Making fire safety a focus over the holidays

By Austin Caroline

Semester’s end is a hectic time, with students focusing on studying for finals and preparing to go home for the holidays. With their attention on these things, students get distracted from other important things, including fire safety.

Olivia Cupp, director of Housing and Residence Life at Youngstown State University, said she and her staff always stress to students the importance of fire safety.

“Life safety is paramount. This is why we also take fire drills very seriously and do these [drills] twice a semester in all facilities,” Cupp said. “It’s our goal for students to take all evacuations, drill or not, seriously and not be complacent.”

April Edwards, the Youngstown fire department’s chief inspector for the Fire Prevention Bureau, said a good rule of thumb for students when it comes to fire safety is to watch their cord usage when they leave for the holidays.

“Definitely unplug any electrical devices that you may have: curling irons, computers or even air fryers. If you have strings of Christmas lights to decorate with, make sure those are unplugged prior to leaving,” Edwards said. “Watch your extension cord usage. Extension cords are a temporary use only, put it away when it’s done being used.”

Edwards said students should also practice fire safety when it comes to cooking.

“Make sure that your cooking area is kept clean and free of grease or food debris. Make sure your clothing is tight-fitting when you’re cooking, you don’t want long, flowy sleeves as those could potentially catch fire,” she said.

According to Edwards, the fire department has seen an uptick in calls stemming from incidents involving air fryers, as the appliance has become more popular, especially amongst college students.

“Make sure the basket for [ air fryers] is kept grease-free and make sure to remove food debris,” she said.

YSU police Chief Shawn Varso said if alarms sound, students should take them seriously.

“The majority of the fire alarms we receive are from burnt food,” he said. “You never know, especially with a cooking fire, when it may go from just something smoking in the pan to a full-on grease fire.”

According to the National Fire Safety Council, if you’re in a building with a fire, you need to take all precautions. Check all doors with the back of your hand to make sure they’re not hot before opening them. Make sure to close them as well, so you don’t add more fuel to the fire.

The council also recommends that if you are in a situation where there is smoke to stay low to the ground and cover your nose and mouth with a piece of cloth. In the unfortunate event that a part of you, whether it’s your hair, clothes or your skin have caught fire, remember to stop, drop and roll.