Fire Safety for Students in Rented Accommodation
As well as offering an advanced education and related qualifications, university life for many students is a social experience. Student accommodation is at the centre of this, providing a haven away from lecture halls where friendships can be formed – and revelry can be had!
While it may not be at the forefront of many students’ minds, staying safe during this period is paramount to enjoying the experience, and fire safety is one of the major considerations that must be made – particularly in student housing, where students have a duty of care to uphold fire safety standards.
When it comes to the potential fire risks associated with student living, the most obvious are also the easiest to avoid.
Cigarette smoking is not just a health risk; it’s also a major fire risk too. In fact, in many areas, cigarettes are the leading cause of unintentional fires, what with people falling asleep with one unlit or not extinguishing one properly before disposing of it. In student housing, these risks are intensified by the increased chance of negligence and the higher number of smokers among this demographic.
Similarly, a large amount of fire-related deaths among 18-24 year olds are caused by kitchen accidents. Leaving cooking unattended – particularly while using cooking oils, such as in that hangover fry up – is a major culprit here, together with lack of knowledge of how to deal with kitchen fires (NEVER put water on cooking oil or electrical fires).
Alcohol plays a big role in the social lives of many students, including at home, and this can present a risk when it comes to impaired judgement and mobility. Whether through negligence or avoidable risk taking, accidents as a result of inebriation can lead to potentially devastating fires.
Student digs have a reputation for being a bit draughty in the wintertime, and portable heaters become an attractive option. However, if left on while the house is unoccupied, or is placed on unstable surfaces where they can fall or come into contact with flammable materials, they are a major fire risk.
While it is the responsibility of the landlord to ensure that a full fire risk assessment has been carried out at the property, and that smoke detectors are installed on every floor, there is a duty of care that must be carried out by occupants in order to prevent fires from occurring in the first place.
- Keep rubbish bags (inside and outside) to a minimum. A buildup of waste materials acts as both an evacuation hazard and as potential fuel.
- Kitchen safety – never leave cooking unattended, use extraction fans where necessary, and remember to switch off ovens after use.
- Familiarity with the fire triangle, as well as some basic fire fighting tips, can help to improve common sense. Fire requires a fuel, oxygen and some form of ignition. Fires caused from certain fuels will require certain extinguishants – e.g. water should only be used on solid fuel fires.
- Don’t overload plug sockets – this remains a fire risk despite improvements to safety in modern electrical equipment.
- Be attentive with portable heaters or any equipment that gets hot. Keep these items away from flammable materials, such as clothes, curtains, soft furnishings etc.
- DO NOT ignore a beeping smoke alarm. It is telling you that the battery is low, and must be replaced immediately.