Anna Mullen said Wednesday.

In 1996, five UNC students died in a fire at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house, which had no fire sprinklers at the time. Gov. Beverly Perdue and firefighters gathered last Thursday at the rebuilt frat house to kick off campus fire safety month.

As part of the push to promote fire safety on and near college campuses, 35 fraternity and sorority members are going door-to-door with Chapel Hill firefighters to check for and install smoke detectors. The goal is to have one smoke detector on every level, including inside and outside of each bedroom.

“It's a peer-to-peer, or friend-to-friend, opportunity that they can reach out to each other and ensure each others safety,” Chapel Hill Fire Marshal Matt Lawrence said.

The crews will visit more than 70 off-campus houses this week. They are also relying on other students to tell them which sites might need smoke detectors.

“Just them coming, I'm sure will make all of us more aware of blowing out candles, everything like that that could cause a fire,” UNC student Kelly Lynch said.

Lynch said she was glad the fire safety team showed up at her off-campus home.

“This house is pretty old," Lynch said. "They found a missing fire detector in the back, or smoke alarm, so adding that will be beneficial if there was ever something to happen."

Lawrence said about 75 percent of UNC students live in off-campus housing. The effort aims to take campus fire safety month beyond the university walls.

“Unfortunately, we have no control really about the living conditions that a lot of our students live in, they're not inspectable properties,” Lawrence said of why the door-to-door approach was important.

Firefighters and students are also installing carbon monoxide detectors in homes with gas or oil heating systems.