Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Illinois Signs Law for Sprinklers in Greek Houses

Quinn signs college sprinkler bill at ISU

By Michele Steinbacher

NORMAL - Gov. Pat Quinn used the backdrop of an Illinois State University dorm on Tuesday to sign a law expanding requirements for sprinklers for fraternities and sororities associated with Illinois campuses.

The state’s fire safety experts recommended the legislation, said Quinn. “Firefighters know when you install sprinklers you are protecting the people,” he said.

House Bill 5664 requires fraternity and sorority housing to be equipped with automatic sprinkler systems. This goes into effect Jan. 1, 2011, for new construction and January 2019 for existing fraternity and sorority houses.

“Embrace this (law) as if it were your child sleeping in the Greek housing,” said Kathleen Moritz of Evergreen Park, who attended Tuesday’s event. Her son, Tanner Osborn, was a 22-year-old college student who died in a 2005 apartment fire in Chicago.

Quinn also spoke of another recent law he signed that requires all housing units in Illinois to have a backup power supply for smoke detectors run on the building’s electrical system. Sites affected include houses, apartments, nursing homes and other residential units constructed or substantially renovated after Jan. 1, 2011.

Praising the new sprinkler system law, Normal Fire Chief Mick Humer said only three ISU-sanctioned fraternities and sororities currently have such sprinkler systems.

“It’s one of those things where it’s an added layer of safety,” said Humer.

ISU is home to more than 30 fraternities and sororities - about two-thirds of those have off-campus houses. At nearby Illinois Wesleyan University, 12 chapters have houses.

Quinn mentioned two fires at the IWU campus as evidence such a sprinkler law would improve the safety of students. In January 2008 a fire at the Phi Mu Alpha house displaced 15 men, and a September 2005 fire at the Sigma Pi house severely injured one student.

The backup-power legislation followed a 2009 fire at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. In that incident, a smoke detector failed because a storm had knocked out power.

“These laws will help prevent potentially tragic situations like we saw last year at (SIU),” Quinn said.

ISU President Al Bowman said Tuesday a backup system is being installed at Watterson Towers, and work will follow at other dorms.

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