Preventing future residence hall fires

University officials need to better explain safety issues, and students must listen.

The recent fire in Pioneer Hall gives residence hall residents a reason to question their use of power in their rooms. Students should be able to have easier access to the proper information regarding power usage in residence hall rooms.

The fire was deemed accidental by the Minneapolis Fire Department and was likely caused by overexerted power strips. Housing and Residential Life said that overloading power strips could violate residence hall policy, but most students are not aware of any policy regarding power usage in their residence hall rooms. Housing and Residential Life provides a guidebook to students living in residence halls to be found on move-in day, but the tiny paragraph regarding electrical policy is something most residents don’t know about or have been warned of.

Other than what some students might have come across in their guidebooks, those who have just left home and are entering residence hall life often know little about what to do when their new room allots them only eight individual outlets and they have numerous things that need to be plugged in.

Students have laptops, televisions, DVD players, alarm clocks, microwaves, refrigerators and not to mention things that need to be plugged in only occasionally, like coffee makers, blow dryers, cell phone chargers and iPods. Also, the chances that all outlets will be easily accessible in a small room occupied by beds, desks and futons are slim. Add a roommate with an approximately equal amount of things to plug in, and there is an immediate need for power strips, multiplug adapters and extension cords, things that all require proper usage for safety.

The only electrical policies that seem to be stressed to students are those prohibiting decorative lighting and open heat appliances such as toasters and hot plates. Housing and Residential Life needs to equally stress safety issues regarding outlets to residents. Maybe each room could have a piece of paper with diagrams showing a properly used power strip versus an improperly used one, or community advisers could talk about outlet usage at their first house meeting.

Communicating the proper use of power outlets in residence halls to residents will create a safer community and will help keep chances of accidental electrical fires low.