Seventeen years after a dormitory fire killed three students at Seton Hall University, New Jersey legislators are renewing their push to improve fire safety at colleges and universities nationwide.
The bill, backed by U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell Jr. and Donald Payne Jr. and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, would create a competitive grant program that would provide $15 million annually to increase fire safety awareness and training among students.
Similar legislation was first introduced after a 2000 fire killed three residents of Boland Hall and injured 58 others. However, Congress has not acted on the bill. Since then, there have been an additional 170 higher education-related fire fatalities, according to Rep. Pascrell.
After the Seton Hall fire, New Jersey passed a state law requiring on- and off-campus school residence halls to be retrofitted with fire sprinklers. The state has not had any campus fire fatalities since. Wisconsin, Delaware, Illinois and Wyoming have passed similar laws requiring fire sprinklers. New York requires public and private colleges to inform students and their families whether college-owned and operated housing is protected with sprinklers.
“When we send our kids off to college, we’re thinking about textbooks and beanbags. Fire safety isn’t the first thing we discuss and plan for when we send our kids off to school, but simple measures could save their lives and the lives of their classmates,” Pascrell said at the press conference announcing the legislation. “This bill protects kids and arms them with powerful information at a time when they are starting to become independent men and women. From now on, Fire Safety 101 should be a requirement, not an elective.”
BlazeMaster fire sprinkler systems applauds this latest effort to improve fire safety on campuses and hopes Congress acts to protect students.