With the Brigade attending over 60 fires a year on average at student accommodation buildings, we’re calling all students to take a minute to have a look at our back to University checklist and make sure you’ve checked off everything to stay fire safe in your accommodation.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Charlie Pugsley, said: “Things are a little different this year, but with many students heading back to their University accommodation, it’s more important than ever that you know how to reduce the risks of a fire and stay safe in halls of residence or student houses.
“Whilst it may seem like little things like covering a smoke alarm or wedging a door open won’t do much harm, accidents do happen and it’s important to take every precaution to keep yourself as safe as possible if a fire does break out.
“As you settle in to a new term, make it a part of your new routine to carry out simple checks as you go about your day. This may mean double-checking that your escape route is clear before you go to bed, checking if the fire door at the end of the corridor is closed properly as you head out or making sure that your laptop is charging on a flat, hard surface. It may seem small, but it could save your life.”
1. Don’t prop open fire doors
We know that keeping doors closed isn’t ideal when you’re trying to make new friends, but think twice before propping open doors. As part of Fire Door Safety Week, the Brigade is warning students not to prop open fire doors and to spot the signs that a fire door may be faulty.
Fire doors are not just doors. They’re specifically designed to withstand fire for up to 30 minutes and if used properly, could save lives.
Fire doors should close firmly and are effectively useless if they’re propped open or won’t shut properly. Did you know that you could even face prosecution if you wedge open a fire door and are deemed to have put someone’s life at risk?
If you’re concerned about a fire door, report it to your property owner or the person who manages the building.
2. Don’t cover up smoke alarms
If you’re staying in halls of residence this year, the chances of seeing signs warning not to cover up smoke detector heads are pretty high and for a good reason. Covering up smoke alarms can prevent genuine fires from being detected early.
Over the last five years, there have been 19 different incidents in student accommodation where alarms failed to sound despite there being a genuine fire. Luckily, no one was seriously hurt, but covering up smoke alarms can delay the discovery of a fire and subsequently delay our arrival.
3. Never ignore fire alarms or smoke alarms
With over 3,200 false alarms at student accommodation in London alone in the last three years, standing outside in your dressing gown in the early hours of the morning seems like an inevitable part of University life.
It may be tempting to brush off alarms sounding as a false alarm, but it’s important that you treat every alarm as though it was a genuine incident.
4. Don’t let rubbish build up and keep fire exits and escape routes clear
Keeping your accommodation clean and tidy is not just about hygiene and presentation. Items placed in the way of escape routes pose a danger if you need to get out quickly and a build-up of rubbish can add fuel to a fire.
5. Don’t tamper with fire safety equipment, like fire extinguishers, fire alarms or fire exit signs
Fire safety equipment like fire extinguishers, fire alarms and exit signs are there for an emergency. It’s important never to tamper, move or cover them up and report any equipment that is damaged or missing.
6. Don’t overload sockets
Overloaded sockets are a common cause of electrical fires so it’s important that you’re mindful not to overload extension leads and don't use plug-in cube extensions.
7. Take extra care when using hair straighteners or hair dryers and don’t charge devices on your bed
If you use hair straighteners, always switch them off and leave them to cool on a heatproof surface before putting them away. It’s also important to never charge devices, like your phone or laptop, on your bed and don’t leave them on charge continuously over their charge cycle.
8. Don’t smoke inside
Last year, around 16 per cent of fires at student accommodation were caused by cigarettes. Most student accommodation buildings prohibit smoking inside and doing so could land you with a hefty fine. If you are a smoker, it’s always safer to smoke outside, but make sure that cigarettes are put out and disposed of carefully.
9. Don’t cook if you’ve been drinking alcohol
Feeling peckish after a few drinks? Avoid the kitchen. Cooking remains a leading cause of alcohol-related fires and with around one in three people who died in a fire last year having alcohol in their system, it’s always best to avoid cooking if you’ve been drinking. Instead, grab a takeaway or eat something that doesn’t require cooking.
10. Know your escape route
If a fire starts inside your accommodation: get out, stay out and call 999.
Your accommodation will have an evacuation plan set out for your particular building, so it’s important to check this and familiarise yourself with what to do in case of an emergency.