Multiple organizations are working together to promote their national "Campus Fire Safety for Students" campaign this year.
The organizations include the Fort Smith Fire Department, the National Fire Protection Association and The Center for Campus Fire Safety, according to a news release. The "Campus Fire Safety for Students" campaign raises awareness about the dangers of fires among college-aged students who live in on- and off-campus college housing.
Between 2011 and 2015, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 4,100 structure fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities and other related properties, according to NFPA's latest report. About seven in 10, or 72 percent, of fires in these properties began in the kitchen or cooking area, accounting for 44 percent of civilian injuries and 14 percent of direct property damage.
The NFPA's report also states fires are more common between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. and on weekends. September and October were the peak months for fires in dormitories.
Fort Smith Fire Marshal Carey “Hootie” St. Cyr said it is generally a new experience for college students to be out on their own.
"... For instance, we don't recommend or advise use of candles because they could have a candle and have it lit and forget about it, and when it burns down it can actually ... start a fire if they're not done properly," St. Cyr said.
St. Cyr said electrical cords can also be a fire hazard for college-aged students. The release states overloading a circuit with the use of multi-plugs and extension cords causes them to heat up and ignite.
"... So we recommend using a power strip with a breaker switch on it, and no more than what's allowed by the receptacle, which is usually two, ..." St. Cyr said.
St. Cyr also warned against "daisy chaining," which is the practice of plugging one power strip into another power strip.
"... So no more than one," St. Cyr said. "And even though they have breaker switches, if they get overloaded they'll pop. ... We recommend the kind with a breaker switch rather than the ones without because if they overload, it's a secondary safety device to keep things from getting heated up and causing problems."
Students storing belongings, such as bicycles and luggage, in hallways and stairwells can also hinder exiting a building in the event of a fire, the release states. St. Cyr advised parents to make sure the place where their college-aged children live has both working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, especially if the place is off campus. The majority of college housing fires have taken place at off campus housing.
The Fort Smith Fire Department has given safety talks concerning a variety of subjects at the University Arkansas at Fort Smith, St. Cyr said. This includes how to use a fire extinguisher.
"A lot of the kids don't ... even know how to use them, and then we actually use our new digital simulator to train the kids on how to use the fire extinguishers, and of course, they love it," St. Cyr said.
St. Cyr said the safety talks took place at UAFS last month.
To learn more about campus fire safety, please visit the NFPA website, or The Center for Campus Fire Safety website.