Monday, July 25, 2011

New Jersey Legislators Introduce Bill Aimed at Providing Fire Safety Education and Training to College Students

Press Release courtesy of the office of rep. Bill Pascrell and

WASHINGTON – After collaborating to get legislation passed that requires disclosure of fire safety records of college student housing, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-8) and U.S. Sen. Frank L. Lautenberg (D-NJ) today introduced a bill that would provide college students with fire safety education and training. Both legislative efforts were inspired by the tragic fire at a Seton Hall University dormitory more than 10 years ago.

Firefighters respond to a blaze at a Seton Hall University dorm – South Orange, NJ – Jan 19, 2000 (credit: AP Photo/Jeff Zelevansky)

“We know that sprinkler systems and fire alarm systems save lives when a fire breaks out and are necessary. However, preventing a fire from happening is the most effective tool of all. Education is the key. Even the brightest students can make a costly mistake in their dorms or off-campus housing that can result in a fire,” said Congressman Pascrell, a member of the House Ways and Means and Budget Committees. “With this legislation were providing resources to colleges and universities to help make sure students have the knowledge and training that can save their lives.”

“Increasing fire safety awareness on our college campuses will help to save lives and allow students to focus on their education,” Senator Lautenberg said. “We made great strides with enactment of the Campus Fire Safety Right-to-Know law, which gives students and families information about the fire safety records of colleges and universities. Now it's time to ensure that schools have the resources to educate the campus community about fire safety and prevent tragedies.”

"Fire has a huge impact on our society and our economy. Each year, over 3,000 people are killed and more than $12 billion in damage is caused by fires,” said Ed Comeau, publisher of Campus Firewatch. “By educating students about how to prevent one from breaking out in the first place we can build a fire-safe generation that will save lives, now and for the future."

The Campus Fire Safety Education Act of 2011, which creates a new competitive Campus Fire Safety Education Grant Program at institutions of higher education, will increase fire safety awareness among college students, help improve their fire training, and save lives.

"Even the brightest students can make a costly mistake in their dorms or off-campus housing that can result in a fire,” said Congressman Pascrell.

Funding may be used to initiate, expand, or improve a fire safety education program on their campus. Schools can apply on their own or in collaboration with a nonprofit fire safety organization or public safety department, and may include a fraternity and sorority. Since a high proportion of student fires occur off-campus, schools will be encouraged to use these funds to educate students living both on- and off-campus.

It is endorsed by a number of fire safety and campus organizations, including Campus Firewatch, the International Code Council, the International Fire Marshals Association, the National Association of State Fire Marshals, the National Fire Protection Association, the National Fire Sprinkler Association, the Association of College and University Housing Officers International, the Congressional Fire Services Institute, the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters, and the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

In 2008, the Higher Education Opportunity Act became law with provisions from the Campus Fire Safety Right-to-Know Act introduced by Rep. Pascrell and Sen. Lautenberg. The provisions aim to address concerns relating to fires in college dormitories and off-campus student housing by requiring schools to report fire safety statistics to the Department of Education and making this information publicly available to students and parents.

Congressman Pascrell introduced the Campus Fire Safety Right-to-Know Act in the 106th Congress following Seton Hall University’s tragic fire on January 19, 2000, which killed 3 students and injured over 50 others.

On July 24, 2007, Senator Lautenberg led the U.S. Senate in passing the Campus Fire Safety Right-to-Know Act of 2007 as part of the Higher Education Act.

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