Fire Safety

Don't go on OVERLOAD!!!! Does your room look like this?
Then maybe your room might look like this!

Now that smoking anywhere in residence halls is prohibited, we may be able to eliminate one historical cause of fires in residence halls.

A fire that destroys much of a student room's contents doesn't happen often -- about once every three years.

But, we average a fire a semester -- usually small, often with smoke and water damage to one or both roommates' belongings.

In almost every instance over the last two decades, fires in resident rooms were avoidable if the residents had used a little more common sense. The costs paid by residents to restore fire damages were equally avoidable.

The leading causes of fire in student rooms are...
Electricity, Smoking, Candles, Cooking


Although "open flame devices" (a.k.a. candles) are not permitted, candles have led to room fires, especially when left unattended or placed in flammable holders or holders that weren't stable and tipped over easily.

Even when used carefully, candles can cause more trouble than you realize.

Continual use of candles also tends to deposit soot on the walls and will, over time, begin to discolor wall surfaces. We have seen rooms where excessive use of candles has so blackened the walls that the rooms needed to be repainted. Based on our paint history, if we can determine the rooms required being painted prematurely, costs for repainting will be assessed to the rooms occupants.

Living Safely with Electricity
Electrical fires happen more often than you might think. Electrical fires have been caused by short circuits in electrical cords that ignited nearby clothing, bedding, notebooks, trash cans, or other personal items. Sometimes, these short circuits have been caused by extension cords overloaded by too many items.

Another problem occurs when you plug power cords into a wall outlet and then shove furniture against the plugs, causing the cords to be badly bent. Doing this frequently can damage the insulation around a power cord's wires, leading to a short circuit.

Anytime you find a damaged power cord, or one that is hot to the touch, unplug the device immediately and have it checked, repaired or replaced.

Use Heavy-Duty Extension Cords or Power Strips!

Extension cords must be rated to handle the amperage of the equipment it serves. Small, thin household extension cords (sometimes called zip cords) are not recommended except for simple appliances such as lamps or clock radios.

A very wise purchase is the "power strip". These multiple outlet strips usually have 4 or 6 additional outlets in a plastic or metal case, a cord rated to handle a full 15 or 20 amp load, and may have a built-in circuit breaker that may trip long before the inconvenience of losing power to the rest of your room. But no matter how many power strips you and you roommate have, you still can't exceed the rated capacity of the circuit breaker or fuse for your room.

Always check the product label on a power strip or an extension cord before you buy to make certain it can handle the electrical load of the equipment you'll put on it.

It's All About How Much You Use...!
You can safely use electrical equipment and approved appliances as long as you don't overload the circuit breaker or fuse. As you plug in and use each lamp, stereo, hair dryer, refrigerator, and coffee pot, the total energy consumed at the same time will determine whether the circuit breaker trips and cuts off the electrical supply on the circuit. Once you exceed the rated capacity of the circuit breaker or fuse, which is either 15 or 20 amperes (or amps), you'll lose power. And should this happen to the circuit when you are using your computer, you could lose what you are working on.

Unfortunately, in many of our buildings, you are electrically linked to one or more of your neighbors, so you may not know how close a circuit breaker or fuse is to being tripped.

Bedrooms in renovated suites and apartments on South Campus and Anne Arundel Hall have a separate 20 amp circuit. Circuits serving living rooms are separate from kitchens. In our other halls, the distribution of circuits is not as straightforward. The wiring to rooms in a few of the older North Hill halls have fuses on circuits rated at 15 amps. In most of the other halls that have not yet been renovated, usually two or more rooms share a single 20 amp circuit breaker.

Often, but not always, half of an individual room's outlets are wired to one circuit breaker and half to a different one; a single circuit supports two halves of two different student bedrooms. But it is not uncommon in some locations to have a single receptacle in three, four or even five rooms wired to the same circuit breaker.

So, Watts Up?!!?
The principle amp-eating culprits are hair dryers, coffee pots, refrigerators (when the cooling unit kicks on), and (permitted in renovated South Campus buildings only) microwaves. The number of amps each electrical device uses will appear on each product's case and is usually stated as the maximum amount consumed during peak operation. Many devices don't necessarily use the number of amps shown except when, for example, they are first switched on, when heating elements reach their maximum, or when motors turn on.

Typical Maximum Amp Ratings

Amps   Amps  
9-15 hair dryer 6 700 watt microwave
3-5 Mac or PC 2-4 19" color television
1-5 printer 1-2 DVD/Blu-ray
6 4 cup coffeemaker 1 100 watt lamp
8 10 cup coffeemaker 2-6 mid-sized stereo

Check your own products for actual ratings.

When circuit breakers or fuses blow, call x4-WORK and we'll send someone to respond.

A few North Hill buildings do have fuse panels instead of circuit breaker panels. Residents should not buy and/or replace their own fuses.