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College dorm where fire broke out had no sprinklers

Last month, a fire blazed through the Commons, a two-story student housing complex on the campus of SUNY Purchase. The fire began in a first-floor unit at about 10 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 4, while a student attempted to cook in the unit's kitchen.

There was no sprinkler system installed in the housing complex, and while fortunately there were no deaths or injuries, more than a score of students lost books, clothing, electronics and more in the conflagration.

For the past three decades, newly constructed college residence halls in New York have been required to have fire sprinkler systems installed. However, older dorms only have to comply with these regulations if they undergo major renovations.

How can parents of students at New York colleges and universities know whether or not their children's living accommodations are protected by sprinkler systems? In 2014, Gov. Cuomo signed the Kerry Rose Fire Sprinkler Notification Act mandating written notice whether residential facilities -- including campus housing -- is equipped with sprinkler systems. The Act was named after a Marist College student who died in a fire in an off-campus housing unit.

Fire safety and sprinkler advocates are lobbying New York's Fire Prevention and Building Code Council to update building codes to require sprinklers be installed in all newly-constructed homes. Yet just last year, the council declined to adopt the requirement when it updated its building code.

If you are injured in a fire in a dorm or apartment building, and the property owner was negligent or otherwise allowed dangerous conditions to exist, you could build a strong case of premises liability against the building owner.

Source: National Fire Protection Association, "Following campus housing fire, safety advocate pitches to sprinkler all new residences," Fred Durso, accessed Oct. 07, 2016

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