Skip to content

Fire & Water Safety

Fire Safety

Fire can pose a significant risk, especially in countries where there are no fire departments or fire fighter system, where buildings are not constructed to minimize fire hazards, and few people know about fire safety.

Fire safety standards differ drastically around the world. Many overseas locations do not meet U.S. standards in terms of fire protection and regulations (e.g., fire sprinklers, smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, etc.), means of escape, and fire-fighting capability. Some older buildings are constructed to minimal standards.

Always consider fire precautions in any building you visit, particularly how to escape. Take the time to inspect your lodging for possible safety hazards, including lack of smoke detectors, exposed wires, and improperly operating heating and cooking equipment.

Identify Fire Hazards:
Identify potential fire hazards and take steps to minimize or eliminate hazards. Eliminating fire hazards associated with electricity, natural gas, and flammable liquids will go a long way toward reducing your fire risk.

Smoking in bed or careless smoking. Careless smoking is known to be one of the primary causes of home fires. If you don’t discard a cigarette properly, loose embers that are hot can ignite when they come in contact with a flammable surface.

Other significant hazards include:
  • Smoke alarms that do not work.
  • Expired or inoperable fire extinguisher.
  • No escape plan.
  • Overloaded extension cord. Overloaded electrical outlets.
  • Using a space heater that is not laboratory tested and approved.
  • Frayed cord plugged into wall socket.
  • Electrical cords under carpets or across high-traffic areas.
  • Electrical appliances left on (hair iron, etc.)
  • “Daisy-chained” power strips (one plugged into another).
  • Power strip without circuit breaker.
  • Flammables close to a source of ignition.
  • Unattended candle, fireplace, or space heater.?
Taking a few sensible precautions, you can help protect yourself, and others, from injury— or worse:
  • Ensure you have a working smoke alarm and test it weekly. Smoke alarms with a vibrating pad or flashing light are available for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • If you smoke, never smoke in bed; when you finish a cigarette, put it out completely and make sure all cigarette ends are cold before emptying ashtrays into bins.
  • Be aware of where fire alarms are located and fire equipment is kept.
  • Draw an escape route. Plan and practice it with your housemates. If you use a walker or  wheelchair, check all exits to be sure you can get through the doorways easily.
  • Students with mobility disability are encouraged to have their bedroom on the ground floor and as close as possible to an exit.
  • Keep a flashlight on hand to help guide you through smoke.

Water Safety

Accidents involving water are one of the most common causes of death among young Americans abroad. Even the strongest swimmers can be placed in jeopardy by rip tides, overexertion, prolonged sun exposure, and water hazards not visible at the surface.

Follow these basic tips for keeping safe:
  • Do not swim in unfamiliar bodies of water or at isolated beaches.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Never swim while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Never dive head-first.
  • Check local information for details of tides, currents, and pollution. Tide changes can produce powerful currents.
  • Rip currents and undertows can be very common at many beaches.
  • Do not swim where there are no lifeguards present.
  • Check for possible hazards from jellyfish, sea urchins, coral, sea snakes, sharks, and venomous fish. Saltwater crocodiles live in coastal estuaries in many countries.
  • Human sewage and animal feces make some beaches no-go areas for swimming or even wading.
  • If you find yourself unable to reach shore, wave your arms and yell for assistance.