Landmark Wisconsin Bill Protects College Students From Fires

MADISON, Wis., A law requiring automatic fire sprinkler systems be installed in various types of campus housing has been signed by Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle. Led by Senator Ron Brown (R-Eau Claire) and Representative Rob Kreibich (R-Eau Claire), Assembly Bill (AB) 544 requires automatic fire sprinkler systems be installed in all new construction of residence facilities on private campuses, all residence halls greater than 60 feet in height, all Greek housing in private and public colleges, and privately owned high-rise buildings that have a student population. Colleges have eight years to comply.

“This legislation is groundbreaking in the national movement to reduce tragic fire deaths of college students,” said Dan Gengler of the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) and a former Deputy Fire Chief with the Milwaukee Fire Department. “Fire is non-discriminatory. This legislation will protect students and can ultimately save lives. As a result, Wisconsin will be one of the safest states when it comes to campus housing fire safety. The passage of this landmark legislation illustrates the commitment of these lawmakers to protect all of our college students,” Gengler said.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) an average of 1,500 fires causes $9 million in damage to university residence halls and Greek housing each year. Additional studies show that deaths caused by hotel and motel fires – the structures most similar to dorms – were reduced by 91 percent when sprinklers were present. Moreover, NFPA has never been able to document a single instance of a multiple loss of life in a building with a sprinkler system that is fully functional.

AB 544 passed with bipartisan effort and garnered the support of the Wisconsin State Firefighters’ Association, the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs Association, the Wisconsin Alliance for Fire Safety and the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges & Universities (WAICU).

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