Ordinance Requiring Sprinklers in Fraternities and Sororities Passed Day After Teen is Saved from a Fire by Sprinkler in Missouri

BELCHERTOWN, Mass., January 3, 2007 - The Columbia (Missouri) City Council unanimously passed an ordinance requiring the installation of automatic fire sprinklers in all fraternities and sororities by December 31, 2012. Testifying at the hearing was Donna Passantino Henson, who lost her son, Dominic, in a fraternity fire in 1999 at the University of Missouri.

"I am so pleased that Columbia has taken such a major step in helping to protect the lives of our children," said Henson. "As parents, we all need to make sure that our children are safe and protected, and this ordinance will help tremendously."

The vote came one day after a fire that broke out in a Columbia apartment where an 18-year-old-male was injured in a fire that started when he was smoking while lying on a futon. According to a fire official, the smoke alarm in the apartment unit had been disabled and the occupant was intoxicated, impairing his ability to react to the fire. A sprinkler head in the apartment was activated by the heat, extinguishing the fire and activating the building’s fire alarm system.

"Had the fire sprinkler and fire alarm system not been in place, it is very probable that the occupant would have suffered extensive burn and smoke inhalation injuries, possibly death, and the fire damage to the apartment and probably the building would have been significant," reported Battalion Chief Steve Sapp with the Columbia Fire Department.

Since January 2000, 94 people have died in campus-related fires across the country, as identified by Campus Firewatch. Almost 90% of them have occurred in off-campus and Greek housing and a number of them include common factors such as: