Fighting Fire with Safety
According to the United States Fire Administration, an estimated 150 fires will occur in Greek housing this year. Amid the increased efforts in fire safety education to identify the dangerous risk placed upon our members, we are reminded of the three fatalities occurring in a fraternity fire at the University of
Mississippi in August 2004. Statistics from the Center for Campus Safety indicate that an average of 15 student housing fire fatalities occur each year. These are a needless loss of life and can be prevented through simple fire safety measures and updated facilities. Well maintained facilities compliant with fire and health standards, complimented with education and awareness by tenants will remain the key objectives to reduce risks.
Items to Limit & Restrict:
Candles. A leading cause of fire among Greek housing, the dangers of candles begin with the exposed and often unattended flame. Members should restrict the use of candles throughout the facility and replace their use with flameless (battery operated) candles in ritualistic ceremonies.
Space Heaters. Space heaters pose a significant risk. Up to 70% of home heating fires and deaths each year are attributed to space heaters.
High Wattage Lightbulbs. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a warning about the excessive temperatures of bulbs of 300 watts or higher. Fabrics, paper and plastic products burn quickly when in close proximity to high wattage bulbs.
Smoking. Smoking materials (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, etc.) are a leading cause of fire deaths in the United States. Members should enact a no smoking policy throughout the building, restricting smoking to the outside ground level with a proper receptacle for disposal.
Extension Cords. Often seen as the answer to more outlets or flexibility in the placement of appliances or electronics, extension cords not only pose increased fire risk but also a safety hazard as tripping or entanglement in cords is common. An estimated 4,700 fires and 50 fatalities result from extension cords each year.
In addition to these key items, safe facilities can be provided through:
- The proper storage of combustible items in a dry and secured location, away from mechanical items such as water heaters and boilers;
- Kitchens that meet all necessary fire and health safety requirements with limited or restricted use of the appliances by members;
- Laundry dryers that receive regular maintenance, repair and cleaning (lint traps and exhaust vents).
- Emergency signage and lighting
- Secondary points of egress
- Working fire extinguishers at all recommended locations.
- Monitored and hardwired fire alarm system, and
- Fire sprinkler system.
Analysis of property claims resulting from fire reveals in recent years indicates the average cost of a fire exceeds $335,000. Costs to provide safe and updated facilities are far less expensive and quickly outweigh the alternatives. Simple steps can be taken to prevent the outbreak of fire within chapter facilities and avoid a fatal or costly accident. IHSV