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February 26, 2024
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Admin Encourages Fire Safety Mindfulness


According to a resource disseminated by the Environmental Health and Safety Office at UMass Boston, more candle fires occur during the winter holidays than any other part of the year.

The University of Massachusetts Boston administration reminds students to be mindful of fire safety over the holidays and winter break. The Environmental Health and Safety Office has disseminated resources with tips on candle and space heater usage. The office wants to bring attention to the dangers of carbon monoxide.

“Over 90 percent of fatal fires take place in off-campus housing.  Smoke alarms were either missing or had been tampered with in about 60 percent  of these fires and 85 percent of these apartments had no sprinklers,” says the Director of EHS Peter Schneider. He sourced this information from the ‘Campus Fire Fatalities in Residential Buildings 2000-2015,’ released by the U.S. Fire Administration. Smoking is the leading cause of fatal fires in off-campus housing, and alcohol was a factor in over 75 percent of cases.

Schneider says he does not know of any fatal fires associated with UMass Boston, but that the university does not require the reporting of off-campus fires. Only minor fires have happened on campus. For example, a cigarette in a flower bed once caused a fire on campus.

EHS advises that space heaters should be kept at least three feet from combustible materials, and never located in doorways or stairwells.

“Space heaters are prohibited in many dorms around the country. There are safer space heaters that automatically shut down if they tip over.”

A resource disseminated by EHS says that more candle fires occur in December than in any other month. Roughly one third of candle fires take place in bedrooms. The resource recommends that battery powered lamps and flashlights be used instead of candles during power outages.

Dubbed “the invisible killer,” carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas with no taste, odor, or visible color. It slowly suffocates its victims. People exposed to the gas may feel nauseous or experience dizziness and headaches. Sources include furnaces and water heaters, blocked dryer vents, and snow-covered car tail pipes.

Nicole’s Law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts states that every floor in a house must be equipped with a carbon monoxide detector. Additionally, all landlords must install and maintain detectors in spaces that feature a gas-powered stove.

The UMass Boston Office of Environmental and Health Safety is responsible for developing policies and programs that maintain a healthy and safe campus environment.