Campus Fire Safety


Student views towards fire and burn safety

Overview of fatal incidents

Human BehaviorEdit

Human Behavior

by Ed Comeau, Publisher

Reprinted with permission from Campus Firewatch, copyright 2007

How people behave, or react, during a fire is an intense area of study that is conducted by a handful of researchers. “The goal is to get a better understanding of the behavior of people during fires,” explained Dr. Guylene Proulx, a senior researcher with the National Research Council Canada and one of the leading experts in this field. “From this knowledge, we try and se what changes can be made in buildings or in training the occupants so they can be better prepared for an emergency.”

There are a number of methods that are used in gathering the information needed that include investigations following significant incidents, observing evacuation drills and laboratory studies.

“Following a major event we interview the survivors,” said Proulx. They are asked a number of questions such as how they became aware of the emergency, what they thought of doing, what were their actions and why they reacted the way they did. “This helps us understand what goes through the minds of people and how prepared they were.”

Observing how people react during an evacuation drill also provides valuable information to the researchers. The benefit of conducting these studies is that it is possible to observe how people react under different conditions. “We may decide to do the drill under emergency lighting, or using a voice communication system, or with staff present or absent,” said Proulx. By changing these variables it is possible to observe the different reactions.

A third type of study is those that are done under laboratory conditions, such as the ones conducted by Dr. Dorothy Bruck and Michelle Wall at Victoria University in Australia. In one recent study, the reaction of students to the sound of a fire alarm while they were sleeping was observed under varying degrees of inebriation.

What are some of the findings?Edit

“One of the things that should be demystified is the concept of panic,” said Proulx. The media, movies and television often portray people as panicking when faced with an emergency or crisis, but this is not held up by the research done by Proulx and others.

“In the past we have said people will panic and do irrational behavior,” explained Proulx. “Irrational behavior in fires is rare, less than 2 percent. On the contrary, people try to do the best with what they know.” In a study by Proulx, she explains, “The public often use the word ‘panic’ as synonymous for being frightened, scared, nervous or anxious; usually it does not have the implication of irrational behavior.”

Getting people to reactEdit

When a fire does break out, it is critically important to minimize the time between onset of the fire and suppression. Along this timeline, the occupants of the building must be alerted to the emergency so they can react accordingly. However, getting people to properly respond to the cues or signals is difficult.

“Another behavior that we have observed is that in the initial stages of the fire, when it is not nearby and they sense or smell smoke, most people ignore the situation and continue what they are doing,” said Proulx. “Maybe they will eventually investigate what is going on and move towards the source of smoke, which is a natural behavior, but this means that, unfortunately, the person is going towards the fire, which may place them in greater danger.”

The assumption is that people will react immediately to an alarm, but that is not always the case, sometimes with fatal results. In a recent fatal fire in a residence hall, the two occupants of one room did not evacuate immediately when the alarm was sounded. By the time they did decide to evacuate, the corridor outside of their room was filled with smoke. One of the occupants went in one direction and was able to escape. The other, however, went in the direction of the fire and was killed by smoke inhalation.

In addition to getting people to react to the alarm, the time for people to actually start evacuating has to be considered as well. In a study by Proulx, it was found that the average time to actually begin evacuating was approximately three minutes. During this time, according to the study, occupants “started getting dressed, gathering children, pets, purse wallet and keys. Some put away supper, had a look on their balcony or gave a call to the superintendent before leaving their apartment.” The study goes on to report, “It is also interesting to know that in all these evacuation drills, many occupants (maybe as much as half the occupants present) never left the building and many refused to answer the firefighters who knocked at their door.”

What Proulx has also found is that there are some cultural differences when it comes to people’s response to fire safety. “In North America, there is a reluctance to look over-anxious in responding to an emergency,” explains Proulx. “This is something that the youngsters and teenagers are learning and are prone to that behavior. It’s not cool to get up and start running, you are supposed to look under control all the time.”

Cues and SignalsEdit

A great deal of reliance is placed upon the fire alarm signal to alert the occupants and initiate an evacuation. However, according to Proulx’s study, “The fire alarm signal is probably the least reliable cue of a fire since there are a large number of false alarms, test alarms or prank alarms in some buildings that have reduced the credibility of this signal as an indication of a real fire.” Even a burning smell or smoke may cause people to investigate the cause rather than sounding the alarm or beginning to evacuate the building. The most reliable method of initiating a proper response is the use of a voice communication system that provides specific directions to the occupants, according to Proulx.

Along with the use of a voice communication system, it is important to change the environment in some manner. Examples include raising the lights in a theater, shutting down the music in a bar or turning off the background music in a store. All of these can serve as attention-getting strategies that, coupled with instructions provided over a voice communication system, will cause people to react to an emergency.

Protect in PlaceEdit

One of the more telling findings coming from the human behavior research is that of the “protect-in-place” philosophy of fire protection in high-rise buildings. In a number of incidents investigated by NRC and the National Fire Protection Association, many of the victims were found in stairways and corridors, while those that stayed in their rooms survived the fire. Not only did the victims die while trying to evacuate, a number of them also died in locations remote from the fire.

One of the incidents referenced in a report by Proulx, High-rise evacuation: a questionable concept, is the Seton Hall fire in 2000 that killed three freshman and injured over 50 occupants. This incident is cited as an example where all three of the victims died during the evacuation, yet there were at least two students that slept through the fire and were found later in the day, uninjured. One of the students was on the fire floor.

The arguments that Proulx makes for the protect-in-place approach in her study include:

• The long time delay to start evacuation after perceiving the fire alarm signal, noticing fire cues or receiving a warning. This can be due to a number of factors such as the non-recognition of the fire alarm signal as a fire alarm, lack of training in the emergency procedure, large number of nuisance alarms, conditions and state at the time of warning, etc. When the occupant finally decides to leave their compartment the fire has been burning for a substantial period of time producing a considerable amount of gas and smoke which makes it the worse time to travel the corridors and stairwells.

• The travel distance to reach ground level could be very long for occupants of the upper floors.

• There is already a limited response to a fire alarm signal.

• People with mobility limitations are occupying high-rise building, they cannot be expected to evacuate by themselves.

• During fires the means of egress tend to become contaminated with gas and smoke.

• The suites or compartments of residential, hotel and dormitory buildings offer means to defend-in-place such as sheets, towels or tape to block up doors and cracks from which smoke could penetrate.

• Occupants have access to a telephone to call for help and to obtain information.

• If occupants are expected to stay-in-place when the fire alarm signal goes off, the number of prank alarms should be considerably diminished since ther will be no “fun” at pulling an alarm for which no one has to get out in their pyjamas!

• Finally, the stay-in-place approach appears simple for occupants to learn, since many are already doing it.

