Mississippi Sounds the Alarm for School Fire Safety

September 10, 2009

September 17, 2009 has been declared Campus Fire Safety Day in Mississippi by Governor Barbour. The State Fire Marshal’s Office is asking all schools in the state, kindergarten through college, to conduct fire drills and hold fire safety assemblies or programs on that day.

Within the past five years, there have been six college campus fires in Mississippi. There have been three on-campus deaths and three additional deaths off-campus involving a full-time student. Since 2004, these deadly fires have occurred at a rate of slightly more than one a year.

This campus-related fire death rate is far too high and the occurrence, far too frequent. Careless disposal of cigarettes or other smoking materials is a frequent factor in causing fires, and impaired judgment from alcohol consumption contributes to them. We encourage strict policies on smoke free buildings.

Over 80 percent of student related fires occur in off-campus housing such as rented houses and apartments. These dwellings often lack automatic fire sprinklers or have missing or disabled smoke alarms.

The fire safety lessons taught to children become “old-hat” to them as they grow older. They often discard or forget what they have known for a long time. And in their forgetfulness; bad habits return.

Because the toll has been so great already, a new effort is now underway to renew fire safety practices at all educational campuses, kindergarten through college throughout the state. September has been declared Campus Fire Safety Month in Mississippi by Governor Haley Barbour.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office has been joined by the Mississippi Department of Education, the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, the Mississippi State Board for Community and Junior Colleges, the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools and various private colleges and universities in promoting campus fire safety in a massive month long Campus Fire Safety Campaign. We will be promoting fire safety messages in a variety of methods: radio, television, newspapers, and public service announcements at school events. We are actively using Twitter and Facebook as tools to publish campus fire safety messages.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office is visiting eight college campuses throughout September in a Campus Fire Safety Tour. The Fire Marshal engages young people on campuses throughout the state to remind students of some of the lessons they first learned in kindergarten about how to keep themselves and others safe.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office offers these reminders to help sound the alarm.

  • Before moving in, make sure that your off-campus housing is equipped with working smoke alarms. Properly maintain these smoke alarms, and never disable them. (A new state law now requires that all rental properties have working smoke alarms and fire extinguishers.)
  • In a fire burning with everyone in your home fast asleep, smoke and heat intensify quickly. Every second counts. Create an escape plan, plan two routes of escape from every room, and designate a common meeting place after escape. Remember: GET OUT AND STAY OUT!
  • If you smoke, put your cigarette out completely when you’re done with it. It doesn’t take long for a lit cigarette to turn into a raging fire. Whether you smoke cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, don’t ever leave them burning unattended; don’t smoke in bed or when drowsy; and always use deep ashtrays.
  • Consumption of alcohol or other drugs lowers the probability of quick and logical evacuation and is often a contributing factor to the cause of fire. Alcohol impairment has been found to greatly increase the probability of death from fire. DON’T TAKE THE CHANCE!!

Help us sound this alarm!

Chaney is Commissioner of Insurance and State Fire Marshal for Mississippi.

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