Alarming smoke alarm stats in college housing

By Fred Bales, CFPS, CFI January 20, 2016

A recent report featured disturbing facts about college housing and smoke alarms. According to Campus Fire Fatalities in Residential Buildings (2000-2015), smoke detectors were either missing or tampered with (disconnected or battery removed) in 58 percent of campus residential fires between 2000 and 2015. That was just one of many alarming statistics contained in the new report released by the United States Fire Administration (USFA).

Figure6FunctionalSmokeAlarmsThe report also found that smoking was the leading cause (29 percent) of all fatal campus residential fires, and alcohol was a contributing factor in 76 percent of them. Overall, 118 people died in campus fires. The full 12-page report presents a wealth of information that insurers can provide to insureds for risk control purposes.

In looking at where residential fire fatalities occur, the report shows that there hasn’t been an on-campus fire fatality since 2005—most likely due to the strong emphasis on fire safety in on-campus resident housing. The report showed that 94 percent of campus fire fatalities occur in off-campus housing.

The report also provides comparisons between residential fires in the general populace and ones in campus housing. While fatal residential fires remain fairly even by day of week, campus fire fatalities are highest on weekends, with Saturday resulting in 32 percent of fire deaths.

The USFA report was the subject of one of the 49 news and technical reports Verisk Insurance Solutions’ Engineering and Safety Service (E&S) issued to our subscribers in the latest month. Our experts provide reports and technical services on fire protection, workers' compensation, industrial hygiene, commercial vehicle, product liability, general liability, and other topics. You can distribute many E&S reports to policyholders to help educate them on sound risk control practices. Access more information about Engineering and Safety Service here, or download our brochure.


Fred Bales

Fred Bales, CFPS, CFI is a Manager of Fire Protection, Engineering and Safety Service in Verisk Insurance Solutions.