The Georgetown University community is still reeling from a devastating townhouse fire that claimed the life of one of its students. In response to the tragedy, Georgetown and city officials embarked on an aggressive campaign to ensure townhouses inhabited by students are in compliance with fire codes. While, fortunately, such an incident has yet to occur at GW, it is imperative both the University and students take the appropriate steps to minimize the possibility of one taking place.
Given Foggy Bottom’s historic character, most neighborhood townhouses are quite old. Compounding this, students seek out those with the cheapest rent. The rent in these units is low for a reason; the condition of the townhouse is usually poorer than other buildings. Living in this situation exposes students to a greater risk of a fire. As a result, students must strive to be proactive in addressing outstanding safety issues.
Students should take advantage of free inspections offered through the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Such inspections will ensure District safety regulations are being followed. Students should create their own fire escape plan, making sure every room has an alternative exit for a quick method of escape during a fire. Students should also request their landlords provide fire extinguishers throughout the house and install high-quality smoke detectors. Having comprehensive fire prevention, detection and intervention strategies will drastically reduce the likelihood of a tragedy.
The University should also take an active part in this effort. GW should consider producing materials for students moving off campus about how to ensure their new living arrangements are safe, and what they can do to ameliorate the situation if they are not. Providing students with comprehensive information and physical prevention resources is crucial to safeguarding students.
The danger of a fire catastrophe resulting in harm to students is as likely at GW as it is at Georgetown. Students and administrators must collaborate on ways to help ensure it does not happen here.