Dorm Room Safety: Prevention, Protection and Evacuation

Raleigh, N.C. After spending the whole summer searching for bargains on bedding, lamps, computers and desk supplies, you, as a parent, feel confident that you can turn a bare, boring dorm room into a fun, study-friendly atmosphere for your rising college freshman.  However, before you take over decorating and room organization, take these Touchstone Energy Tips into consideration.  Think of this as a way to protect your child one last time before he or she permanently leaves the comfort and security of your home—except for those occasions when your child yearns for a home-cooked meal and clean laundry.

Remember, the tiny space your child will live in for the next year will probably be shared with another student.  An overcrowded room can be a breeding ground for unwanted fires.  Statistics indicate that each year, 1,800 fires take place in student dorms and Greek housing facilities across the nation.  That number tripled may give a better indication of how many college students are actually involved in fires every year because statistics show that nearly two-thirds of college students live in off-campus housing.  Use these safety tips to help your child avoid college fires.

  • Do not overload extension cords, power strips or outlets.  These items can overheat and/or deteriorate causing the potential for an electric shock or fire.
  • Get a power strip with an over-current protector.  They turn off automatically if too much current is drawn.
  • Be aware of electrical outlets too hot to the touch.  If the electrical outlet is so hot that you cannot leave a hand on it, unplug all appliances immediately to avoid the risk of shock or fire.
  • Do not run cords under doors or carpets.  Extension cords can short circuit and overheat or ignite under carpet.
  • Use caution when using electrical appliance and never plug more than one high-wattage appliance into a single outlet.
  • Replace frayed or cracked cords.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher near by.

Keep in mind that many residence halls were built years ago, maybe even around the time you were in school, and even with renovations, dorm wiring cannot handle the demands of computers, refrigerators, microwaves, stereos and other technologies that require electricity. Therefore, your student should develop and escape plan in the event a fire should occur. Your child’s dorm should provide an escape plan for your student, but your student needs to walk the route and see if any changes need to be made to the plan.  Walking the route can also help your student to memorize landmarks on the route in case visibility is an issue.  Your child should know two exits to the room in case the most natural exit is blocked, and most importantly, your child should never ignore a fire alarm because every second counts in a fire situation.