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College Housing Essential: Safety

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

Photo of lamp and hairdryer with multiple cords on a desk.

Personalization is a big trend for college dorm rooms and shared housing facilities. College furnishings—from bedding and décor to kitchen supplies and electronics—are often reflective of interests and future aspirations. One essential for the college residence is safety.

There is a tendency for college students to want to bring everything they own, but unfortunately, there may be a limited number of electric outlets. It’s tempting to plug in multiple extension cords and power strips, which can cause cords to overheat, creating shock and fire hazards.

Potentially older wiring in student housing and apartments may not be able to handle the increased electrical demand of today’s college student. If use of an appliance frequently causes power to trip off, or if its power cord or the outlet feels hot, the appliance should be disconnected immediately, and the condition reported to the landlord or campus housing staff.

Safe Electricity offers the following safety tips for students to help prevent and reduce the risk of electrical fires in their student housing:

  • Only purchase and use electrical products tested for safety. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) publishes a list of approved testing laboratories. Some common approved safety labels include Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL), Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and MET Laboratories (MET).

  • Avoid overloading extension cords, power strips, or outlets.

  • Use power strips with an over-current protector that will shut off power automatically if there is too much current being drawn.

  • Never tack or nail an electrical cord to any surface or run cords across traffic paths or under rugs where they can be trampled or damaged.

  • Use the correct wattage light bulbs for lamps and fixtures. If no indication is on the product, do not use a bulb with more than 60 watts. Instead, use cooler LED light bulbs.

  • Keep all electrical appliances and cords safely away from bedding, curtains, papers and other flammable material.

  • Make sure outlets around sinks are equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) before use. If they are not, contact the resident assistant, campus housing staff, or landlord.

  • Unplug small appliances when not in use and all electronics when away for extended periods.

  • Smoke detectors should never be disabled, and fire alarms should never be ignored or taken casually as a drill. Every time a fire alarm sounds, residents should calmly and quickly follow practiced procedures and immediately exit the building.

Stress to your student that in the event of a fire, it is important to follow safety procedures and get out of harm’s way immediately. After all, property and valuables can be replaced, but lives cannot.


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