FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, September 5, 2018


September is National Campus Fire Safety Month

TRENTON, NJ – The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs’ Division of Fire Safety staff reminds new and returning college students of the danger that fire can present, especially for those living in off-campus housing. 

The Division of Fire Safety enforces the nation’s first and most stringent dormitory sprinkler law, which took effect in the aftermath of a fire in 2000 that killed three students residing in Seton Hall University’s Boland Hall. However, many college students opt to live in off-campus housing that is generally not under the supervision of campus public safety officials and thus lose the protection the law is meant to provide for students in on-campus residences. 

In accordance with the law, all colleges and universities in New Jersey are mandated to have automatic sprinkler systems in all campus residences. Schools that offer student housing must also have a fire safety report. School staff should know what is contained in this report and be prepared to answer any questions about the report. Additionally, Division of Fire Safety staff and local fire officials conduct ongoing fire safety inspections of on-campus buildings. 

“It is a good idea for both students and their parents to learn as much as they can about what fire protection is present in the building they will reside in while at school,” said Division of Fire Safety Director and Acting State Fire Marshal Richard Mikutsky. “College students, particularly those living independently for the first time, need to understand fire hazards and the preventative measures that could save their lives.” 

According to statistical information compiled by the U.S. Fire Administration, there are precipitating factors that many off-campus fire incidents share: 

  • Lack of automatic fire sprinklers;
  • Missing, disabled, or vandalized smoke alarms;
  • Careless disposal of smoking materials;
  • Impaired judgment from alcohol consumption; and
  • Upholstered furniture on decks and porches.

In addition, the following factors may increase the risk of fire fatalities: 

  • Fire alarms are often ignored;
  • Building evacuations are delayed due to lack of preparation; and
  • Misuse of cooking appliances, overloaded electrical circuits, and improper use of extension cords. 

Students and their parents should make sure staff at the college or university they are attending conducts regular fire drills and urges students to take each alarm seriously. They should also research the housing in advance and ask building managers or landlords where smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are located, if fire doors and fire escapes are present and safe, if existing electrical outlets are adequate for all the appliances, computers, and electronics the student is bringing, and if evacuation instructions are clearly posted. Additionally, they should ask to see the building’s most recent fire inspection reports.  

If building management is unwilling or unable to answer questions about fire safety than students and their parents should seriously consider finding other housing. 

The Division of Fire Safety serves as the central fire service agency in the State. The Division is responsible for the development and enforcement of the State Uniform Fire Code, as well as for implementing community risk reduction and firefighter training programs. 

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Tammori Petty
Lisa Ryan
Gina Trish
(609) 292-6055