Students across Northamptonshire are being encouraged to take personal responsibility for their fire safety as Student Fire Safety Week (23 to 29 October) continues.
Part of the national Fire Kills campaign, the week aims to raise awareness of common causes of fires and false alarms in university accommodation, and highlight the importance of having an escape plan.
Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) has been working with the University of Northampton to talk to 1,800 students living in halls about their fire safety risks and responsibilities.
Liz Armstrong, NFRS Community Safety Officer, said: “We’ve visited every student kitchen to talk about fire safety, focusing on cooking safety and keeping cookers clean, because it’s easy for cleaning to get ignored in shared kitchens.
“We also talked about how important it is to use the manufacturer’s charger and leads for electrical items, and to avoid overloading plug sockets, especially with the increasing number of electrical items students now bring to university. Also, overseas students may bring charging leads which aren’t UK-compatible without realising this can pose a fire risk.”
Taking fire safety seriously
Visiting the student accommodation allowed the NFRS teams to spot potential fire risks, with students signing a safety charter pledging to play their part in fire safety.
Liz added: “Quite a few students had fairy lights and candles, which under university rules they are not allowed to use. Please check the rules for your accommodation and avoid the risk these items can pose by simply not using them.”
The issue of how students responded to the fire alarm sounding was also discussed.
Liz said: “It’s so important everyone evacuates the building quickly and calmly when the alarms sound. If you can, pick up a warm coat on your way out, but don’t delay leaving for any reason – please listen and act when the alarms go off. Know your escape plan too, and have a Plan B just in case.
“Our visits also found a number of students had tried to cover or muffle the alarm in their room, which could prevent them hearing it in an emergency, or stop it working properly if a fire broke out. Never cover up your detector unit, it’s there for a reason and could save your life.”
Advice was given on how to avoid false alarms, including never leaving cooking unattended, even when making toast, and always closing bathroom doors to prevent steam triggering the alarms.
Students were also taught about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and how to spot the signs, which include a dull headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, confusion, blurred vision, loss of consciousness. If you notice any of these symptoms tell your landlord and seek medical help.
A spokesperson for the University of Northampton said: "The University is committed to providing a safe place for our students to live and study. Although we have good fire safety arrangements in place to protect our students against fire, we are all too aware of the impact their actions have on the safety of themselves and others – the fire safety talks delivered in partnership with Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service were vital in making sure they understand that."
Reporting fire safety concerns
Students with any concerns about fire safety in their university accommodation can email email@example.com.
In privately rented accommodation, the landlord is responsible for making sure the property has working smoke alarms at the start of each tenancy. After this point, tenants should test all alarms at least once a month and report any faults to their landlord. Concerns about fire safety in privately rented housing can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Student fire safety tips from Fire Kills:
- don’t leave cooking unattended and take extra care when frying with oil
- don’t cook if you’ve been drinking alcohol, especially late at night
- if you smoke, make sure you put your cigarette out, right out
- keep candles away from flammable surfaces or material that might burn – such as curtains, TVs, bath tubs – and never leave lit candles unattended
- don’t overload plug sockets and switch off electrical equipment such as chargers, hair straighteners and blow dryers when not in use
- make sure you know your escape routes and have a plan B in case your route is blocked
- in the event of a fire, get out, stay out and call 999