Main Content

Fire Prevention & Safety Grants Success Stories - Willimantic, CT

This page highlights how a grant awarded was used to teach college students about fire safety. This page is intended for fire departments and eligible organizations interested in reducing death and injuries due to fire related hazards.

Fire Safety Grant Helps Reach College Students

Eastern Connecticut State University

WILLIMANTIC, CT -- Fire Safety Day was held on September 21, 2006, at Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU). Participants took part in hands-on activities including navigating through a smoke-filled trailer, practicing with a real extinguisher on a real fire, viewing special exhibits of actual campus fires, witnessing a "live dorm room burn," and talking with local city firefighters.
Eric Germain, ECSU Environmental Health & Safety Coordinator, and organizer of the event, points out details of the room such as the covered smoke alarm.
As Eastern Connecticut State University student tries out a fire extinguisher with assistance from Captain Jensen, Willmantic Fire Department, while others wait in line.The controlled live dorm room burn was the climax of the day's activities. Students witnessed firsthand the speed and ferocity of fire and felt the unbearable heat as the burn blackened and destroyed everything in the demonstration burn room in less than three minutes. Students often disable smoke detectors in their rooms by covering them. Now they could actually see how the covered detector took about forty seconds longer to go off.

According to the USFA, most injuries (56%) from dormitory fires are incurred while the victim attempts to suppress the blaze. "I didn't think it would happen so fast. I'm going back to my room and double check things." These were some of the comments students made to NBC and FOX news media filming the event.

The unobstructed smoke detector went off in seven seconds while the covered detector, a common occurrence at colleges, activated 40 seconds later. The tapestry on the ceiling caught fire within 90 seconds
More than 700 participants at Fire Safety Day wait for the live burn to take place. as the fire doubled in size. The local city fire department put out the fire two minutes and 40 seconds after it had started.
Mock dorm room at two minutes into the fire. The temperature in the room registered at 756 degrees F.
The event took place in collaboration with ECSU faculty, staff and students. ECSU Media students and faculty created a DVD of the live burn for use in future fire safety training for incoming students. Art students designed logos and slogans for the promotional items including t-shirts, Frisbees, and water bottles. These were given out as incentives to participate in the interactive events.

Evaluation of the results was done with a pre and post-quiz/survey. Prior to the events held on Fire Safety Day, only 34 percent of those surveyed knew how to use a fire extinguisher. This percentage almost doubled to 71 percent after the training.

Colleges throughout the country average 1,800 fires per year; six of these fires will result in student fatalities. In 2006, ECSU was awarded a Fire Prevention and Safety grant to support its goal of zero fire occurrences per year through interactive training. With this funding, the ECSU Environmental Health and Safety Department was able to orchestrate a Fire Safety Day. The funding also provided for small group safety trainings throughout the school year.

For additional information regarding this event, please contact Eric Germain at (860) 465-5103, or e-mail

What They Bought With The Grant:

  • Fire Safety Day: Interactive activities for students, faculty, staff and community at ECSU
  • Educational Training throughout the year
  • Fire Extinguisher Training Pan
  • Promotional Fire Safety items
  • Encapsulated, level A hazmat suits
  • Fire Safety Education DVD
Last Updated: 
05/31/2016 - 08:48