COMMACK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It is college application season, and one father has a warning for parents and high school seniors.
While college shopping, make sure that you take into account fire safety precautions and equipment in student housing.
As CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, the advice came from the father of a student who died in an off campus fire.
Bobby Fitzsimmons faced a parent’s nightmare. His daughter Kerry Rose Fitzsimmons was a senior at Marist College when she died.
“It’s the last thing parents think of. They think of safety all the time, but not fire safety,” Bobby said.
Nearly three years after the blaze that killed three students sleeping in an off campus house without fire sprinklers, firefighters from Kerry’s hometown of Commack are working to make college housing safer.
Many dorm rooms, fraternities, and sororities predate sprinkler laws.
“If the building was built before a certain time period when it wasn’t required to have sprinklers, it is still not required to have sprinklers,” Commack Fire Marshal Joseph DiGiose said.
They are backing legislation that would require colleges to inform students and parents about sprinklers in dorms.
Congressman Steve Israel (D-New York) called the information essential.
“You go on a college tour, these colleges tell you everything you need to know except for the safest thing, do you have fire equipment where you are going to sleep,” Israel said.
Sprinklers in newer dormitories are standard issue at Stony Brook University where fire safety is part of the education.
“Everything from your orientation to your first training on campus, we discuss fire safety,” Director of Residential Risk Management, David Scarzella said.
However, colleges don’t regulate off campus housing, and students don’t always bother to check.
“Fire sprinkler and fire alarms are important. Maybe I should check up, because I’m not sure if I have them,” Jason Sanchez said.
New York State has already passed legislation named in memory of Kerry Fitzsimmons. Her parents are now pushing for a federal notification law.
On average there are 4,000 college house fires every year.
Fire officials say you are 80-percent more likely to survive a fire if there are sprinklers in the building.
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