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Community Focus
by Tom Kiurski

Fire safety for college students

For teenagers and their families, fire safety can often take a back seat

By Tom Kiurski

Fire safety can often take a back seat for college students and their families. It is up to us to give them the information they need to keep safety at their forefront of their minds.

Some of the major components of a college fire safety program are listed below. You must decide if you plan on tackling each issue separately or whether to give all the information out at once.

You must also determine the way in which you will get the information out to make sure your efforts reach the maximum number of citizens. The components can be divided into the following:

  • Planning the fire escape
  • Knowledge of fire alarms and extinguishers
  • Maintenance of fire protection systems
  • Fire and burn prevention

Planning the fire escape includes the procedures that should be taken during a fire alarm and/or fire emergency. It is important you stress that students should take all fire alarms seriously — no matter how many false alarms they have witnessed. They also need to know all the ways out of their building, not counting the elevators.

Knowledge of fire alarms means knowing how their system works, what to expect when it operates, and how to send an alarm. Explain to families how fire sprinklers, heat detectors and smoke alarms work. Fire extinguishers should be located in common areas, so review the basics of "A, B, C's" of fire extinguishers, and the P-A-S-S method of operation.

Maintenance of fire protection equipment means knowing what fire protection equipment normally looks like, so they can determine if anything seems wrong. If they are responsible for testing smoke alarms and changing batteries, review this with families as well. If parents are not sure who is responsible for maintaining fire protection systems, have them ask their college representative.

Fire and burn prevention is meant to instill good fire safety behaviors. Get the message out about the safe use of open flames, such as candles. Go over the basics of cigarette safety tips and safe cooking habits. You can also remind your audience of "Stop, Drop and Roll" when clothes catch fire, and "Crawl Low Under Smoke."

Fire safety educators should take a lead role in equipping college-bound students with the information that they need to make fire-safe decisions when away from home. We have a duty to help keep all of our our citizens safe from fire. We may have to reach them in different ways, but the time spent will be worthwhile. 

About the author

Tom Kiurski has been in the fire service since 1981. He is the Training Coordinator and Director of Fire Safety Education for Livonia, Mich., Fire & Rescue. He has served as a firefighter/paramedic, engineer and lieutenant prior to his appointment as the training coordinator. He has earned an Associates Degree in Fire Science from Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Mich., a Bachelors Degree in Fire and Safety Engineering Technology from the University of Cincinnati and a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Eastern Michigan University. Tom teaches fire service-related courses at local colleges and fire academies. He has presented at the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) in Indianapolis seven times, as well as numerous state and local conferences. He has written more than 300 articles on fire safety education and training that have appeared in various fire service publications. Contact Tom at Tom.Kiurski@firerescue1.com.



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