U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-8) and U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), the sponsors of federal legislation aimed at making college student housing safer after the tragic fire at a Seton Hall University dormitory more than 10 years ago, today applauded the latest step in providing critical campus fire safety information to students living in dormitories and off-campus housing. A new federal handbook has been released to help colleges and universities meet an Oct. 1, 2011 campus safety reporting deadline established by the Campus Fire Safety Right-to-Know Act.
"With colleges and universities using this handbook as a guide, parents and students will have the peace of mind they should have had all along," said Pascrell, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. "The release of this handbook demonstrates the federal government's commitment to making sure our young people are safe in their residences while they are away at school. We will never forget those who were lost in the tragic fire at Seton Hall University. Every bit of progress we make toward making student housing safer helps ensure that none of those young people perished in vain."
Knowledge is prevention when it comes to fire safety at our college dorms and off-campus housing," Lautenberg said. "This handbook will help universities meet new safety and reporting requirements designed to keep college students safe and prevent tragedies like the one we experienced at Seton Hall. This is an important step toward providing students with the information they need to stay safe."
"We certainly appreciate the leadership of Senator Lautenberg and Congressman Pascrell. It's been a long, hard battle and we appreciate their persistence," said Ed Comeau, publisher of Campus Firewatch. "These regulations will certainly help save lives by raising fire safety awareness among parents, students and administrators. Hopefully, we will not see a tragedy tantamount to the Seton Hall fire ever again."
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. The handbook was developed by the U.S. Department of Education to present step-by-step procedures, examples, and references for higher education institutions to follow in meeting the campus safety and security requirements of the law. It can be downloaded here: http://www2.ed.gov/admins/lead/safety/handbook-2.pdf
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.
"We must take responsibility for those situations that can be prevented and avoided, said Dana Christmas-McCain, a survivor and hero of the Boland Hall fire from Paterson, in a March 2004 press conference on Capitol Hill. "We all have a right to know, and we all have a right to be protected. Please do not subject another child to this fate."