Know what to do when a fire breaks out

Don’t put water on that grease fire! (and other safety tips to not burn your house down)

Don't think you can put out a fire? Don't hesitate to call 911. (File photo)

Don’t think you can put out a fire? Don’t hesitate to call 911. (File photo)

Just because Fire Prevention Week ended last Saturday doesn’t mean you can start slacking on your efforts to prepare for a possible fire.

For many young people, attending university is their first experience of living on their own. They don’t have mom or dad there to cook their meals, wash their socks and clean up after them. Therefore it is imperative that you, as a student living on your own, know what to do when faced with fighting a fire, as well as what measures you can take to prevent fires from happening in your dorm, basement suite, apartment or wherever you may be living.

TRU has been fortunate in that it hasn’t had very many serious fires involving on- or off- campus student residences. The last major fire involving students happened at Copper Ridge Court in 2012, when a fire started in a third-floor laundry room and forced the evacuation of over 100 residents, many of them students at TRU.

In 2007, a fire started by a hookah in an off-campus residence claimed the lives of two UVic students in Victoria. Kamloops Fire Rescue Captain Sheldon Guertin said he would rather not have a devastating fire like that happen here, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prepare for one.

“Make sure wherever you are staying has a working smoke alarm. Off-campus residences need them just as much as on-campus residences, and although landlords must provide them, not all of them keep their smoke detectors up to date. Test them at least once a month,” Guertin said.

He added that it is especially important that you have a smoke alarm either inside or directly outside of your bedroom. In recent weeks, this has been heavily reiterated by fire halls across Canada and the U.S. as part of the “Hear the beep where you sleep” campaign. Only four in ten North Americans have a smoke alarm in their bedroom, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The faster you’re alerted to a fire, the more likely you are to survive.

Of course not all fires will creep up on you in your sleep – 83 per cent of fires start from cooking mishaps.

“Most of the fires that that we deal with involving university students are started by young males in their twenties,” said Guertin. “Lots of them don’t know the basics of cooking, like not to put water on a grease fire. If you’re dealing with a stove-top fire, cover it and smother it.”

Guertin also said that you should never hesitate to call 911, especially if you’re not sure you can put out the fire. Calling 911 is the safest way to protect you and your property in the event of a fire, and though there is a common perception that calling emergency will net you a charge, Guertin promised that playing it safe would not result in a fine.

As a student living on your own you should invest in fire damage personal insurance as well. For $300 to $400, you’ll be making sure that if fire does destroy your property, you’ll have it replaced with no cost to you.

For their part, TRU conducts fire safety drills three times a year and conducts an emergency overview at the beginning of every school year. TRU safety officer Stacey Jyrkkanen said that both staff and faculty are taught fire safety and what to do in an emergency, such as marshalling students to rally points. These teachings are, in turn, passed on to students when fire drills are conducted.

Residence buildings, like the ones on McGill, have their own plans for safe evacuation in the case of a major fire too. All smoke alarms are checked regularly and a fire drill is conducted annually. If an evacuation is ordered, students can feel safe knowing that residence staff check each accessible room before leaving the building themselves.

The first step in fire prevention still rests with you, however. Wherever you may be staying, make sure your living space and kitchen is neat and uncluttered, make sure no electrical cords are covered and never leave what you are cooking unattended.