Studying abroad is a very exciting time for most students, and more and more college students are taking advantage of this opportunity. In 2012, approximately 280,000 US students studied abroad according to the Institute of International Education. While studying internationally is a great experience for many students, it presents its own share of risks to college students. Depending on where in the world you may roam, fire safety and standards can differ dramatically from country to country. Regardless of where you travel, follow these tips for fire safety while studying abroad:
1. Recognize that fire safety standards are not the same in other countries outside the US.
While dorms and residence halls in the US are required to adhere to strict fire codes, the same cannot be said of other countries around the world. Depending on where you travel, there may not be a smoke detector in all of your building, let alone where you sleep. Do your research so you’ll be best prepared.
2. Make a plan.
As with any unfamiliar and new living space, make sure you map two ways out of every room in your new digs as soon as you arrive. Brush up on general fire safety practices, such as checking doors for heat and staying low. The Jasmine Jahanshahi Fire Safety Foundation has a helpful tip sheet you can print.
3. Check with your building and program for emergency resources.
Many study abroad programs have a wealth of safety information available to students. Make sure to familiarize yourself with this information, and ensure that you have all the emergency contact information they offer in case something goes wrong. Also, check with your building to see if they have certain procedures or resources in place in the case of emergency, like fire exits and extinguishers. Note that 911 isn’t an international standard, and program your host country’s emergency number into your phone so you won’t forget. Check out this helpful list of country emergency numbers from the Jasmine Jahanshahi Fire Safety Foundation.
4. Take precautionary steps if necessary.
If your apartment or dorm abroad doesn’t have the fire safety features you are used to, like a smoke detector, fire escape or fire extinguisher, take it upon yourself to outfit your living space with these life-saving measures. The up-front cost may make you hesitate, but a fire could cost you your life. If there is only one way out of your apartment or dorm, consider a fire ladder.
5. Ensure you have proper medical assistance in place.
Depending on where you are studying, you may not have access to medical facilities nearby or you may not have health insurance coverage abroad and surviving a fire could leave you with injuries. Before you leave to study abroad, make sure you are covered in the country you are studying to avoid high medical costs in the event of an accident or illness. If you are studying away from access to medical care, you may want to consider purchasing additional insurance that will cover medical evacuation and transport you to the nearest medical facility. You can find this protection included in some Travel Insurance plans as well as specialty benefit plans, like GradGuard’s Student Protection Plan.
6. Determine if your belongings should also be protected.
When seeking safety during a fire, we were all taught to leave our things behind and take care of ourselves. Sage advice, but what happens if your things are damaged in a fire? Your belongings are merely things and can be replaced unlike your health, however, you may not be able to afford to replace those belongings in the event of a fire. Renters Insurance is one way to protect your belongings, and many plans offer worldwide coverage.
Fire safety is always important, including during your semester abroad. These tips can help you minimize your risk, but if you have questions, check out some of these great resources:
- Jasmine Jahanshahi Fire Safety Foundation
- Center for Campus Fire Safety
- Campus Firewatch
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