One of the strongest arguments made in the research paper for supporting this approach relates to the location of the victims in all of the fires studied.

“The main argument against the stay-in-place approach can be summarized as the: ‘what if…?’. What if the fire spreads out of control? What if the smoke travels in the ventilation system? etc. However, besides the MGM Grand Hotel fire it was impossible to find a high-rise fire casualty located in an enclosed-compartment, other than the compartment of fire origin, who had not opened the main door during the fire.” (emphasis provided by original author.)

Teachable MomentsEdit

While significant events, such as 9/11 or even a local emergency, may change people’s behavior or attitudes, this change is a brief one and then people fall into their existing habits. As dramatic as the collapse of the World Trade Center was, Proulx said that such an emergency is of such a scale and magnitude that most people can’t associate with it and can’t visualize it happening in their life.

Another factor is that emergencies do not happen frequently in a person’s lifetime, so they do not see the importance of fire safety and training so they can respond properly to an emergency. This is where local events or those in other communities can be invaluable teachable moments in helping to reinforce the importance of fire safety and, hopefully, change people’s behavior and attitudes.

There have been cases of communities using incidents that have occurred elsewhere as an opportunity to reinforce fire safety messages for their own citizens. This can be done in a number of different ways, such as handing out flyers, canvassing neighborhoods with high student populations or working with the local media.

To take advantage of the teachable moment, it is invaluable to have a media campaign ready to go. The window of time when the local media may be interested in a story is very fleeting before another tragedy takes their attention away. Having “fill-in-the-blank” press releases ready to be distributed with information about the incident and steps that people can take to ensure that such a tragedy doesn’t happen to them can be easily distributed after an incident occurs.

When a fatal campus-related fire occurs, Campus Firewatch sends out an alert about the incident along with information that the local jurisdictions can use in preparing a press release in their own community. In addition, an updated Information Sheet is maintained on Campus Firewatch’s website as well as a compilation of the fatal fires identified since January 2000. All of this is information that can be used in working with the media or preparing fire safety messages for students.

An example of the teachable moment was tragically demonstrated in Boston. Boston University suffered two fatal fires within weeks of each other. The first fire killed two students and was caused by an unattended candle in a three-story, off-campus apartment building occupied by students. The second fire occurred in another three-story, off-campus apartment just blocks away from the original fire and was caused by a charcoal grill that had been used on the third-story deck and that ignited nearby combustibles.

After the second fire, eight students were interviewed by BU Today and their comments were posted on BU’s website. These are very illuminating as to the attitude and views towards fire safety.

“I do think BU has an obligation to try and educate students about fire safety, at least if the students live on campus. Students should know their evacuation routes. I think the e-mails that the dean of students recently sent out were really effective. I know a lot of people who read them. I have smoke detectors and a carbon monoxide detector, but no fire extinguisher. I think I have a pretty good grasp of fire safety, but if faced with an actual fire, I’m not sure how I’d react. I use common sense. Students tend to think that we’re indestructible, but we’re not.”

“I think it’s a good idea for BU to teach fire safety and fire prevention at Freshman Orientation. Considering the size of the BU community, I don’t think it’s all that strange that there have been so many accidents. Statistically speaking, things are going to happen.”

“I don’t know if it’s fair to connect the two fires and say there’s a serious problem; it could just be a bizarre and horrifying coincidence. But there certainly is a school responsibility to publicize and encourage fire safety behavior in the off-campus places. You hate for two deaths to lead to more aggressive preventive action, but as time goes on, it shouldn’t be hard to send out safety reminders via e-mail; a regular heads-up wouldn’t be a costly thing to do. We all have short-term memories, unfortunately.”

“It helps to be more aware about where you’re living; a lot of people grow up so sheltered that they get into the real world and don’t know what’s dangerous. I’ve heard from a lot of people that this is making them want to move back to campus. I know that my dad really wishes that I would.”

“It’s a personal responsibility; you should be able to take care of yourself. If your parents think you’re old enough to live off campus, you should know enough to be cautious and be responsible for your own actions. I think BU handled things pretty well in terms of showing concern and keeping people informed. It’s not the school’s responsibility if something happens off campus. Even if there was a seminar on fire safety, how many people do you think would go?”

“The bottom line is students need to be more aware of their surroundings. I think BU’s offering a lecture on fire safety or sending out e-mail about fire prevention would make sense, although there’s a difference between knowing fire safety and living in a safe building. For example, I think I’m knowledgeable about fire prevention, but there’s no fire extinguisher in my apartment off campus. I need to contact my landlord about that.”

“We all know we shouldn’t leave candles burning, but sometimes accidents happen. We make mistakes. I live in off-campus housing, and I think I know enough about fire safety that I won’t catch my place on fire. We don’t have a fire extinguisher, although our smoke detectors do work. I’ve never used a fire extinguisher, but I’m sure I could figure it out. I think responsibility rests with the students. I don’t think BU should make something like fire safety classes mandatory. I don’t think it would be taken seriously,”

“We have working smoke detectors and a fire extinguisher at our apartment. I don’t really know how to use a fire extinguisher, though. These fires were purely accidental, so I’m not sure how effective a class in fire prevention would be. It has good intentions, but I don’t think it would fly with students. We learn fire prevention when we’re little.”


Training is where the most significant change in people’s behavior can be made before a fire, according to Proulx. “This is one of the key elements where we can work proactively before something takes place. We can put all of the nice systems in the place to discover and control the fire, but if you don’t train people they may very well do responses that will endanger themselves.”

Part of the training, when it comes to students, is the importance of letting them know the “reasons behind the rules.” In order to change their behavior, it is important that students know the reason that their behavior needs to change. This is a message that has been mentioned a number of times by campus fire professionals as an effective strategy for reaching students.

Reaching students is a difficult proposition, given all of the messages that they are exposed to. “Our message could be designed better,” said Proulx. “Involving students is a key to success. That age group, with their cell phones, the MP3 players, their music – it is all changing so quickly that it is difficult for us to keep up with it. Our traditional way is perhaps not the best, and involving them in the tools and messages and key phrases is a plus.”

Another component of the training for students is to make sure it is interactive and engaging. A good example is fire extinguisher training, which is a hands-on training experience that many students have never had before. Filling corridors with smoke and then having the students navigate through them as a demonstration sends a powerful message that will “stick” with them.

Changing BehaviorEdit

The key to improving fire safety is to change an occupants’ behavior and attitudes towards fire. By being better informed, a person is in the position to select fire-safe housing, follow fire-safe practices and know how to react properly when a fire does occur. Through the studies conducted by Proulx and others around the world, strategies have been developed to help ensure that buildings are designed with how people will react to an emergency.

