SPRINGFIELD, IL – With students set to return to college campuses within the next few weeks, State Fire Marshal Dave Foreman today kicked off the “LOOK UP!” fire safety campaign aimed at raising awareness of the importance of working smoke alarms in both on- and off-campus housing. Foreman joined staff and students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus Wednesday to begin putting up the safety posters around the campus.
“For many young adults, college is the first time they are living on their own,” said Foreman. “As they return to campus for the fall semester, there’s so much to think about – getting books, finding classrooms, meeting up with friends. We want them to put ‘check the smoke alarm’ on the top of that list. That quick check could save their lives. We appreciate the efforts of staff here at the University of Illinois in helping us get this important message to students.”
More than 100 college students have died and many others injured in college housing fires since 2000, according to Campus Fire Watch.
Illinois law requires that working smoke alarms be placed within 15 feet of every sleeping area and that alarms be maintained in working order. Foreman said smoke alarms are a proven lifesaver. “Smoke alarms have helped reduce deaths and injuries from fires by nearly 50 percent since the late 1970s,” he said. “But a smoke alarm that has been removed, has no batteries, or has batteries that are dead, won’t do anything to save a life.”
Through the “LOOK UP!” campaign, the Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) is offering free posters to colleges and universities throughout Illinois. The posters remind students to “LOOK UP!” to ensure their housing is equipped with smoke alarms and that the alarms work.
The LOOK UP! campaign was started by Kathleen Moritz, mother of Tanner “TJ” Osborn, following his tragic death in an off-campus fire. Tanner and two friends died in an apartment fire on June 7, 2005 in Chicago.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, 65 percent of reported home fire deaths in 2000-2004 resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. Most smoke alarms fail due to missing, disconnected or dead batteries.
Foreman urges students to replace batteries in smoke alarms regularly, and suggests doing so at the same time they move clocks back in the fall and forward in the spring. He said students should be aware that state law also requires carbon monoxide detectors to be placed within 15 feet of every sleeping area.
Fire safety tips for students include:
• Make sure your housing unit is equipped with a working smoke alarm within 15 feet of every sleeping area (this is the responsibility of the building’s owner) and that you test it monthly.
• Never leave candles or incense burning unattended.
• Clean up trash and debris after parties.
• Extinguish smoking materials thoroughly.
• Do not smoke while impaired or tired.
• Keep all space heaters at least three feet away from furnishings.
• Do not overload electrical outlets or power strips.
• Learn how to properly use cooking appliances.
Staff from the OSFM staff will be notifying colleges about the available posters. College personnel interested in receiving the free posters may contact Jessica Blackford at 217-558-0324 or Jessica.Blackford@illinois.gov.