Back to School: Preventing College Dorm Fires, What To Look For, What To Ask

Report by Paula Antolini, August 11, 2019, 2:21PM EDT

From January 2000 to May 2015, there were 85 fatal fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities and off-campus housing, resulting in 118 fatalities – an average of approximately seven per school year, according to the United States Fire Administration (USFA) FEMA.

Additional statistics:

  • Fire sprinklers were not present in any of the 85 fatal campus fires.
  • 70 percent of fatal campus fires occurred on the weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday).
  • 67 percent of the victims were males.
  • 73 percent of the fatal fires occurred between midnight and 6 a.m.
  • April was the peak month (13 percent) for fatal fires in campus housing.


What you need to look for:

Here are some good questions for college students and parents to ask before
moving into a dormitory or signing an apartment lease.

–Are there at least two ways out of each system? room and the building?

-Do the upper levels of the building have send a signal to the local fire department at least two sets of stairs inside and/or and/or campus security? a fire escape?

-Are there exit signs in the hallways to emergency services can find it quickly if show the way out?

-Are there enough electrical outlets for all appliances, computers, printers and electronics – without using an extension cord?

-Has the building’s heating system been inspected recently (in the last year)?

-Does the building have a sprinkler system?

-Does the building have a fire alarm system?

-Is there a regular inspection of fire doors and other fire safety equipment?

-Does the sprinkler or fire alarm system send a signal to the local fire department and/or and/or campus security?

-Is the building address clearly posted so emergency services can find it quickly if they need to?

For more information and free resources, visit


The U.S. Fire Administration reviews and collects resources that can be used in public outreach activities to keep college students safe from on- and off-campus housing fires. Explore these materials to learn more about discussing fire safety with students, their parents, and campus housing administrators and staff.

There is a report available, “Campus Fire Fatalities in Residential Buildings (2000-2015)” that you can download here: Download the report PDF 2.8 MB (Report audience: college and university fire and safety officials, fire and emergency service organizations).

This report presents findings from a study that looked at data from fatal campus fires and the fatalities that resulted from them. Factors leading to the fire deaths of college students are highlighted to help officials plan programs that will prevent fire injuries and deaths on college campuses in the future.


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