Tips help keep students safe from fire in university housing

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From 2007-2009, an estimated 3,800 university housing fires occurred in the United States each year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

These fires were in college and university buildings, which include dormitories and fraternity and sorority houses.

These new homes away from home are exciting places for young people, eager to start the next chapter of their life.

Unfortunately, they don't always get the same level of scrutiny for safety issues as permanent homes. In addition, young people can be unaware of the fire risks they create with candle use, cooking, smoking and misuse of electrical appliances.

You can help your college student create an environment that is safe from fires by following these safety tips:

* Look for housing equipped with an automatic fire sprinkler system when choosing a dorm or off-campus housing.

* Make sure your dormitory or apartment has smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside every sleeping area and on each level. For the best protection, all smoke alarms should be interconnected so that when one sounds they all sound.

* Test all smoke alarms at least monthly.

* Never remove batteries or disable the alarm.

* Learn the building's evacuation plan and practice all drills as if they were the real thing.

* If living off campus, have a fire escape plan with two ways out of every room.

* During a power outage, use a flashlight not candles.

* Burn candles only if the school permits their use. A candle is an open flame and should be placed away from anything that can burn. Never leave a candle unattended. Blow it out when leaving the room or going to sleep.

* Cook only where it's permitted.

* Stay in the kitchen when cooking. Up to 75 percent of all structure fires involved cooking equipment.

* Cook only when you are alert, not sleepy or drowsy from medicine or alcohol.

* If you smoke, smoke outside and only where it's permitted. Don't smoke in bed or when you've been drinking or are drowsy.

* Check the school's rules before using any electrical appliances.

* Use a surge protector for the computer and plug the protector directly into an outlet.

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