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Heartland Community College

Off-campus fire safety

January 9, 2017

At Heartland, we prepare for emergencies such as a fire. We test the alarms frequently and the blue Immediate Action Guides provide helpful information on how to respond.

It’s also important to be aware of fire hazards in your off-campus living space and be prepared in the event a fire does occur. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 94 percent of fatal campus fires took place in off-campus housing between the years 2000 and 2015.

Here are some fire safety tips to keep you and your home protected from fire.

Common Fire Hazards

Overloaded Power Strips:

  • Only use power strips for light loads such as computers, printers, clocks, etc. (they are not made to handle things like refrigerators, coffee makers, portable heaters or fans).
  • If the strip feels hot, replace it.
  • Avoid connecting one power strip to another (also known as “daisy chaining”).


  • Keep an eye on your candles.
  • Extinguish candles before leaving the house.
  • Keep candles away from combustible materials and mattresses, bedding, cabinets and curtains.

Space Heaters:

  • Purchase portable space heaters with an automatic shut off so it turns of if it's tipped over.
  • Turn space heaters off when you go to bed or leave a room.
  • Place heaters on a solid, flat surface and plug them into an outlet (never into an extension cord).
  • If the plug is cracked, damaged or broken, replace it.


  • Keep clutter away from your cooking area.
  • Never leave the cooking unattended.
  • If a fire starts in a microwave, keep the door closed and unplug it.


  • Make sure cigarettes and ashes are fully extinguished.
  • Never toss hot cigarette butts or ashes in the trash can.
  • Use deep, wide ashtrays and place them on top of something sturdy.
  • Check chairs and sofas for cigarette butts after parties because furniture is highly flammable.
  • Avoid smoking when drinking or drowsy.

Off-Campus Living

Here are some other steps to ensure your safety when living off-campus.

In apartments:

  • Make sure a sprinkler system is installed and maintained.
  • Find out when the last Fire Marshal inspection occurred (should be within past year).
  • Ask when the heating system was last inspected (should be within past year).
  • Exit doors from each unit should have single-cylinder, not double-cylinder deadbolt locks for fast escape.

In any housing:

  • Check for working smoke alarms with back-up power sources in each bedroom.
  • Identify two ways to exit any room.
  • Look to see if your address is clearly visible so emergency services can find it.
  • Make sure windows open easily.
  • Remember the word PASS when using a fire extinguisher:
    • Pull the pin and hold extinguisher with nozzle pointed away from you
    • Aim low, pointing to the base of the fire
    • Squeeze lever slowly and evenly
    • Sweep the nozzle from side to side

If a fire does occur, exit the building/house and call 9-1-1.

  • Stay low to the ground.
  • If you're behind a closed door, carefully feel the door for heat.
  • If a door is hot, do not open it.
  • If there is no exit, phone for help and wait for fire fighters.


Written by: Becky Gropp