PARKERSBURG - While classes resume at West Virginia colleges around the state, parents and students should remain informed of possible fire safety issues, officials said.
Capt. Tim Flinn of the Parkersburg Fire Department said parents should be aware of fire safety at any school their child attends.
"The thing I would suggest for parents at any campus is that they need to be aware of where they are staying," he said. "Be familiar with their surroundings."
Flinn said students should look for exits to have a way out in an emergency situation, and know who to call for immediate help.
"Don't hesitate to report unsafe situations that you observe or see," Flinn suggests to students.
He said parents and students should look for dangerous situations such as if a door is chain-locked, lights are not working or the doors do not properly operate. Flinn said students should have a fire extinguisher if they are living off-campus or make sure their dorm is equipped with one.
According to Campus-Firewatch (a social enterprise focusing on campus fire safety, started in 2000), 155 people died in on and off campus fires from January 2000 to July 2012.
Many others have lost housing and personal belongings in fires that could have been prevented by following fire safety practices, said Campus-Firewatch.
Questions from Campus-Firewatch for students and parents follow:
* How many fires have happened on campus in the past year? How many in off-campus housing?
* Are residence halls, Greek housing or off-campus housing protected by automatic fire sprinklers?
* Does every student's room have a smoke alarm? If so, does it send a signal to campus security or to the fire department?
* Do you know how many false alarms have occurred in residence halls? False alarms are dangerous on their own because they can cause students and staff to stop paying attention to the alarms - and that can be a fatal decision.
* What are the disciplinary steps the college will take against anyone causing a false alarm, failing to evacuate during an alarm, or tampering with fire safety equipment?
* In case of any alarm system activation is the fire department immediately notified?
* What items - and practices - are prohibited in residence halls because of fire safety? Make sure that candles, firepots and halogen lamps are not permitted, and that smoking is off limits.
* What are the school's policies on permissible and safe electrical appliances such as surge protectors?
* How much fire prevention training does the residence hall staff receive?
* How often do students receive fire prevention education?
* How often are evacuation drills conducted? There should be at least one a semester.
* How often are fire safety inspections of the residence halls and student rooms done? Are the results shared with students and parents?
* For off-campus housing, are there working smoke alarms in each bedroom and on each level?
* Are there couches or upholstered furniture on the front porch or deck? Many communities, including in West Virginia, have banned these due to fires having started in couches and spread into houses, especially in high fire-risk areas.
* Are students and parents aware that setting fires is a serious crime and can be punishable by fines and time in prison?
The Campus Fire Safety Right-to-Know Act signed into law by former President George Bush was designed to increase fire safety awareness on college and university campuses across the nation.
The law provides students and families with fire safety information and statistics, as well as other campus safety statistics such as campus theft and assault. The information is meant to inform prospective and current students of policies, concerns and fire safety conditions at the institution in which they are enrolled, officials said.