Maryland Universities and Colleges Prepare for Campus Fire Safet - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Maryland Universities and Colleges Prepare for Campus Fire Safety Month

SALISBURY, Md. – Many college students are already moved in to their dormitories and have begun classes on Delmarva. Especially for freshmen, student life can be very hectic, with busy class schedules, parties, and friends, but many students forget a very important aspect to campus life: fire safety.

As a new semester begins on college campuses throughout the state, State Fire Marshal Brian S. Geraci reminds students to take actions to protect themselves and their friends from the devastating effects of fire. Geraci says an estimated 87% of college-related fire deaths occur in off-campus apartments and homes, which is where a majority of college students live. Geraci says this is why the State of Maryland has deemed September as “Campus Fire Safety Month.”

Dave Gutoskey, Director of Housing and Residence Life at Salisbury University, says that statistic is why they work during the first two years of students’ time on campus to prepare them for living off campus.

“Our overall goal is to teach students what’s appropriate on campus because as they move off into the neighborhood, it’s important to understand fire safety as they live on their own,” said Gutoskey.

At Salisbury University, all freshmen and sophomore students are required to live on campus. After that, Gutoskey says majority of juniors and seniors choose to live off campus. Gutoskey says while students live on campus, they are taught the importance of fire safety through monthly fire drills as well as health and safety inspections in their dorm rooms.

“Unfortunately, most college students do not fully appreciate how quickly a fire can grow out of control,” said State Fire Marshal Geraci, “Studies have shown you have an average of three minutes from when the first smoke alarm sounds to escape the effects of fire. Students need to realize they are not invincible, fires do happen in campus-related settings, and they can take proactive steps to protect themselves no matter where they live.”

At SU, Gutoskey says the residence life staff work to make sure the students know what to do in the event of a fire. He says they have monthly fire drills that are scheduled with University Police, almost similar to what students experience in high school. “The drills are used to get students familiar with the sounds of the fire alert system itself and get familiar with how to get out of the building and where to go,” said Gutoskey. He says the school has a relatively new safety system that has flashing lights as well as a sound alarm and a sprinkler system.

Staff at SU also work to make the fire drills as real as possible. Gutoskey says during the drills, they’ll occasionally block off a stairwell and tell students, “This is where the fire is. You must find another way out.” Gutoskey says this allows the students to know multiple ways of escape in the event of a fire.

The fire drills are also timed. Gutoskey says, “If an officer feels it took too long, they’ll reschedule another drill for a week later.”

Students aren’t the only ones at the university who are trained in fire safety. Wayne Shelton, the Director of Campus Sustainability and Environmental Safety at SU, says he mainly works with staff, faculty, and nonresidential students. He says he sends out notices through the campus email system to remind them about fire safety such as how to use a fire extinguisher and how to respond in the event of a fire. In these emails, Shelton says he sends out a web link that everyone can go to and review fire safety steps each year.

“We know it’s a serious issue and hope that folks on campus take it seriously because it’s a life or death situation,” says Shelton.

Shelton says they haven’t had any major issues with fires on campus in recent years, but he notes two incidents in residence halls that happened at least five years ago. One of those incidents,he said was due to an unattended candle. Shelton says candles and incense are not permitted on campus.

For tips on what students and parents should know about campus fire safety, visit for a number of online resources.




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