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College living: Fires stem more from behavior than location

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
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Thousands of students will soon be reporting to Minnesota college campuses; more than 100,000 attend public institutions, alone. Many will live in off-campus housing, and some will be living away from home for the first time. The Minnesota State Fire Marshal reminds students and parents that this is the time to study up on fire safety issues.

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Statistics from the Campus Firewatch Program show that 80 percent of college fire fatalities in the U.S. occur in off-campus housing.

The Fire Marshal offers these tips for students -- and for parents who may be helping them make the transition to off-campus housing life.

• Cities have housing codes. They differ, but find out what they are. In some locations, the landlord should have a rental license posted, meaning the property is being safety-inspected regularly.

• Look for smoke detectors and make sure they have batteries. Check for sprinkler systems.

• Check the age of the appliances, and make sure the furnace and water heater are properly vented. Extension cords should be used properly.

• A fire extinguisher should be located in a handy place. It should be charged, and residents should know how to use it.

• Make an evacuation plan. Check the windows and make sure they aren't painted shut. Make sure there are two ways out from every room.

• Cook only in the kitchen, and only when you're alert. Don't use a barbeque grill on decks or balconies.

• Use a surge protector for computers. Report problems with wiring or electrical functions to the landlord immediately. Never string extension cords from room to room or use them for permanent wiring.

• Especially after parties, check couch cushions and carpets for smoldering cigarettes. Never smoke in bed. Ideally, allow smoking only outside, away from combustibles.

• Make sure there is a smoke detector inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on each level. When all else fails, this small investment saves lives.

"The primary causes of fire in Minnesota are cooking, candles and smoking," says Rosendahl. "The main cause of fatal fires is smoking. And impairment by drugs or alcohol increases the odds of injury or death in a fire. Our students need to start their independent living experience knowing all of these things."

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