May 1, 2007

Students urged to be aware of fire safety rules

by Erin Fitch, News Reporter
When 189 students were evacuated from a burning dormitory on the campus of Virginia State University in Petersburg, Va. on April 14, questions were raised about what college students can do to prevent such calamities at their residences.

Although officials declared the source of the dorm fire to be the basement, no known cause has been determined. Students at Liberty are cautioned to be aware of the measures used to prevent fires, especially in light of the number of fire incidents that have occurred in the Lynchburg area.
According to the News & Advance, in the past month alone fire has affected two Lynchburg residences, one in Amherst County and one in the popular ski resort Wintergreen Resort in Wintergreen, Va.

“There have been a large number of fires in Lynchburg and the surrounding counties,” said Public Education Officer Cap-tain Robert Lipscomb of the Lynchburg Fire Department.

“But we are coming out of the heating season, the wintertime, and it’s not unusual to have a large number of fires.”

Lipscomb, who has been with the Lynchburg Fire Department for the past 17 years, has advice for Liberty students on ways to avoid fire hazardous conditions in their living areas.

Dormitory residences pose a specific threat to fire safety, housing hundreds of students in a dense population. The negligent actions of one student could disrupt or even harm the lives of countless other residents.

“The most common cause of residence fires is unattended cooking,” said Lispcomb.

“It’s as simple as putting something on the stove and walking away from it—this is nationwide.”
Students with kitchen facilities should remember to keep an eye on cooking food, avoid wearing loose or baggy clothes that can catch fire and keep stove-tops clean of grease spills and flammable items.

On campus, Residence Life officials have prohibited another leading cause of residential fires — space heaters. Other items banned from dorms include hot plates, candles, halogen light bulbs and kitchen appliances in dorms without kitchen facilities.

Lipscomb added that if students do have any permitted heat-related appliances in their rooms, they should be careful to make sure they are well-maintained and in good working order.  They should also make sure the items stay at least three feet away from anything that can burn.

Women’s heat and hair styling appliances can be a risk. In regards to these, Lipscomb said, “Make sure the wiring is in good shape, with no splits in the insulation. Also make sure it’s complete with all the pieces and parts.”

Furthermore, students should also exercise caution when using outlets and electrical cords. Unplug extension cords when they are not in use, and never use a cut or frayed cord. Also, don’t overload an electrical outlet or run cords underneath rugs and blankets.

The U.S. Fire Administration goes so far as to say on its Web site that one of the leading causal factors of dormitory fires is (the) prevalence of “student apathy.”

“Many are unaware that fire is a risk or threat to the environment,” said the administration.
Liberty students are en-couraged to be on alert, to use common sense and to not take safety precautions and university statutes lightly.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2005 someone was killed in a fire every two hours, while someone was injured from a fire every half hour.

Contact Erin Fitch at eefitch@liberty.edu.

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