Fire safety in student accommodation

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Once upon a time, I lived in a block of student accommodation apartments in Liverpool’s city centre. I won’t disclose which ones, because it’s not important, but all I will say is that I was in my second year at the University of Liverpool and I think I was about 22 years old.

One day, at the beginning of the Semester, I remember being called by my flatmate telling me not to come home, because there had been a fire. “A FIRE!!!” I practically shrieked, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN A FIRE – OH MY GOD IS EVERYONE OKAY?!” There was in actual fact nothing ‘practical’ about my actual shrieking but as it transpires, everyone was indeed okay. So it was fine, you know, in the end, if you didn’t count the people being carried out on stretchers, the asthma attacks, melted TV's and destroyed rooms that we couldn’t re-enter for weeks.

The incident I refer to is very much real, and it’s one of the stand out memories that I have from Uni. Makes a bit of a different experience, huh? However, it’s not one I’d recommend. The fire started because one of the girls we lived with had decided it was a great idea to cook food in a wok (which was banned!), and then leave it unattended while she went to her room, loudly chatting with loads of her friends. By the time smoke had woken up my other flatmate and her visiting boyfriend with an asthma attack, the fire had already become a force to be reckoned with, and despite trying her best to get everyone out, she was unable to and had to flee, hoping that the fire brigade could get everyone else out safely and away from the danger.

As harsh as it is to make accusations, it was downright negligence that caused this. She wasn’t paying attention, and she wasn’t following the rules. To be honest, we weren’t that close to this girl anyway, and we’d repeatedly told her to be more careful when she cooked. Whether it’s right or wrong, this situation was a nail in the coffin for any friendship we might have had with her – so I’d imagine it was a pretty huge regret for her. Yes, mistakes happen, but some put lives in danger which can and should be avoided.

Whilst you’re staying at Liberty Living, if you think for a second that this ‘couldn’t happen’ to you, then you should really think again. I naively thought this stuff only happened to other people or in films, but I can tell you, there’s not many ‘other people’ out there to help you while you’re filing insurance complaints, dealing with breathing problems, as well as having to find alternative eating and sleeping arrangements alongside your studies.

The best ways to avoid a fire are:

• Don’t cook while drunk. This can be tempting but please don’t!

• Don’t use banned items. I hate to sound like your mum but without seeming melodramatic, this could have killed a friend of mine!

• Don’t leave things unattended if they’re not the kind of things that can be. There’s a difference between popping back to your room while your chicken nuggets are browning in the oven, and leaving a pan full of oil on its own for twenty minutes.

• Make sure you never tamper with the fire alarms. They’re there for a reason and it’s honestly not funny to play with them. It’s actually pretty criminal, and you could get kicked off your course!

I don’t mean to patronise you – it’s a lot of common sense. But we could all do with a bit of reminding that this isn’t just being PC – it’s trying to save your lives.

Liberty Living provides student accommodation in 17 university cities across the UK, including student accommodation in London, student accommodation in Newcastle, student accommodation in Preston plus many more.

Posted on 6th January 2015 by Claire L.

Claire Louise Sheridan lives and works in Peterborough. She recently graduated with a degree in English and Communication Studies from the University of Liverpool.

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