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  • Engineering & Design, FIRE PROTECTION CONTRACTOR MAGAZINE, October 2001

Recent Fire Protection Articles

  • The Associated Press, ASBURY PARK PRESS, January 21, 2003

STATES SLOW TO FOLLOW NJ LEAD IN CAMPUS FIRE SAFETY

The Associated Press 

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ -- Three years after a residence hall fire at Seton Hall University took the lives of three students, experts say New Jersey remains the only state to require both private and public colleges to install sprinkler systems in on- and off-campus housing.

Since the January 19, 2000 blaze that swept through the third floor of a Seton Hall dormitory, 38 other U.S. college students have died in fires. Campus Fire-Watch, which compiles university-related fire statistics, said all but three of those fatalities occurred in privately owned off-campus housing or school-sanctioned fraternities.

Safety officials fear that only more student deaths will prompt lawmakers nationwide to pass legislation requiring sprinklers in residence halls and off-campus fraternities and sororities. “What it unfortunately is going to take is a prepayment in suffering – either through deaths or numerous injuries,” said Jerry Naylis, a New Jersey Fire Safety Commission member who shepherded the sprinkler law through the New Jersey Legislature.  “In the fire service, that is primarily referred to as ‘tombstone legislation,’” he said. Besides New Jersey, experts say only Pennsylvania has taken significant action on campus fire safety.  Despite estimates that sprinklers reduce the death tolls in fires by two thirds, officials say tight budgets have caused most states and private institutions to balk at putting them in.

“Nobody is opposed to these things in the real world, but it’s a question of finance,” said Ed Comeau, a former fire investigator who started the Massachusetts-based Campus Fire-Watch five months before the Seton Hall blaze. After the Seton Hall fire, the New Jersey Legislature mandated that every public and private school in the state install sprinklers within four years.  It provided $90 million in low or no-cost loans to pay for them.

Not only will the colleges and universities meet the deadline, but the development of less expensive, vertical spraying “sidewall” sprinklers has lowered the cost, Naylis said. John Viniello, president of the National Fire Sprinkler Association, said only a handful of private colleges and universities – including Fordham and Notre Dame – have taken fire safety steps on their own.

 Source:  Asbury Park Press, The Associated Press
 January 21, 2003