Bethesda Student, One Other Die in Off-Campus House Fire in Colorado

(From NBC 4 – Read Full Story Here)

Twenty-one-year-old Adam Michael Lockard, a former summer employee at City Bikes in the Washington, DC area, was attending Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado. He and another WSC student, 18-year-old Lucy Causley of Harbor Springs, Mich., died in the fire in the 100 block of N. Colorado Street Saturday morning.

An initial investigation indicated the fire started on the outside of the house and spread inside, according to the Denver Post. Officials said they are still trying to determine whether the fire was intentionally set or accidental.

Post by Mike Rupert

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Landlords: Spaceheaters Cannot be Only Source of Heat in DC

The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs has received several calls from residents over the past week asking if it is legal for landlords to provide space heaters as the only source of heat. While using space heaters in and of itself is obviously not illegal, the District does not allow them to be the sole source of heat – they were not designed to be.

Without too much code/legal jargon, DCRA interprets the 2006 International Property Maintenance Code and 14 DC MR code is that when the space heater is turned off, the building heating facilities must maintain the minimum prescriptive temperature 68 degrees or 70 degrees. (IPMC 68 degrees F, 14 DCMR 501.2, 70 Degrees F). Here’s the code:

HEATING FACILITIES
602.1 Facilities required. Heating facilities shall be provided in structures as required by this section.602.2 Residential occupancies. Dwellings shall be provided with heating facilities capable of maintaining a room temperature of 68°F (20°C) in all habitable rooms, bathrooms and toilet rooms based on the winter outdoor design temperature for the locality indicated in AppendixD of the International Plumbing Code. Cooking appliances shall not be used to provide space heating to meet the requirements of this section.

Space heaters are not designed, per their listing, to be capable of maintaining room temperature in a dwelling. Space heaters are not to be confused with permanent wall mounted electric baseboard heating, when installed with a thermostat, and according to code, is accepted means of heat. So essentially, using a space heater to be the main source of heat is not that much different than using your stove in terms of how we enforce the law.

Many municipalities outright amend their codes to state “Space heaters shall not provide the minimum heat requirements in a dwelling…”. We rely on the interpretation of heating facilities, and that space heaters are not designed to heat an entire dwelling unit.

If you live in a rental unit using only space heaters this winter, we highly reccomend you contact your landlord and explain this to them. If they are not responsive, call 202-442-9557 or email us and schedule an inspection ASAP. 

Here are some other Winter Heating Safety Tips:

Electric Space Heaters
Keep space heaters 3 feet form furniture, bedding, clothing, walls or other things that burn. Use only heaters that have been tested and approved by U.L. or another respected testing lab. Make sure your space heater has an automatic shut-off feature for tip-overs. Do not use heaters that have worn or frayed cords or plugs. Use electrical outlets conservatively. Remember that overloaded circuits can cause fires. Never use kerosene heaters inside a house.

Fireplace & Woodstoves
Have your chimney inspected by a professional annually and have it cleaned as needed. Always use a fire screen. Spark arresters are required. Never leave children unattended around a fireplace or woodstove. Be sure the fore is out before going to bed or away from the house. Never burn trash, Christmas paper or trees in your fireplace or woodstove. When cleaning out the ashes, place them into metal containers only, and dampen slightly. Never store discarded ashes inside or adjacent your home. Woodstoves require a 36″ clearance form combustible surfaces. Woodstoves should be U.L. approved and installed pursuant to all applicable codes.

Electric Blankets
Follow manufacture guidelines regarding proper use, maintenance and replacement. Never leave the blanket on high for any exceeded period. Never bunch or wad the blanket up, or fold it in a heap. Turning you blanket off when you turn your alarm off is a simple, safe habit. Upon rising, smooth the blanket out flat to avoid concentrating the heat. Small children, invalids or the elderly should never use electric blankets because these persons have decreased abilities to sense high heat.

Kitchen Stoves & Ovens
Never use kitchen burners or the oven as heating devices. Remember that an electric burner, left on for extended periods, can reach a temperature of 1000 degrees, and can cause adjacent walls to ignite.

Tips Courtesy of Pierce Township, Ohio.

DC Colleges Must Provide Detailed Report on Fire Incidents

For the first time, students and parents will have access to detailed information about fire-related incidents, prevention measures and other fire safety information for the District of Columbia’s many colleges and universities after the U.S. Department of Education published final regulations for the Campus Fire Safety Right-to-Know provisions of the Higher Education Opportunity Act signed (The regulations can be downloaded from www.campus-firewatch.com). 

