House fire tragedy an important lesson

Although investigators have yet to determine the cause of the house fire that killed three University students early Saturday morning, the incident still serves as a tragic reminder of how important home safety is.

Because deaths from house fires are rare – and University student deaths from them near the University campus perhaps unprecedented – it is easy to forget how dangerous things such as gas leaks, improper electric wiring and worn electrical cords are.

When students and their parents look for school housing, there are the usual concerns – location, neighborhood safety, parking availability, amenities and cost. But how many of us, especially when looking at rental houses, bother to consider the housing elements that could possibly kill us?

Many of us were taught as children to test the smoke detectors every few months, practice fire drills, and learn what natural gas smells like and how fingernails change colors in its presence. At some time or another, we also might have overheard our parents talking about radon or seen a parent check the furnace system.

Perhaps when we arrived at college we were so used to having these things looked after that we forgot not everyone is as concerned or particular about them as our parents probably were. Instead, we are now the responsible adults and need to keep on top of these things.

When we take the time to rent or buy a home, we must be careful to look for potential hazards. This might consist of bringing someone along to look the unit over for us or taking the time to learn about what we should look for. We should question the property owners about how they keep on top of hazardous housing issues, and call city housing inspectors to get past records on the home.

In the days to come, we might learn what caused this deadly fire. Whatever the determination is, let us remember to pay more attention to the importance of home safety.