Dr. Rita Fahy with the National Fire Protection Association sums up the value of studying how people react to fires and emergencies very succinctly. “We have to design a building to what people will actually do, not what you hope they will do.”

Case StudiesEdit

The following case studies were compiled by Campus Firewatch in interviews with fire officials. Others are available at Campus Firewatch's RESOURCE page.

Off-campus fatal fire, Lincoln, NEEdit

December 15, 2006 A 23-year-old senior, Linda Katherine Dawson, and her unborn child were killed in an early morning fire. The woman’s 2-1/2-year-old daughter was rescued and survived the fire.

According to the Lincoln Fire Department, the fire started in an electrical outlet located next to the bed. An extension cord overheated, causing the fire. The fire broke out at approximately 6:00 a.m.

Occupants of a neighboring apartment were wakened by the smell of smoke and then heard the smoke alarm sounding in Dawson’s apartment. One of the occupants called 911 while the other unsuccessfully attempted to make entry into the fire apartment.

Dawson was scheduled to deliver her child at 8:00 that morning.

NOTE: The Lincoln Fire Department is classifying this fire as a double fatality given that the unborn child was full term.

Off-campus fatal fire, Huntington, WVEdit

January 13, 2007 A fire in an off-campus apartment building claimed the lives of a total of nine people.

The Emmons Junior building was a five-story, unsprinklered building. It is unknown at this time whether there were smoke alarms or a fire alarm system in the building.

The fire reportedly started in a second floor apartment and quickly filled the building with smoke at all levels. According to media reports, seven of the victims were found on the fifth (top) floor.

Three of the people killed in the fire were Marshall University students. Two other people killed were siblings of one of the students who were visiting at the time of the fire.

As of this time, the cause of the fire has not been determined. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) assisted in the investigation.

Detailed coverage of the incident is available through one of the local television stations at

Off-campus fatal fire, Linwood, MSEdit

February 3, 2007 A family of three was killed in an off-campus house fire in Linwood, Mississippi. The fire was reported at 1:07 a.m. and the Linwood Fire Department was on the scene to a fully-involved house fire at 1:19 a.m. in a one-story, single-family home.

The three victims were found in close proximity to one another, and according to the fire chief it appeared that they were trying to escape from the fire.

It is unknown if there was a smoke alarm present in the house due to the extensive damage that occurred.

The exact cause of the fire is unknown, but it is believed to be accidental.

Off-campus fatal fire, Weldon, NCEdit

February 12, 2007 A fire in an off-campus apartment claimed the life of Keith Titus Anyonyi, a second-year foreign exchange student from Kenya who was attending Halifax Community College in Weldon, North Carolina. According to Roanoke Rapids Fire Chief Ken Carawan, the fire started in the area around a bed and that it is believed to be related to smoking materials. The apartment’s hardwired smoke alarm had been removed from the ceiling and was found on top of the refrigerator. The occupant had been warned a number of times in the past to stop removing the smoke alarm, which was located approximately three feet from the kitchen.

Off-campus fatal fire, Boston, MAEdit

February 24, 2007 An early-morning fire in an off-campus, three-story, apartment building in Boston claimed the lives of two Boston University students. The fire was reported shortly after 5:00 a.m. by utility workers who were working behind 21 Aberdeen Street. The building had lost power earlier in the evening.

The workers called 911 and then entered the building to alert the occupants. They were unable to gain access to the top floor because of the fire conditions. Fire fighters entered a third floor apartment and found three victims, two males and a female. One of the males was transported in serious condition to an area hospital. The other two victims died in the fire. Thirty people from the fire building and an adjacent building were displaced by the fire and temporarily sheltered in a gymnasium at Boston University.

The cause of the fire was an unattended candle.

Off-campus fatal fire, Farmville, VAEdit

March 3, 2007 Two people were killed in an off-campus house. The fire was reported to have occurred at approximately 5:15 a.m. and was seen by a passing student. The student alerted the occupants and three were able to escape.

The building was occupied by both current and former Longwood University students and two students were killed in the fire.

Off-campus fatal fire, Boston, MAEdit

March 16, 2007 A fire in an off-campus apartment building claimed the life of a student from Bloomsburg University (PA) who was visiting a Boston University student. The cause of the fire was a charcoal grill on the third floor, wood porch that ignited during the night.


Automatic Fire SprinklersEdit

Automatic fire sprinklers for residential occupancies are designed as life-safety devices. When the temperature in a room reaches a pre-determined level, a fusible link on a sprinkler melts, allowing water to discharge from the sprinkler onto the fire. Often, a fire is controlled or extinguished by the operation of only one or two sprinklers.

Smoke AlarmsEdit

Smoke alarms are single-station, stand alone devices that both sense smoke and sound an alarm, all within the same unit and are found in homes. They are commonly (and incorrectly) referred to as "smoke detectors." A smoke detector is a device that senses smoke, but does not sound an alarm. It transmits a signal to a building's fire alarm system which, in turn activates audible and visual alarms.

Smoke alarms have been extremely effective in reducing the loss of life.


The challenge of reaching studentsEdit

There is no question that this is a challenging demographic to reach.

Marketing Fire SafetyEdit

By Ed Comeau, Publisher Reprinted with permission from Campus Firewatch, copyright 2007

One of the difficult parts of teaching about campus fire safety is convincing students of its importance and their personal responsibility when it comes to making sure they don’t become victims of a fire. Fire safety is, frequently, not on their radar screen and is perceived as being someone else’s responsibility or “kid stuff.”

Why is this?

One of the reasons is the incredible success that the fire service has had with fire safety programs while these students are much younger, in kindergarten and early elementary schools. They learned to stop, drop and roll; to crawl low in smoke and to know where their meeting place was located. The messages provided are what can be termed as incredibly “sticky.”

When students are younger, someone else is responsible for much of their fire safety. Someone else makes the decisions when it comes to selecting housing (fire-safe or not), installing and maintaining smoke alarms, learning how to use a fire extinguisher and much more. As children and young adults, these generally are not their responsibilities.

Unfortunately, the fire safety training is not continued as they become older. The messages do not mature with the audience, and when they are heading off to college they don’t realize the role that they now have in terms of fire safety. Now it is more of their own personal responsibility, not someone else’s, but they just don’t know this.

When a student is living in the residence halls, someone else is still providing a level of fire safety for them. However, when they move off-campus, they are now fully responsible for their own fire safety. They are responsible for selecting fire-safe housing, learning how to use a fire extinguisher, making sure that the smoke alarm is in place and operational at all times. How to cook safely. What to do if a fire should break out. But, in many cases, have they been taught about this? The answer, so often, is probably not.

So, the message did not mature with the audience. Some examples of this are when college students are asked what they should do if a fire breaks out, some of them respond with a blank stare, “I don’t know what to do,” or “stop drop and roll?” which is a great example of the “stickiness” of the message they received when they were younger.