Starting in October 2010, schools with student housing will be required to annually report fire safety information to the U.S. Department of Education, including:

  • The number of fire-related fatalities and injuries
  • The number of fires and the damage they cause
  • Fire safety features of the residence halls including automatic fire sprinklers and fire alarm systems
  • Fire safety education provided to students

If your apartment of off-campus house does not have smoke alarms or has other safety issues, please call 202-442-9557 and schedule a safety inspection immediately.

Support National Campus Fire Safety Month

NationalFireSafety2009

This is an extra special message to all colleges and universities here in the District. Many of you are getting ready for graduation and taking summer courses–maybe even working a summer job.  But, we’d like for you to take a moment to consider supporting National Campus Fire Safety Month, which will officially kick off on September 17th, shortly after many of  you return from summer break.  It runs the entire month of September.  So, start putting your plans together now, including whether you want to host any special events to educate your peers about fire safety.  The summer will have come and gone before  you know it and it’s best to at least have an idea of how you want to honor the month before you leave for break.

This will mark the fifth year of National Campus Fire Safety Month and organizers are making a big push on Capitol Hill.  They are hoping Congress will assist them in urging schools to host fire safety courses for students.  Over 80 percent of the college students who have died in fires have met their end in off-campus  housing.  Daniel Rigby, a Georgetown University student, died in a fire in off-campus housing he was renting back in 2004.  His family and friends have been honoring his life with an annual 5k run and ball for the past five years.

“The value of National Campus Fire Safety Month comes from everyone joining together, both in Washington and across the nation, to make students, parents, schools and communities aware of the importance of fire safety on our campuses,” said Ed Comeau, publisher of Campus Firewatch. 

This year’s motto for National Campus Fire Safety Month is “Fire Safety — It’s Part of Living” and it couldn’t be more appropriate.  Fire safety is a matter of life and death and DCRA wants the time spent by every student visiting the District for higher learning to be safe and enjoyable.  So, start thinking about how you want to take part in National Campus Fire Safety month and let us know what you guys are doing!  We’d love to partner with you, highlight some of the things you are doing or just support your efforts in general.  Don’t forget to take a look at the wealth of information right here at thisshouldbeillegal.com and let us know if there’s something else you think we should post.  We’d love to hear it.  We will be continuing our own crusade to educate students about fire safety.

Check out the heart-wrenching video below of the father of a Miami University student who was killed in an off-campus house fire back in 2005.  It’s a story no parent should have to tell…..

Thanks for Noticing Us, New York Times.

The efforts of the DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and its thisshouldbeillegal.com campaign were featured in the New York Times today. Check it out. It’s been a good week for us. We’re approaching 10,000 hits since we launched in late September and this week we’ve received phone calls from universities in South Carolina and Texas on how to replicate what we’re trying to do for the students in the District of Columbia.

We can’t say this enough. Our goal is to make sure housing is safe in the District – whether we get involved or not. We’ve got tools to do your own inspections, tips for planning escape routes, link to request free smoke detectors and installation from DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services, and much, much more. Mayor Fenty and DCRA Director Linda Argo are committed to do whatever it takes. And not just for students. Every District resident has the ability to use our services. And as you can see from the story in the NY Times and the features on this blog, we are getting results.

So, if you live in the District, use any of the communications tools we have to let us your know your problems and we will do our best to resolve them as quickly as possible. Try us on Facebook, Twitter, email us or call 202-442-4513 and we’ll get working right away. Or call 202-442-9557 first thing Monday morning and request an inspection immediately.

Let’s keep the momentum going.

DC Fire & Emergency Medical Services Wants To Help You Too

The DC Fire & Emergency Medical Services Department is partnering with DCRA to reach out to college students who live off-campus. DC Fire & EMS has issued a new bulletin to help students protect themselves.

For the full list of tips for those living off-campus, click here.

One of the key ways you can make your rental unit safer is to ensure there are smoke alarms in all sleeping areas and hallways, stairwells etc. Test the alarm regularly to make sure it is working. If the dwelling does not have a smoke alarm, contact the Office of the Fire Marshal at 202-727-1600 to report no smoke alarm or any fire code violation.

Or you can request to have smoke alarms installed at no charge by submitting an online form.