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Dorm Safety | Print |  Email

Making sure the kids are safe at college

Sending a child off to college is an exciting time - it can also be unsettling.  Parents worry about their child’s new responsibilities, academic success, new friends and about their child’s safety.

Here are some steps parents and guardians can take to make sure the dorm room or apartment of a student is up-to-snuff when it comes to electrical safety.

  • Do not overload extension cords, power strips or outlets.

  • Use power strips with over-current protectors.  This will shut the power off automatically if there is too much current being drawn.

  • Watch out for outlets that get too hot to touch.  If an electrical outlet becomes so hot you cannot leave your hand on it, there is potential for a fire.  Unplug everything from the outlet and notify landlord or dorm officials immediately.

  • Extension cords are for temporary situations only.  Extension cords should not be used as a long-term solution when you need another outlet.

  • Do not staple extension cords.  You might damage the insulation meant to protect you from current and potentially exposing a wire that increases the possibility of sparking.

  • Look for the UL Mark on any electrical product you use.  The UL Mark tells you that your appliance, cord, or device has met Underwriter's Laboratories rigorous safety requirements.

  • Never remove a grounding pin.  If you remove the pin in order to plug a three pronged plug into a wall outlet, you are removing the protection meant to keep you safe and can expose you to a tremendous shock hazard.

  • If you are lighting with halogen lamps, make sure they meet updated requirements. All halogen lamps must be designed with a mesh guard that forbids contact with the bulb and an automatic tip-over switch.

  • If your student is in a location where he or she will be doing some cooking, look for UL-Listed appliances that feature automatic shut-off buttons.  This means they will lessen the chance of leaving something brewing or cooking all day.

  • Never plug more than one high-wattage appliance into a single outlet. Make sure the appliance cords aren’t frayed or cracked.  If they are, get them repaired by a professional.

  • Have a UL-Listed fire extinguisher in the dorm room or apartment and know how to use it.

Here are some questions that parents should ask of college staff to make sure those in charge of the dorms have properly prepared for a fire – electrical or otherwise.

  • How many fires have occurred on campus in the past few years?

  • Does every room have a smoke alarm?

  • Are the residence halls equipped with an automatic fire sprinkler system?

  • How much fire prevention training do the staff and resident assistants receive?

  • How many false alarms have occurred in the residence halls

  • How often are fire drills conducted?

  • What is the school's disciplinary policy against students who cause false alarms or fail to evacuate when an alarm sounds?

It is an exciting time for college-bound students.  These tips and questions are a way to help ease some of the fears and help college be a rewarding and safe experience.