The challenge is now to make fire safety relevant to them at this point in life when they are going through dramatic changes, facing new experiences and pressures. The challenge is to make fire safety stand out from all of the other “noise” that they are being exposed to, and this is a challenge indeed, but not an impossible or insurmountable one.

The student demographic, which can range from 18-to-24-years-old or 18-to-30-years-old, depending upon the research, is unquestionably the most sought-after demographic when it comes to marketing professionals. Students have a large amount of disposable income and are open to trying new experiences and products. Also, much of their future purchasing habits are formed during these years, so a great deal of effort (and money) is expended in reaching out to this demographic.

If companies such as Nike, Microsoft, Target and many others are successful in reaching this demographic, why can’t some of the same tactics be employed by fire safety professionals to “sell” fire safety? To answer this question, let’s take a closer look at the demographic from a marketing point of view.

Some quick facts and statsEdit

According to estimates from the U.S. Department of Education, there are approximately 17 million students enrolled in campuses across the country this year. This is a huge segment of the 18-to-30-year-old demographic, which is one of the most sought-after segments by marketers across the country. According to research conducted by Harris Interactive, this group has $182 billion in consumer spending power and, of this, $46 billion is discretionary spending.

Surprisingly, only 35% of the students enrolled are what may be considered “traditional” students attending school full-time. Most are attending part-time or going to two-year schools. Another interesting statistic that emerged was the “80/20 rule.” According to David Morrison, in his book “Marketing to the Campus Crowd,” 80 percent of the students attend 20 percent of the nation’s schools. On a macro scale, this means that if we want to have a broad impact on fire safety we can target our fire safety programs to this 20% of the schools.

Social ResponsibilityEdit

One of the characteristics of the student demographic is their propensity towards socially responsible issues and products and their involvement in these issues. According to research published by Alloy Media + Marketing, in its 5th annual College Explorer Study, they reported that 33% of the students surveyed “prefer brands that give back to the community, are environmentally safe, or that are connected to a cause. Together, these socially responsible characteristics surpassed paying more for a brand with a great image (16%) or preference for a brand used by celebrities (2%) by wide margins in their influence on discretional spending. Substantially, one in four students (24%) has purchased a product this year specifically because it was socially conscious.” (emphasis added)

Added to their social awareness when it comes to purchasing items is their involvement and volunteerism. Approximately 45% of the students are active volunteers, either on their own or through the school, fraternity or sorority, according to the same study.

“Asked about motivation, students who volunteer said they do so simply to help other people (55%) and to do their part as a community member (39%). Importantly, among those students who volunteer, forty-nine percent said that it makes them feel good about themselves. The report shows that helping others and contributing to good causes were far more important to students than philanthropy to help them get a job or because it looks good on their resume (18%).”

As part of the survey, students were asked what brands they most admire and, in a prepared statement by Samantha Skey, senior vice president for Alloy Media + Marketing, “We found that students were most likely to believe that companies who weave their social messaging into their brand DNA – from advertising to product packaging and events, are the most committed to their causes.”

“Watch for the ‘greening’ of the college market and their $182 billion in aggregate spending power to have a big effect on brand positioning and campaigns in the coming year,” reported Dana Markow, vice president for Harris Interactive, which conducted the survey for Alloy Media + Marketing.

Demographic AttributesEdit

In several studies, “technology” and “mobility” are two words that can be used to describe this demographic.

According to the Internet and American Life Project, 83% of those between the ages of 18 to 29 are online. The College Explorer Study reports that 59% of the students are now using laptop computers, an increase of 8 % over the previous year, and 13% fewer students are using desktops. Over the previous year, an additional 1.3 million students have cell phones and 41% have MP3 music players. They are spending 3.5 hours a day doing email, instant messaging and web surfing. It is estimated that the average student spends 20 minutes a day sending and receiving text messages.

Social networks such as have become major players. Alloy Media + Marketing estimates that 70% of the students participate in these sites to communicate with friends and are on these sites 6.5 hours a week. What is very telling is that 61% of the students are interacting online with people they have never met in person, and it is estimated that the average student has 111 “friends” that they interact with in this manner, which is a new definition of friends from previous generations.

Social interaction among students has changed over the years. Because of the explosion of technology on campuses, students no longer depend upon the practices that many of us may remember from our days in college.

A great example of this is outlined in the book “My Freshman Year” where an anthropology professor went back to school (anonymously under the pseudonym of Rebekah Nathan) as a freshman to learn more about what made today’s students “tick.” She lived in a residence hall as a freshman student, albeit an older one, and made numerous observations during her time.

One of the more interesting ones was on Super Bowl Sunday. The residence hall had advertised widely that there were going to be two wide-screen televisions in the lounge along with free food. However, when Nathan stopped by, there were only five students in there and one of the televisions was tuned to another television show. A similar turnout had occurred for the World Series several months earlier.

She then proceeded to walk through the residence hall and observed that many of the students were in their rooms watching the game on their own televisions in their own small circle of friends. This, coupled with earlier observations, led her to the conclusion that because of technology students aren’t as reliant on social gathering events such as movie-nights to meet with their friends or to even make new ones. Because of the “always in touch” nature of today’s society, students are able to spontaneously gather together their friends from disparate locations using cell phones or instant messaging.

Morrison adds to this. “The campus crowd’s inherently concentrated nature makes it highly conducive to word of mouth, arguably the most influential behavioral driver among all young adults. This dynamic increases exponentially when coupled with the power of the Internet, whereby a student can send a single message instantaneously to a mail list of literally a hundred or more recipients.”

Techniques used by marketing firmsEdit

In reaching this group, creativity is needed, whether you are marketing fire safety or cellular phone service.


At a time when readership of mainstream printed newspapers is on the decline, students read their campus newspapers on a regular basis, according to the Wall Street Journal. In a survey by Student Monitor, it was reported that 71% of the students read the school newspaper while only 46% read the print version of a national paper in a typical week.

This isn’t lost on companies trying to reach out to this demographic. An example cited by Wall Street is Wal-Mart. “Advertising in college newspapers is highly targeted and comparatively efficient way to reach these students,” said Linda Blakely, senior corporate communications manager for Wal-Mart.

“Traditional media platforms are less and less relevant to a consumer who’s tuned-in nearly every free moment of their day,” said Skey. “Gaining their attention and ultimately their loyalty requires marketers to think about all the spaces that are relevant to the daily campus experience, and connect with them in meaningful ways both online and off for the most impact.”


Students are far more receptive to information given to them by their peers. Building on this, one of the tactics used by marketing firms that specialize in reaching students are “ambassadors,” which are students that are part of a network.

Microsoft is using this approach. “We have 100 ambassadors,” said Brandon Evans, managing director for Rep Nation in an interview with Campus Firewatch. “They were flown out to Redmond (Microsoft’s headquarters) for training. When they return to their campuses they create their own (marketing) plan, that we approve, and execute it.”

These plans can include a number of different strategies such as posters, flyers and a large amount of social networking on websites such as “They send out information to relevant listservs and work with professors and even make presentations in classes. Some professors even give them extra credit,” reported Evans.

“College students look to their friends above any other influence for guidance and approval. The increase in ‘friend’ access and the evolving definition of ‘friend’ affords peer networks greater import than ever,” said Skey.

In building this network of ambassadors, Rep Nation recruits students online. They are then interviewed and, if selected, they receive training either online or in person. “We have a management portal called Rep Ware where the students can share ideas about what works, can upload photos, fill out reports, share files and more,” said Evans.

Rep Nation works with the ambassadors and guides them in developing programs, but also leaves them flexibility to develop a program that will work on their own campus. Currently, there are 30,000 students participating as representatives.

So how does all of this relate to marketing fire safety?

Today’s students represent an unparalleled opportunity to impact their fire-safety behavior. According to Morrison, “…college students represent tomorrow’s big-ticket spenders whose brand preferences are developing today.” This could also translate into their fire-safety behaviors for the future.

Creativity is the word of the day when it comes to trying to deliver fire safety information to today’s students. It is still possible to use some of the “old” techniques, but they have to be packaged differently or creatively. Many students perceive fire safety as “kiddy stuff” because, as was said earlier, the message never matured with the audience and the last exposure they had was in elementary school learning how to crawl low under smoke.

Some of the feedback from college students about what works is that it has to be graphic, in your face, relevant and interesting. Using peers instead of authority figures is far more effective. Free stuff is always well received.

Using peers

Building on the practice used by Rep Nation of “ambassadors,” some schools will use other students to help spread the message of fire safety. At the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, for example, there are students who are also members of the Amherst Fire Department and function as a full engine company. Using these students during fire safety events is a great way to draw in other students. Everyone loves a fire fighter.

Even if you don’t have a similar program on your campus, actively involving the local fire department in the activities is a great draw. A fire truck is a huge “billboard” that serves as an attention-getter, especially if it is parked in the middle of campus in a high-traffic area.

One school conducts aggressive fire safety training for its resident assistants every summer. As a result of this highly-interactive training, the RAs are more motivated to enforce the fire safety regulations and, probably more importantly, they now appreciate the reasons behind the rules and their importance. They communicate this with the students on their floors, and it has resulted in almost no fires and a significant reduction in false alarms and violations. Students are more receptive about hearing this from a peer than from an authority figure.

Social Awareness

All of this ties back to the earlier observations about students being socially aware and involved. Students are looking for a cause to be involved with and to volunteer their time to make a difference in the world. Fire safety education can be a great way to fulfill this need and, at the same time, educate a core group of students who can reach out to their peers.


Knowing your audience is always critical, no matter what you are trying to accomplish. In this day and age, people are reluctant to develop stereotypes based on the sexes, but fire safety is one of them where it is obvious. At a number of programs that I have observed at campuses, women are far more responsive to the fire safety messages than the men. While this is certainly not universally true, it is something that seems to be more prevalent.

Sparky the Dog is an example of an old, established technique. Students in kindergarten will flock to Sparky, hang on him and follow his examples. How will Sparky do on a college campus? Women love having their picture taken with Sparky and are far more receptive to him coming up and talking with them than the male college student, who is “too cool” for this type of stuff.

Another example is that of the remote-controlled robots, such as fire trucks and fire hydrants, that many fire department use for teaching children about fire safety. Women don’t mind having a conversation with Freddy the Fire truck and will even give him a kiss and have their picture taken sitting on him.

So, while there it might be easier to get women involved and interested in the fire safety message, the challenge is now how to reach the men. One of the lessons learned from some of these programs is that where the women are, the men will follow.

At one school, the sorority system asked the fire prevention officer to hold fire safety training for all of the sorority system’s presidents and risk managers. The training was held in one of the sororities and part of it involved having about 30 women out on the front lawn learning how to use fire extinguishers. Up and down the street, all of the fraternities’ front porches were crowded with men, watching the training.

In the days following, the fraternities were calling the fire prevention officer, asking why they had not been invited to participate. The next time the training was held, it occurred in a fraternity and there were representatives involved from both the fraternities and sororities this time.

Graphic demonstrationsEdit

One of the problems with today’s students is that they are being bombarded with messages from all different directions, primarily in an effort to get them to buy something. Fire safety needs to be different to stand out from this “noise.”

One of the distinct advantages of fire safety is just that-it involves fire! This is a great opportunity to draw and hold students attention by simply setting things on fire, displaying things that have been burnt or giving them a chance to put out a fire.

Fire extinguisher training is a great, interactive training opportunity that draws in students. Everyone has seen a fire extinguisher, but few have had the opportunity to learn how to use one or even what happens when it is discharged. By holding fire extinguisher training in a high-traffic area it is possible to expose a large number of students to your fire safety message in addition to providing them with practical, hands-on training.

One twist we developed for a training program was building a fire extinguisher prop that also incorporated a manual pull station with a plastic cover over the fire alarm pull station that many schools are using and a fire alarm horn/strobe. Instead of simply picking up a fire extinguisher and putting out the fire in the wastebasket, students were taught that the first step is to activate the alarm. Since this school used the plastic tamper devices over the pull stations, it was also a great opportunity to teach them that it was a two-step process to actually activate the alarm.

Since this training was taking place in the middle of campus, not only was the fire a draw (along with a fire truck, ladder truck and student fire fighters), the noise of the alarm certainly served to draw a significant amount of attention.

Another great training tool is building and burning a mockup of a student room. These can be built to any size, such as a full 10 foot by 10 foot room equipped with a desk, chair, bed, couch and all of the other furnishings found in a student room. They can also be built as a “slice” of a student room, measuring four feet by eight feet and outfitted with just a desk and an overstuffed chair. In either case, the vivid demonstration is one that “sticks” with the students and impresses upon them the speed with which fire can spread.

These mockups are very inexpensive and easy to build. The 8 foot-by-4-foot “slice” can be built for approximately $200 in material in about two hours. It is designed to be modular so that it can be easily disassembled, stored, and reused. (The plans for this mockup are available on the Resource page of Campus Firewatch at The contents are often made up of furniture that Housing is throwing out, books and computers from recycling, t-shirts, newspapers, posters and much more.

These burns can be made even more interesting by having two mockups, side-by-side. One is equipped with an automatic fire sprinkler system and the other is unsprinklered. Usually, within less than a minute, the sprinkler head has activated and extinguished the fire, while within five minutes the contents of the unsprinklered mockup are destroyed.

A further “twist” on this demonstration involves the use of the new wireless smoke alarms that are now available. One smoke alarm is installed in the mockups and several students in the crowd are holding other smoke alarms that are connected wirelessly. When the smoke alarm in the mockup is activated, these other smoke alarms are as well, providing a great opportunity to explain the value and importance of interconnected smoke alarms.

Having burnt “stuff” on display is also a good attention-getter. By having items that students can identify with, such as computer monitors, laptops, DVD players, books, etc., the display can resonate with the students. While it is always possible to use items from real-world fires, if your campus is lucky enough to not have these items available (because you haven’t had any fires), it is always possible to create them by using a blowtorch. Authenticity is not what you are striving for; attention-grabbing is.

Teachable MomentEdit

There are a few moments when you have the chance to really drive home the importance of fire safety. Hopefully, you will never have the ultimate teachable moment on your campus where a student has been killed in a fire. Unfortunately, this does happen about a dozen times a year across the country, and this is a chance to use this tragedy to stress the importance of fire safety in your own community through the media.

However, it doesn’t always have to be such a tragedy to put out a message about fire safety. In State College, Pennsylvania, there was a fatal fire in April 2005 that caused some significant code changes to be made involving inspection frequency and the installation of interconnected smoke alarms. Just recently, there was a success story involving a smoke alarm in an off-campus student apartment and the local officials used this as an opportunity to alert the media with the following press release.

A fire on Wednesday evening that damaged an off-campus townhouse at 221 W. Hamilton Avenue in State College shows the importance of functioning smoke alarms.

At the time of this fire no one was home. An alert neighbor heard the smoke alarm sounding and investigated. A call to 9-1-1 summoned the fire department and the fire was contained to one dwelling before it spread to the neighboring units.

The townhouse complex, owned by McWhirter Property Management, was inspected in November of 2006 by the Centre Region Code Administration. The complex was in compliance with all code requirements, including the new smoke alarm and carbon monoxide ordinance.

Everyone is encouraged to test their smoke alarms tonight before going to sleep. • If you own your home – it is recommended to have a smoke alarm in every bedroom and on every floor. Replace any smoke alarms that are older than 10 years and replace the batteries at least once a year.

• If you rent your house or apartment, notify your landlord immediately if a smoke alarm doesn’t work. In the Centre Region, smoke alarms are required in every bedroom and on every floor of all rental properties. Carbon monoxide alarms are also required in rental properties that have an attached garage or those that a fuel for heat such as natural gas, propane, oil, kerosene, wood, coal or others burning fuels. Smoke alarms and sprinklers are the best protection from a fire, especially in homes and apartments. Across the country, 80% of all fire deaths occur in the home and nearly 80% of all campus-related fire deaths occur in off-campus housing.

What WorksEdit

The ideas outlined in this article are just some of those that have been used successfully at schools across the country, and there are certainly many more. A lot of the success depends upon correctly reading the audience as to what will or won’t work and implementing it at the right time and the right place. After a fatal fire at one school, the students were very vocal about the level of fire safety in off-campus housing and concerned about what local officials were doing to protect them from fire. As a result, the school put together an interactive, hands-on training program that was open to any student to participate. Unfortunately, only one student showed up. Why?

The program was located at an off-campus facility that, while not terribly inconvenient, was far enough away that students could get there easily, participate and then go back to campus. Also, it didn’t help that it was scheduled right before spring finals, when student’s attention was focused elsewhere.

In another fire safety program, the film Ladder 49 was being shown in the student center the night before a day-long fire safety training program on campus. About four people showed up, and the low turnout was attributed to the fact that the school had not widely advertised the event. However, in light of Nathan’s observations mentioned earlier in this article about how students no longer need to congregate to socialize, this might be the real reason behind the “failure” of this part of the program. (Incidentally, the day-long event the next day was a resounding success with an incredible turnout, including the school president learning how to use a fire extinguisher in front of the student body.)

What is important in any program is to look at not only the successes, but the failures as well and determine what worked, what didn’t and why. And, then, share these successes and failures with your peers, so they can learn as well.

Effectiveness of delivery platforms/methodsEdit

Today’s students are an electronic generation and this provides an excellent opportunity to provide them with information in a highly-effective manner. The following information was obtained in a study conducted by Campus Firewatch and the People's Burn Foundation of Indiana regarding students views and attitude towards burn and fire safety.

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 87% of those between the ages of 18 to 29 are online. The College Explorer Study reports that 59% of the students are now using laptop computers, an increase of 8% over the previous year, and 13% fewer students are using desktop computers. Over the previous year, an additional 1.3 million students have cell phones and 41% have MP3 music players. They are spending 3.5 hours a day doing email, instant messaging and web surfing. It is estimated that the average student spends 20 minutes a day sending and receiving text messages.

Social networks such as and Facebook have become major players. Alloy Media + Marketing estimates that 70% of the students participate in these sites to communicate with friends and are on these sites 6.5 hours a week. What is very telling is that 61% of the students are interacting online with people they have never met in person, and it is estimated that the average student has 111 “friends” that they interact with in this manner, which is a new definition of friends from previous generations.

This is a “” generation that expects to get its information in small, short, dramatic and interesting segments. The videos that are on are a great example of what the 18-to-24-year-old demographic is watching. To reach this demographic, it is important that the material be in a similar format.

In one of the questions in the PBF survey, respondents were asked to rate, on a scale of 1 (least effective) to 10 (most effective) various education delivery platforms. In rank order:

Most effective 10 Demonstrations such as fire extinguisher training, burning mockups of student rooms, etc. 9 Instructor-led group training 8/7 Student to student and Online/Internet-based information were tied 6 Flyers 5 Advertisements around campus 4 Advertisements in newspapers 3/2 Video downloads to iPods and cell phones were tied 1 Advertisements on buses Least effective

When coupled with the findings of the focus group interviews, the following observations were made.

Hands-on training and demonstrationsEdit

These are very effective because it gives the students a chance to do something fun and engaging and were popular with the students. However, to be effective they do have to be done in reasonably small groups, which is problematic when trying to change the behavior of a large number of students.

Instructor-led trainingEdit

This was rated highly in both the online survey and in the focus groups. However, the focus groups indicated that this was only effective in smaller groups and only when the topic was focused solely on fire safety. For example, in Resident Assistant (RA) meetings held at the beginning of the year there is a lot of information given out to the students, including fire safety. As a result, it gets “lost” among all of the other topics. In addition, students are busy getting to know one another and catching up with their friends so they are not giving their full attention to what is being said or it is not being absorbed.


This is not an effective method unless it is from a peer or a recognized and respected authority figure. One comment was “the delete key is my most frequently used key.” Today’s students are inundated with email from a variety of sources and unless the subject line is very compelling or they recognize the source, it is not going to work as a delivery platform for information.


Considered a highly effective when used with the right conditions, but with very specific constraints. • Do not plan on the students downloading it to their MP3 players or cell phones for several reasons. The first is that it will cost them money to do it, so they aren’t going to. The second is that it is not something they are going to watch over and over again, so they have no reason to download it. The last is that many of the students do not have the devices to handle video (yet).

• For web-based videos, they have to be short, no longer than four or five minutes. This demographic is very used to seeing videos on youtube, so look at that as a model for the type of videos and their duration.

• They have to be entertaining or engaging (again, think “youtube”).

• For them to go there and watch it there has to be an incentive and it has to be highly engaging or they are recommended by a peer or friend.

• Humor is the most effective theme that emerged, although it was recognized that fire and burn safety is a difficult topic to make “funny.”


It helps dramatically if there is an incentive to encourage the students to attend a program, watch a video or become involved in an activity. What was found was that the incentive did not have to be significant or even guaranteed. Students said that they were willing to participate for the chance to win an iPod, or for a gift card to download a couple of songs online, or for free coffee. In other words, sometimes the threshold to encourage a student to be involved is not that high.

Advertisements and flyersEdit

The remaining methodologies (flyers and advertisements in various locations) were rated low. They are useful in conjunction with some of the other communication methods, but they should not be considered as primary communications tools with this demographic.

Student fire academiesEdit

To be added

Fire drillsEdit

To be added

Fire extinguisher trainingEdit

To be added

Student Room Mockup Demonstration BurnsEdit

One of the most effective teaching tools for student fire safety is burning a mockup of a student room in front of crowds of students. Within five minutes, the contents of the room are destroyed, sending a powerful message to the audience.

To make the demonstration even more effective, consider building two mockups side-by-side, one sprinklered and one unsprinklered. Within less than a minute, the sprinkler will activate, controlling or extinguishing the fire, which provides a dramatic contrast with the unsprinklered mockup.

The mockup outlined in this paper has been used at a number of demonstrations at campuses across the country. These mockups are a “slice” of a student’s room and provide dramatic, impactful demonstrations.

Important Safety Considerations


Materials ListEdit

The following are the minimum items needed to build the mockup.

Item Dimension Quantity
Studs 2” x 4” x 8 feet 22
Sheetrock 4’ x 8’ x 1/2” 5
Plywood 4’ x 8’ x ½” 1
Sheetrock screws 1 inch 1 box
Nails 8d or 10d or 16d 1 box
Smoke alarm(s) and batteries 1 (or two if using wireless interconnected smoke alarms)
Sprinkler head 1
Sprinkler piping and fittings Consult local plumber or sprinkler fitter for quantities and parts needed

Room ContentsEdit

In a number of burns, schools have underestimated the quantity of items needed to stock the mock room. For a successful burn it is important to have sufficient quantities of fuel available. In addition, it is equally important that the room appear to look like a student room. It is very helpful to have students assist in preparing the room with items that students would recognize.

One source for items are local shops that sell posters, CDs, tapestries, candles, etc. Often, the owner will provide items that are going to be disposed of anyways for free or at significantly reduced prices.

The following is a list of suggested items and minimum suggested quantities. If two mockups are being burned, then double the number of items needed.

Item Quantity Comments
Backpack 1 This adds realism to the mockup and also provides an opportunity to place crumpled newspapers inside of it.
Books 20 (minimum) These can be obtained from the local recycling facility.
Bulletin board 1 This will provide an opportunity to place a number of loose papers on the wall, adding to the vertical fuel path. Source: School housing department or local merchant
row 4, cell 1 row 4, cell 2 row 4, cell 3
row 5, cell 1 row 5, cell 2 row 5, cell 3
row 6, cell 1 row 6, cell 2 row 6, cell 3
row 7, cell 1 row 7, cell 2 row 7, cell 3

Computer 1 It is safest to use a laptop computer to avoid the possibility of a CRT monitor shattering. Also, many students use laptops vs. desktop computers.

Source: A source for obtaining a laptop computer could be the school’s recycling facility or information technology department. Curtains or shade These add to the vertical fuel path. Desk 1 This desk should not be too large or massive. It is important that there be enough airflow throughout the mockup and using a large, office-style desk may be problematic. If the desk has a shelf system with it, that is highly desirable as this helps with the vertical fire spread.

Source: Often, a school’s housing department will have old furniture that is being discarded that can be used. It may need temporary repairs that will then make it usable for a burn. Desk chair 1 The school’s housing department may be able to provide a desk chair. Wood is preferable over metal. Magazines 12 Try to use magazines that the students would recognize. The two most popular magazines sold on campuses are Maxim and Cosmopolitan. These magazines also provide a source of pictures and articles that can be cut out and put on the bulletin board, providing more fuel and realism. Misc. clothing such as sneakers, sweatshirts, towels, etc. More is better when it comes to fuel. This is a chance to get rid of all of the old clothes and t-shirts that have been cluttering closets and drawers! Misc. items such as candles, incense, CD jewel cases, etc. All of these items add a sense of realism and also provide an opportunity to talk about fire hazards. Newspapers 20 Pizza boxes 6 Using “fresh” pizza boxes that have grease still on them will provide significant fuel load. Posters 6 Use posters that students will identify with. Local merchants are a good source for these items.

Source: University book store, local merchants Tapestry 1 This is critical to have on the ceiling to help dramatically spread the fire.

Source: Local merchants Thumbtacks Invaluable in setting up the mockup. Trash can 1 A plastic trash can is highly desirable as it will melt, providing more fuel and is visually dramatic. T-shirts 6 These are invaluable in draping over chairs to add to the vertical fuel path. Upholstered chair 1 To help in the fire spread, cut open the back and underside of the chair to expose the upholstery.

Source: University housing or recycling.

Building the mockupEdit

• Having a carpenter available to help in building the prop is helpful, but not mandatory. Familiarty with basic construction techniques and tools can be sufficient.

• Ordinary tools will be needed such as hammer, saw, square, screw gun, knife, tape, etc. are needed.

• At least two people are needed to build and assemble the mockup, especially in placing the “roof” assembly.

• It is recommended that the mockup components be built at least one day before the scheduled burn. This will allow enough time in case there should be any problems with the assembly.

• It is not necessary to paint the sheetrock unless desired. If so, the individual wall panels should be painted at least one day before the burn to ensure that they are sufficiently dry.

• Two step ladders will be needed while assembling the mockup to place the roof assembly.

Day of the BurnEdit

• Allow for a minimum of three hours to assemble and outfit the mockup.

