St. John's University is currently the only college with dormitories and the only one legislation would affect in Queens. Still, Avella said new and higher standards in dorm fire safety are needed. "It's a national issue and I was shocked to find out that New York City doesn't have better fire preventions in place for colleges," he said. He contends the preventable nature of recent dormitory fires reflect a need for tighter legislation. "Over the last five years, there have been 75 fire-related deaths on college campuses across the United States," Avella said. "These fatalities can be prevented."Sprinklers systems are intended to contain, not prevent, fires and the U.S. Department of Commerce said they "can significantly increase a person's chances of surviving a dormitory fire." Currently only New Jersey, Delaware, Illinois and Wisconsin require sprinklers in dormitories.Avella cited a deadly blaze that claimed the life of six students at New Jersey's Seton Hall University in 2000 as well as one that led to a student's death at Tennessee's Southern Adventist University last month. He acknowledged the additional expense that mandatory sprinklers would pose to colleges and universities but said the measure would help assure parents that their children were safe while living at college. "Although there is obviously an added cost for the installation of sprinklers, it is essential that students on every campus have this important fire protection," he said.The proposal has been referred to the Council's Housing and Building Committee and a hearing may be scheduled for September. "I received very positive response from some of my colleagues and I'm hearing from parents who have children in these dorms and are tremendously concerned."Avella's proposed legislation coincided with a national summit on campus fire safety that was scheduled in Washington, D.C. last week.
©2005 Community News Group
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