While fire and life safety are high-profile concerns everywhere, there is even more sensitivity about the threat of fire hitting the U.S. college and university campuses.

With an estimated 1,700 fires on campuses annually, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and the College Parents of America (CPA) have recently urged every college community to take time to focus on fire safety. “The loss of the best and brightest of America’s future is unacceptable, “ says FEMA Director James Lee Witt. “We must work together to prevent any future losses.” Among efforts: upgrading detectors to more advanced technology and the use of sprinklers. “Smoke alarms and automatic sprinkler systems have established an impressive fire prevention record, particularly in the hospitality industry,” observes USFA Administrator Carrye B. Brown. “Automatic sprinkler systems are now commonplace in hotels and motels, where they afford the travelling public with a high level of fire safety.”

Arson, Cooking, Smoking

Within the dormitories, the No. 1 cause of fires is arson or suspected arson. The second leading cause of college building fires is cooking, while the third leading cause is smoking. “As part of the college evaluation, parents should make sure there are smoke alarms, sprinkler systems and scheduled drills in their children’s residential and classroom buildings, stresses Richard M. Flaherty, president of College Parents of America.

Parents and students also can contact their campus to view Get Out and Stay Alive, which was circulated to colleges around the country as a component of USFA’s campus fire safety training kit. The USFA video (USFA is a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and its accompanying training kit are designed to educate college students about the importance of day-to-day fire safety and prevention measures in residence halls and off-campus housing. One example of the threat of fire at a college dorm—and the positive impact of advanced detectors—comes from Northeastern University in Boston.

Life Safety at Northeastern U

There, Northeast Fire Systems has provided Northeastern University with NOTIFIER fire alarm systems for over 10 years. The NOTIFIER network was put to the test recently when a student carelessly left a kettle unattended, causing a fire.

“NOTIFIER’S advanced smoke detector sensed the smoke within minutes and immediately transmitted the signal to the university’s central command center,” says James Yantosca, Sr. of Northeast Fire Systems. “Northeastern University has a very sophisticated NOTI-FIRE-NET campus-wide life safety system. By centralizing alarm reporting, response time is immediate.” NOTIFIER’s Intelligent Photo Detector with sounder base allowed action to be taken before serious damage was caused to the recently renovated dormitory building. “Residents safely evacuated the building and no one was harmed. The fire was contained and extinguished before the fire department even arrived at the scene,” says Peter Rizzi, Northeastern University’s Fire Safety Officer.