According to the National Fire Protection Association, there are about 1,500 reported fires in buildings on college campuses per year.
If you’re a student enrolled at one of those colleges or universities, that’s scary.
If your campus is ever involved in a fire for any reason, let’s take a look at what may happen next—and what you can do to help if it does happen.
This post will go through the importance of evacuating safely, how to react if your personal belongings are lost or damaged in the fire, and steps you can take towards rebuilding after any setback.
1. Evacuating – The importance of evacuating
If your school is ever at risk of fire, you should always know the closest evacuation route. Here are some tips towards knowing those routes:
Know where they are. Even if the closest route seems so obvious that you think you might remember it at the moment, write it down and put it somewhere safe.
You can keep a list on your phone or in a binder. Be sure to find out if there are multiple routes to get out and determine which one is the fastest/most effective for every exit or room in your building(s).
Whenever possible, avoid using elevators when evacuating . If you have to, make sure there is at least one elevator left before you leave.
If you are unable to self-evacuate (like if your building has been evacuated for a reason and no one has come back for you or you can’t open the door) figure out your best exit. Make sure it’s a route with minimal obstacles
2. Losing personal belongings – What to do if your stuff is damaged or destroyed
If you have any roommates or friends who were in the building when it happened, ask them to work together to go through what happened and save what they can.
You should always contact your insurance provider for a list of things that are covered under your policy and what you can do to make a claim.
If you don’t have insurance or if the number of things lost outweighs the amount it will cover, reach out to local charities and organizations working with students .
They might be able to help you and other students get some money quickly so that you can replace your belongings while following up with insurance.
You should also ask around if any of your professors will be able to provide you with extra copies of any schoolwork that was lost.
3. Rebuilding – How to move on after any setback
If you are one of the lucky ones whose belongings are still intact, keep them safe and out of harm’s way from anything else unexpected.
If the buildings around you have been damaged by the fire, be sure to check for any falling debris .
It may seem easier to just move out of your dorm or apartment building and into a hotel with your roommates, but remember that this can also be a massive setback for you as far as education goes.
If this is your last semester at the university, you may want to consider completing it from home. If it is not your last semester and you cannot afford to miss the time off school, consider getting in touch with your local fire department and seeing if they have any grant programs that you can apply for.
You can also reach out to local charities or organizations working with students that may be able to help you get some money quickly so that you can replace clothing, food, school supplies, etc.—even if they can’t fully replace exactly what you lost.
4. Finding out what happened – Who to reach out to for more information about the fire
You should do your best to stay updated on any news or information that is released. Contact your school and see if they have an emergency notification system in place.
You may also want to sign up for alerts from local authorities who may be able to provide information in the coming days or weeks.
If the fire was intentionally set, try to figure out if there were any particular groups of people targeted .
One major group of victims often left behind are those who have handicaps and/or mental illnesses . Reach out to a support service that handles these issues if you know someone affected by a fire like this.
5. Following up if you lost personal information
Even if you must file a claim against your insurance, keep in mind that it may take months, or even more than a year.
If you cannot afford to wait that long, try to get in touch with local charities who are working with students following a fire.
They may be able to help you and provide information on what your options are. You can also reach out to your local fire department for any grant programs that may be available.