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    February 2013

    Compliance With Federal Fire Safety Provisions

    Compliance With Federal Fire Safety ProvisionsIn January 2000, three Seton Hall University freshmen were killed and approximately 60 people were injured in a residence hall fire that two students set as a prank. According to  The Center for Campus Fire Safety, from 2000 through 2012, 19 people died in on-campus and Greek housing fires.

    Largely prompted by the Seton Hall tragedy, the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act created the  Campus Fire Safety Right-to-Know Act (FSRKA). This law does not require institutions to implement particular fire safety practices, but rather mandates disclosure of fires in on-campus housing and the institution's fire safety policies and procedures. Some people misinterpret the FSRKA provisions as requirements of the Clery Act, a separate law to promote safety, because institutions can combine certain reports under the two laws.

    Consequences for Violations

    Every educational institution wants to avoid a fire tragedy, and while compliance may be burdensome, Congress determined that the FSRKA would improve student safety. Although individuals cannot sue institutions directly under the FSRKA, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) can impose a fine of up to $35,000 per violation.

    United Educators recommends that institutions review their current practices for compliance with the federal fire safety requirements. Chapters 11-14 of the Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting, which discuss the requirements in depth, contain examples and a checklist of items to address.

    Fire Safety Provisions

    The FSRKA defines a fire as "any instance of open flame or other burning in a place not intended to contain burning or in an uncontrolled manner," regardless of the fire"s cause, size, or whether injury or damage results. Institutions with on-campus housing facilities must comply with its three major components.

    •  Maintain a publically available log of reported fires in campus housing facilities. "Reported" for these purposes means to any official at the institution. The fire log-which can be combined with the crime log required under the Clery Act-must include the date each fire was reported as well as the date, time, nature, and general location of the fire.

    •  Annually submit fire statistics to ED. For each on-campus housing facility, the institution must disclose for the most recent three years:
      • the total number of fires
      • the cause of each fire
      • the number of people killed or who suffered injuries resulting in treatment
      • the estimated value of property damage
       
    •  Publish annual Fire Safety Report (FSR) containing fire safety policies and fire statistics for each housing facility. The FSR may be combined with the annual security report required by the Clery Act. The resources below provide examples of combined and separate reports. In addition to the fire statistics provided to ED, the FSR must address specific items such as each facility's fire safety system and evacuation procedures. For a complete list of FSR requirements, see  34 C.F.R. 668.49, subsection (b).

    Resources

    You Asked UE: Residence Hall Fire Safety Tips contains suggestions to reduce the risk of fire in on-campus residences and further helpful resources.

    Tarleton State University's  2011 Annual Security Report and Annual Fire Safety Report combines the two annual reports required under the Clery Act and the Campus Fire Safety Right-to-Know Act.

    The University of Massachusetts Lowell chooses to publish the two required reports separately, but the   2011 Annual Fire Safety Report links to the Clery-mandated annual security report.

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