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Keeping students safe from fire

Across the country, parents are waving a teary goodbye to their offspring as they head off to university for the first time. I remember it well, and I also remember the constant worry once they’ve gone: what are they doing, are they happy and, perhaps most of all, are they safe?

One of the biggest fears is whether they are safe in their rented accommodation, some of which may not be in the best state of repair. In particular, in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy, there’s been a lot in the press recently about the responsibilities of landlords in ensuring properties meet fire safety regulations. So it’s important that the students themselves are aware of the dangers and what their landlords should be doing.

There is a really useful government publication for students renting for the first time: Fire Safety/Protect Yourself: a safety guide for students in rented accommodation. It recognises that the student lifestyle often includes partying, smoking and drinking (or worse), and warns that every three days someone dies from a fire caused by a cigarette. But it also warns that 55 per cent of 18-24 year old deaths in fires occur through the misuse of cooking appliances and careless handling of hot substances.

It has a number of basic survival tips, which can be summarised as follows:

  • Don’t leave cooking unattended, particularly when using oil. And never throw water on an oil fire.
  • Take extra care when smoking inside, particularly in bed.
  • Keep candles away from flammable surfaces or textiles.
  • Don’t overload plug sockets.
  • Secure portable heaters against a wall.
  • Fit a smoke alarm.
  • Know your escape route.
  • If a fire starts, get out, stay out, then dial 999.
  • Know your rights regarding the responsibilities of your landlord – and make sure these are carried out.

There is much more detail on these points in this useful leaflet, which can be downloaded and then should be tucked into every student’s suitcase.

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