"I was able to write President Bush and Campus Fire Watch in the same graph. That was different"
That's the reaction of Ed Comeau, founder of Center for Campus Fire Safety, to his announcement that President Bush had signed the Higher Education Act.
The legislation contains a provision that requires colleges and universities to make fire safety information public as well as report incidents to the U.S. Secretary of Education, Comeau said.
Bush signed the bill last week without much fanfare, and without fire safety advocates including victims' families watching.
Comeau is just glad that the ink is dry.
It's been a long struggle to get the legislation through. The measure was initiated in 2001 by New Jersey representatives following the deadly fire in 2000 at Seton Hall University that claimed three people and injured 54..,p> The attempt for stand alone bills didn't survive, however.
But, Comeau said the momentum to get campus fire safety recognized never waned.
The bill requires colleges to release information about sprinklers, alarms and prevention efforts as well as numbers of fires. They also will have to provide details of any injuries or deaths.
"This is information that people should consider before chosing a college," he said, adding that fire safety should be considered right along with academics and athletics.
"We're encouraging schools to pay more attention to fire safety because we'll all be watching. Colleges that have good programs will now have an opportunity to showcase them."
There isn't time for campus safety advocates to sit back, however. The work is far from over. Now, the rules and regulations are being developed.
"We encourage people to get involved, and give us ideas how the law should be implemented,"he said.