Report: NFPA's "Structure Fires in Dormitories, Fraternities, Sororities and Barracks"
Author: Richard Campbell
Overview of the fire problem in dormitories, fraternities, sororities and barracks, including trend tables, causes, time of day, day of week, month of year and area of origin. Also includes published incident descriptions, published articles and investigation reports and summaries.
During the five-year period from 2007-2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated annual average of 3,810 structure fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities, and barracks. These fires caused an annual average of 2 civilian deaths, 30 civilian fire injuries, and $9.4 million in direct property damage. Fires in these properties accounted for 0.8% of all reported structure fires within the same time period.
The number of reported fires in the dormitory occupancy group increased 18% from 3,200 in 1980 to 3,780 in 2011. Fires ranged from 2,300 to 2,700 from 1982 through 1995, and then declined from 1996 to 1998. Since 2003, annual estimates have ranged from 3,350 to 4,220. At least some of the increase is likely due to the changes in NFIRS Version 5.0 of the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System, first introduced in 1999. NFIRS 5.0 makes it much easier for fire departments to document and report certain kinds of fires, notably confined cooking fires, which are quite common in this occupancy type (81% of all fires).
September and October were the peak months for fires in dormitory properties. The fewest fires occurred in the summer months of June, July, and August. Saturday and Sunday were the peak days of the week for dormitory fires, with 33% of fires taking place during the weekend. The peak time of day for fires was between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. These fires were less common between 3 a.m. and 9 a.m.
During 2007-2011, when automatic suppression equipment was present in structure fires in these properties and the type of equipment was known, 95% were sprinklers. When wet pipe sprinklers were present in these properties, property damage was 65% lower than when no automatic extinguishing equipment was present. Between 2007 and 2011, 57% of structure fires in these properties occurred in structures with automatic suppression equipment present. The percentage of fires in dormitories and barracks with automatic extinguishing equipment present nearly doubled from 29% in 1994-1998 to 57% in 2007-2011.
More than two-thirds (70%) of fires in these properties began in the kitchen or cooking area. Only 7% of fires started in the bedroom, but these fires were responsible for 27% of injuries. Three percent of fires began in a lavatory, bathroom, or locker room.
Those interested in learning more and staying safe in dormitories can visit www.nfpa.org/campussafety.