Fall is here, and you know what that means – college students around the country have returned to their campuses, eager to party, date, and yes, even study. And while most students come to campus loaded with textbooks, shower caddies, TVs, pizza money, and plenty of advice from their parents, one can only hope that they are also armed with fire safety smarts.

September is Campus Fire Safety Month. and colleges and universities throughout the nation are conducting events to raise students' awareness of campus fire and life safety issues. To date, 30 states and the District of Columbia have issued proclamations marking this occasion, and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Center for Campus Fire Safety (CCFS) and other prominent fire and life safety organizations supported by NEMA are doing their part to educate college students on the potential dangers facing them in off- and on-campus housing.

Campus fire and life safety issues are gaining greater attention in the U.S. Congress as well, as lawmakers, parents, and students alike strive to prevent tragedies such as the 2000 fire at Seton Hall University. Campus Firewatch reports that since January 2000, approximately 20% of fires (most of which were off-campus) have killed 43% of the victims. Through enactment of campus fire safety provisions in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-315),and subsequent regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Education, colleges and universities are now required to keep more detailed records of fire safety and emergency response and evaucation procedures. Other bills pending in Congress would enhance campus fire safety, including–

  • Campus Fire Safety Education Act (HR 4908/S 3142), which provides $25,000 in matching grants to colleges/universities to develop and deliver campus fire safety education programs;
  • Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act (HR 1194/S 2947), which reduces the depreciation schedule for automatic fire sprinkler systems, thereby incentivizing landlords to install sprinklers in off-campus housing; and
  • Honorable Stephanie Tubbs Jones College Fire Prevention Act (HR 2136/S 1791), which establishes an incentive grants program for schools to promote installation of fire prevention and suppression technologies in qualified student housing and dormitories.

The college years are usually one of the best times of a person's life. All of these efforts are essential to ensuring that a student's college experience is enjoyable and free of tragedy.


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