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Rep. Pascrell Introduces College Campus Fire Safety Measure

Location: Washington, DC

Members of Congress Join Together on Capitol Hill to Bring Attention to Growing Problem of Deadly Fires at Colleges and Universities

Capitol Hill--U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ, 8th) today announced the introduction of "The Campus Fire Safety Right to Know Act of 2005." The legislation, designed to address the epidemic of dangerous college campus fires, was initially introduced in 2000 in response to a massive fire at Seton Hall (NJ) University that claimed the lives of three students and injured more than fifty others. U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC-2) and 28 bipartisan members of the House serve as original cosponsors of this bill.

"The Campus Fire Safety Right to Know Act" amends the Higher Education Act to require disclosure of fire safety information on campuses and a report from the Secretary of Education to Congress on the depth of the problem and possible solutions. It uses the same procedure that requires schools to disclose crime statistics and other safety information.

"As we've seen over the past several months, too many of our promising young scholars are dying. We must band together and take the immediate step to inform our students and parents about the current level of fire safety on campuses," stated Rep. Pascrell, a national leader on fire safety issues. "No student or family should be kept in the dark about a school's fire safety record."

An important first step in fire safety, the Pascrell legislation would require campus fire safety information to be made public, and would provide a powerful incentive for colleges and universities to voluntarily upgrade their safety systems. Following are the highlights of the legislation:

• Requires dissemination of information on each on-campus residence hall, including fraternities and sororities, and whether it is equipped with fire sprinklers or other fire safety systems such as fire alarms or smoke detectors;

• Provides statistics on the number of actual fires in each residence hall, including information on deaths, injuries, and structural damage over the previous two years; and information about fire safety education and training provided to students, faculty, and staff and any planned improvements in fire safety;

• Directs the Secretary of Education to report back to Congress on the current status of fires safety systems.

"This bill forces schools to evaluate themselves and improve safety for each student and faculty member, so these tragedies like the one at Seton Hall do not continue to occur," stated Rep. Pascrell, a leader on fire safety issues in Congress. "If we can require colleges and universities to compile and distribute crime safety information, we can and should do the same for fire safety. It should not take another catastrophe to ensure safety."

Only 35% of dormitories and fraternity/sorority houses that suffer fires are equipped with sprinkler systems. There have been 75 fire fatalities in student housing since January 2000. This year has been a record year for college fire tragedies - with 11 people dying in just 5 months.

Ed Comeau, the Publisher of Campus Fire Watch, "This landmark legislation introduced by Congressman Pascrell will be instrumental in providing students and parents with the vital, life-saving information about a school's level of fire safety. I applaud the Congressman for taking leadership on this important issue."

In the wake of Seton Hall University's tragic fire on January 19, 2000, which killed 3 students and injured over 50 others, Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. with Congresswoman Marge Roukema (R-NJ, 5th) and Senator Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) introduced the Campus Fire Safety Right-to-Know Act in the 106th Congress.

An earlier version of the bill was attached as an amendment to H.R. 4504, the Higher Education Technical Amendments of 2000. This bill passed the House by voice vote on June 12, 2000. Separately, this legislation was added as an amendment to the Education Savings Account Act that passed the Senate in 2000.

Although the House and Senate have both passed a similar provision, it was in two different vehicles, so the language did not become law.

The Campus Fire Safety Right to Know Act is supported by the following organizations: Campus Fire Watch, the Congressional Fire Services Institute, the International Association of Arson Investigators, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the International Society of Fire Service Instructors, the National Fire Protection Association, and the National Volunteer Fire Council.

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