U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-08) addressed his colleagues in the House of Representatives today in support of his legislation, H.Res. 167, recognizing the goals and ideals of National Campus Fire Safety Month. Pascrell's resolution was agreed to by a voice vote nearly a year after the Campus Safety Right-To-Know legislation he co-sponsored was signed into law. Over 27 individual states and the United States Senate have joined the House in recognizing September as National Campus Fire Safety Month.
"We cannot allow our vigilance to relent against this danger," said Pascrell, a House Ways and Means Committee member who has championed campus fire safety since the tragic fire at Seton Hall University nearly a decade ago. "As students began their studies on college campuses throughout our nation, September was the perfect time to reinvigorate our commitment to educating our children about fire safety and making sure students and their families have the information they need to determine whether their dormitory or off-campus housing is safe. I am proud of what we achieved this past September and will continue to be committed campus fire safety year round"
On September 17, 2009, the launch of the fifth-annual National Campus Fire Safety Month, sponsored by Campus Firewatch, the Congressional Fire Services Institute, the Ohio Fire Safety Coalition and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was held on Capitol Hill. Congressman Pascrell met with and spoke to a contingent of people from across the nation, including students, parents who had lost children in campus-related fires, fire officials and advocates who came together for this launch to discuss the important issues of campus fire safety and legislation currently moving through Congress.
The 2009 National Campus Fire Safety month comes a year after passage and signing of The Higher Education Opportunity Act, which contains provisions from the Campus Fire Safety Right-to-Know Act introduced by Rep. Pascrell and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). In the wake of Seton Hall University's tragic fire on January 19, 2000, which killed 3 students and injured over 50 others, Congressman Pascrell introduced the Campus Fire Safety Right-to-Know Act in the 106th Congress. The provisions aim to address concerns relating to fires in college dormitories and off-campus student housing by requiring schools to report fire safety information to the Department of Education and making this information publicly available to students and parents.
The Campus Fire Safety Right-to-Know Act (S. 354 and H.R. 354 in the 110th congress), requires campus fire safety information to be made public and provides a powerful incentive for colleges and universities to voluntarily upgrade their safety systems. The law also calls for:
detailed reports on the number of actual fires in each on-campus student housing facility as well as information on deaths, injuries and structural damage to facilities over the previous two years;
colleges and universities to maintain a log of all campus fires and make this information available to the public;
reports on fire safety education and training provided to students, faculty and staff; and
the Secretary of Education to identify best practices for campus fire safety.
The Secretary of Education is currently finalizing the rules governing the law's implementation, and it is expected that the regulations will go into effect in one year.