• A minimum of two people will be needed to assemble the mockup.

• The furnishings should be on site three hours before the burn. If possible, look over the furniture being provided to ensure that it is adequate and sufficient.

• Assemble the mockup then proceed to outfit it with the posters, tapestry, furniture, etc.

• Place a smoke alarm on the ceiling.

A three-dimensional model of a mockup can be found at the Campus Firewatch website at

Navigating smoke-filled corridors To be added

Peer-to-Peer To be added

Viral To be added

Federal LegislationEdit

There are a number of bills that have been introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. The status on these bills can be found by going to the Library of Congress's legislative page called Thomas.

A matrix listing the Representatives and Senators status on supporting these bills can be found online.

Campus Fire Safety Right-to-Know ActEdit

House Senate

The Campus Fire Safety Right-to-Know Act calls upon colleges, universities, fraternities and sororities to make fire safety information about their buildings publicly available and report it to the U.S. Department of Education on an annual basis. This language was included in the College Opportunity and Affordability Act, and as of February 22, 2008, this legislation has passed both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. It now moves to a conference committee to resolve the differences between the legislation and then on to the President for action.

Campus Fire Safety MonthEdit

House Senate

This bill recognized September as Campus Fire Safety Month. Resolutions were passed in both the U.S. House (introduced by Congresswoman Tubbs Jones) and the Senate (introduced by Senator Biden). In addition, 30 governors issued proclamations across the country.

Fire Sprinkler Incentive ActEdit

House Senate

To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to classify automatic fire sprinkler systems as 5-year property for purposes of depreciation.

Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure ActEdit

House Senate

This bill will allow contributions made to Greek organizations that are going to be used for physical plant improvements to be tax-deductible.

College Fire Prevention ActEdit

House Senate

This bill will provide $100 million a year for five years in matching grants for the installation of fire suppression and detection systems in residence halls, fraternities and sororities. This bill has been introduced in previous Congresses but has not seen any action.

State Proclamations for Campus Fire Safety MonthEdit

In 2005, September was first designated as Campus Fire Safety Month. Twelve states issued proclamations. In 2006, 31 states issued proclamations, and a resolution was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.

To accomplish this, letters were sent to all fifty governors. These letters were signed by parents who had lost children in campus-related fires and wanted to ensure that no other parent would have to go through the same tragedy that they have had to endure.

In 2007, eighteen parents signed these letters which were sent on their behalf by Campus Firewatch to not only the states, but the U.S Territories as well. The National Association of State Fire Marshals NASFM is assisting in this effort.

Thirty states issued proclamations in 2007, including: 1. Alabama 2. Alaska 3. Arizona 4. Colorado 5. Connecticut 6. Hawaii 7. Illinois 8. Indiana 9. Kentucky 10. Louisiana 11. Maine 12. Maryland 13. Massachusetts 14. Michigan 15. Mississippi 16. Missouri 17. New York 18. North Carolina 19. Ohio 20. Oregon 21. Pennsylvania 22. Rhode Island 23. Tennessee 24. Texas 25. Vermont 26. Virginia 27. Washington 28. West Virginia 29. Wisconsin 30. Wyoming

Text of LetterEdit

Dear Governor:

Each of us has suffered a terrible tragedy – the death of a child in a fire while attending college where they were getting ready for a new chapter in their lives. As a result, we have joined together and dedicated ourselves to making sure that no other parent will ever have the heartbreak of receiving a telephone call telling them that their son or daughter will never be coming home again because they died in a fire that was preventable.

Across the country, students are going off to college during September and moving into residence halls, fraternities, sororities, and off-campus housing. It is a critical time for young people who are living away from home, many for the very first time. It is also an important time for these students to be educated about fire safety. Since January 2000, over 100 people have died in campus-related fires, with 80% of them occurring in off-campus housing. Education and awareness is key to helping stop this tragic loss of life.

In 2006, to help raise the awareness of the vital need for improved fire safety on our nation's campuses, 31 states and commonwealths joined with us in proclaiming September as Campus Fire Safety Month. As a result, a number of campuses held fire safety events to educate their students about what they can do to protect themselves and, in addition, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a proclamation, recognizing September as National Campus Fire Safety Month.

We would like to ask you to participate this year, alongside your state fire marshal, by issuing a proclamation designating September as Campus Fire Safety Month. Our goal is to have every single state, commonwealth and territory taking part and to encourage schools throughout the country hold programs during September.

Please join with us this September and make it a priority to promote campus fire safety awareness, and support our efforts in providing safe housing for our young people, who are our nation's future. If you should need any additional information, please contact Ed Comeau from Campus Firewatch at 413-323-6002.

Thank you for your support.

Proclamation TextEdit


To express the support of the establishment of September as Campus Fire Safety Month, and for other purposes.

Whereas recent student housing fires in Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania have tragically cut short the lives of some of the youth of our Nation;

Whereas since January 2000, at least 109 people, including students, parents, and children have died in student housing fires;

Whereas over three-fourths of these deaths have occurred in off-campus occupancies;

Whereas a majority of the students across the Nation live in off-campus occupancies;

Whereas a number of fatal fires have occurred in buildings where the fire safety systems have been compromised or disabled by the occupants;

Whereas it is recognized that automatic fire alarm systems provide the necessary early warning to occupants and the fire department of a fire so that appropriate action can be taken;

Whereas it is recognized that automatic fire sprinkler systems are a highly effective method of controlling or extinguishing a fire in its early stages, protecting the lives of the building's occupants;

Whereas many students are living in off-campus occupancies, Greek housing, and residence halls that are not adequately protected with automatic fire sprinkler systems and automatic fire alarm systems; Whereas it is recognized that fire safety education is an effective method of reducing the occurrence of fires and reducing the resulting loss of life and property damage;

Whereas students are not routinely receiving effective fire safety education throughout their entire college career;

Whereas it is vital to educate the future generation of our Nation about the importance of fire safety behavior so that these behaviors can help to ensure their safety during their college years and beyond; and

Whereas by developing a generation of fire-safe adults, future loss of life from fires can be significantly reduced:

Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the Governor—

(1) supports the establishment of September as Campus Fire Safety Month;

(2) encourages administrators and municipalities across the country to provide educational programs to all students during September and throughout the school year; and

(3) encourages administrators and municipalities to evaluate the level of fire safety being provided in both on- and off-campus student housing and take the necessary steps to ensure fire-safe living environments through fire safety education, installation of fire suppression and detection systems and the development and enforcement of applicable codes relating to fire safety.


Campus Firewatch

Center for Campus Fire Safety

National Association of State Fire Marshals

National Fire Sprinkler Association

U.S. Fire Administration

Last modified on 16 August 2010, at 20:55