New York public and private colleges are now required to give every student written information about fire safety in residence halls and off-campus housing. Known as the Kerry Rose Fire Sprinkler Notification Act, it was named after one of three victims of the deadly fire that burned through a privately owned housing unit near the campus of Marist College in January 2012.
The notices must describe the fire alarms and any other safety systems located in the housing unit, including whether or not it is equipped with a fire sprinkler system. It must also include information on how to access the college’s campus fire safety report. The law took effect immediately when it was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in July.
Paul Martin, president of The Center for Campus Fire Safety, a national nonprofit, says federal law requires all higher ed institutions to compile and report fire safety information to the U.S. Department of Education. But New York is the only state requiring colleges and universities to distribute the information to every student, he says. “I don’t believe any states will immediately follow suit with a similar law, unless they suffer a similar tragedy like what we had at Marist,” he adds.
The New York law makes schools more accountable for providing more detailed fire safety information to every student, says Martin, who also heads New York’s Fire Inspections and Investigations Branch. “We really think putting this information in front of students can make a difference; it’s something that people won’t know unless they go looking for it.”
It’s up to administrators at each campus to decide how they provide the information to students, whether it’s posted in every dorm room or distributed during the first week of the academic year. “The Center for Campus Fire Safety believes in a balanced approach to fire safety; it’s about putting the information out there, but we also need enforcement when it comes to installing and maintaining safety mechanisms.”