What You Need to Know About Fire Prevention and Preparedness on College Campuses

November 9 2020

What You Need to Know About Fire Prevention and Preparedness on College Campuses

From 2000 to 2015, there were 85 fatal fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities, and off-campus housing that led to 118 fatalities. That is approximately seven fatalities a school year, making it essential for the proper fire prevention and preparedness guides and action plans to be put into place to keep students, staff, and campus visitors safe.

Fire and Life Safety Systems on Campuses


With the diverse activities that take place on a college campus, from dorm living, to classes, to community events, and more, many aspects of fire and life safety need to be addressed.

Fire Alarms - Whether continuing with maintenance schedules, or designing and implementing a new fire alarm system, this equipment is essential for a full fire protection system.

Fire Alarm Monitoring - Timing is everything in an emergency. A fire alarm monitoring system can provide peace of mind and expedited response that is needed when an emergency occurs.

Emergency Exit Lighting - In the case of an emergency, exit lighting plays a significant role in safely guiding people out of campus buildings.

Fire Extinguishers - Providing fire extinguishers is a good first step in creating a fire safety plan, but it’s just as important to train staff and students in how to use one. 

Fire Sprinklers - Fire sprinklers are an important part of a fire safety system. When kept well-maintained and fully functional, fatalities can be prevented. Knowing the main types of fire sprinkler systems will help determine which system to use in each instance on campus.

Kitchen Fire Suppression - Following safety codes and proper cleaning procedures, as well as installing appropriate fire prevention and suppression features can help to protect cafeterias and other commercial kitchens on campus against the potentially catastrophic consequences of a kitchen fire.

Special Hazard Systems - Some situations such as protecting high value assets, server rooms, science labs, museum-quality artifacts, and others, require more than basic sprinkler systems, fire alarms, and fire extinguishers. For these, special hazard systems can provide the right response given the potential fire fuel, and the assets being protected. 

Important Aspects of Fire Prevention and Preparedness on College Campuses

Every college campus is a unique environment with different needs and demands when it comes to fire and life safety systems. However, every campus will benefit from implementing the basic systems, below. Each fire and life safety system that is installed on a campus works together to protect valuable assets and save lives.  

Fire Suppression in Cafeterias and Student Housing

Unattended cooking is an especially large danger on college campuses where there are countless distractions to divert a student’s attention away from preparing a meal. While reminding students of best practices while cooking in student housing is important, it’s not enough. Ensuring kitchen equipment is properly maintained, fire alarms are present throughout the dormitory or house, and Class K fire extinguishers are available and properly maintained and inspected is crucial. Additionally, training students and staff on how to use a fire extinguisher is just as important. 

In cafeterias where commercial grade kitchens are in operation to feed hundreds if not thousands of students and staff, fire codes and regulations must be met. Installing commercial kitchen fire suppression systems, and providing proper fire extinguishers is a must.

Fire Alarms in Dorms and Classrooms

Fire alarms need to be maintained and stay within code to ensure everyone's safety and guarantee they’ll function in the event of a fire. Working with a trained fire technician, fire alarms should be on an every year and every two year maintenance schedule.

For buildings or full campuses, installing a fire alarm monitoring system will provide an extra layer of protection for students, employees, and invaluable data and artifacts that may be housed on campus.

Emergency Exit Lighting in Campus Buildings

In the event of an emergency or power outage, it’s important for all campus buildings to be outfitted with up-to-code emergency exit lighting. While fire alarms communicate an emergency to those on campus, emergency lighting and exit signs direct people in the building to safety, which make these systems imperative in a fire and life safety plan. With students spending days and nights on campus, in and out of buildings that might be familiar or not, clear paths to safety are significant in saving lives. 

Emergency exit lights are often required by code, and should be installed in windowless rooms, stairwells, in hallways leading to an exit, and all exit points that lead to an area open to the public.

Design and Practice Evacuation Plans

Evacuation practices may seem unnecessary to busy staff and students at first, but if ever needed, these plans can help save lives. They reduce chaos and disorganization so everyone can quickly get to safety.

At a minimum, action plans are required to have:

  • A method for reporting fires
  • An evacuation policy and procedure
  • Escape procedures and routes assignments, such as floor plans, workplace maps, and safe or refuge areas
  • Names, titles, departments, and telephone numbers of individuals both within and outside your company to contact for additional information or explanation of duties and responsibilities under the emergency plan
  • Procedures for employees who remain to extinguish fires or perform other essential services
  • Rescue and medical duties for any workers designated to perform them

Conducting periodic fire drills will properly prepare staff, students, and professors for the real thing. Follow proper steps in orchestrating a successful fire drill, so there's no confusion on the school's action plan.

Creating a Fire Safety System For Your Campus

The responsibility to protect lives and assets on a college campus can be immense, but well-designed and maintained fire and life safety systems are key. Working with trained fire safety technicians to assess the unique needs of the campus, install required equipment, and maintain these systems can make potentially damaging emergency situations less detrimental.

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