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Abstract: Fire Prevention on College and University Campuses

This chapter is intended to provide information that can help in the development of campus fire prevention departments or in restructuring existing departments. At the end of this chapter, the reader will be able to:

  • Understand the various components and staffing options available to campus fire prevention departments.
  • Identify steps that can be taken during regular inspections to obtain compliance with the fire code.
  • Identify reasons for developing key partnerships that are essential to the success of a campus fire prevention department.
  • Identify required training and methods of conducting that training, given the limitations of available staffing.
  • Identify various sources of funding that may be available, outside of his or her normal line-item budget.
  • Identify means to ensure that all contracts awarded for fire and/or life safety work are advantageous to the respective institution.
  • Identify federal laws and their impact on the campus fire prevention department.  

Fire prevention agencies on college or university campuses are as diverse as the populations they serve. While some take after traditional (e.g., municipal) fire prevention organizations, others employ limited staff who often have other responsibilities on the campus. Still others operate autonomously, while others are placed within differing work units. Regardless of their makeup, campus fire prevention officials are tasked with duties that are beyond that of a traditional, municipal fire prevention agency.

Examples of such differences can be found in employee/resident training requirements, record keeping, life safety system installation and maintenance, and other associated responsibilities that a municipal fire prevention agency does not have, but that campus-based fire prevention programs are responsible to provide. Because of the great variety of fire prevention programs on college and university campuses and the great number of responsibilities these individuals or agencies have, this chapter’s subchapters allow for a more regulated and comprehensive approach to fire prevention. This chapter gives guidance to new fire prevention program administrators, helps existing fire prevention program administrators to excel, and adds key points for facilities managers to consider.

The Facilities Manager’s Role 

There are several ways facilities managers can aid the campus fire prevention department in ensuring fire code compliance. If a potential violation is noted, it can be brought to the attention of the fire prevention agency. Alternatively, a work order can be submitted directly by the facilities manager. But the manner in which fire code violation work orders are addressed depends on existing agreements. If the campus fire prevention department is tasked with overseeing all fire code violations, it may make more sense to coordinate the abatement of a violation through the fire prevention department.

Another way facilities managers can help prevent violations is by scrutinizing work order requests and asking the fire prevention agency for their input. Work orders may be overseen by a trades supervisor. These supervisors often have a better understanding of various code requirements. For instance, an electrical supervisor is likely to know where certain electrical components can be installed; a carpentry supervisor is likely to know if a door is a smoke door and what devices can be installed on them. This requires facilities managers to work with the fire prevention agency to ensure compliance throughout a campus.

The Student’s Role

While a campus fire prevention department works to ensure a safe workplace for their fellow employees, it is equally important to consider the students at their institution.  It is important to remember that, for the first time in their lives, for most of our students, they are living on their own.  Their parents are not there to guide them and keep them safe.  The employees of campus fire prevention department need to be the ambassadors to a safe lifestyle.  This requires patience and the careful planning of activities. 

Fire prevention agencies at four-year colleges and universities traditionally have a difficult time in dealing with the attrition rate of students.  Most students stay on these campuses for a period of four years.  While some may take longer to graduate or others may continue with graduate school, the vast majority of your students are only with an institution for four years.  As resident students may spend the majority of their time on your campus, it is important that you condition them to take fire safety seriously.  To achieve this, campus fire prevention departments must constantly work with their student body.  Campus fire prevention departments must consistently enforce fire code, while taking the opportunity to explain why a violation is against fire code.  Campus fire prevention department must train their students and faculty/staff and retrain them, regularly conducting drills, to ensure that campus community members retain a fire-safe lifestyle.