Campus officials say fire safety certificates have been issued, not displayed
By Jannat Sheikh
County College of Morris has not posted in eight areas on campus updated fire safety inspection certificates required by the state, with many expiring before Youngtown first reported on the issue in November 2016.
The Randolph Township Fire Department has inspected the entire campus, but the college has not posted current certifications, according to Dawn Latincsics, compliance officer of human resources and former environmental health and safety coordinator department of public safety.
The areas behind on posting certificates are the Student Community Center, Student Center Cafe, Dragonetti Auditorium, Henderson Hall, Sheffield Hall, Cohen Hall, Cohen Cafe, and Emeriti Hall.
The New Jersey State Uniform Fire Safety Act of 1983 contains the state’s Uniform Fire Code which says that certain public buildings must be inspected periodically depending on their potential risk for fire-related incidents. It also says that when an area is inspection, there must be in it a certificate of inspection displayed in a conspicuous location. Each certificate includes dates of inspection and expiration.
Latincsics said that Richard Briant, Fire Official from the Bureau of Fire Prevention at the Randolph Township Fire Department, inspected every building on campus over the summer.
Briant said that the new certificates have not been issued because the college needs time to show that it has fixed violations and that the Fire Department gives CCM 30 days to take care of the violations. However, Latincsics turned over to Youngtown a copy of an updated certificate for the Cohen Cafe which has not been posted. The certificate says that it was issued Thursday, Sept. 14 and will expire Sept. 30, 2018 and explicitly says that there are no fire safety violations with the area.
In addition, Latincsics said there were “minor findings” that violated the code in some of the buildings during the inspection. Briant said that he expects to return in late October to re-inspect the campus.
Latincsics also said that there is no requirement to post the certificates although each one says, “This certificate must be posted in a conspicuous location in the above premises.”
In addition, Briant said that the updated certificates are required to be displayed in a prominent location.
“I think some of them are just old certificates that have been posted and just not taken down,” Latincsics said. “ There’s not a requirement to post them. But, [Briant] does come up frequently to check requirements of the code depending on the life hazard use of the building.”
Moreover, one of these certificates states that it expired almost 10 years ago. The certificate of inspection located in Emeriti Hall was issued Oct. 12, 2007 and expired Aug. 31, 2008. The one in Cohen Hall was issued Dec. 23, 2009 and expired Sept. 30, 2010. The Henderson Hall certificate was issued April 19, 2013 and expired Feb. 15, 2015.
“The inspections are done as required by the Randolph Fire Marshal,” Latincsics said. “Certificates are old or out of date, and some actually expired …We’re not posting them any further, as far as I know …There isn’t a current work order that has been put out, but that’s something that we can look at to see where [the certificates] are and bring them down so we don’t have the confusion.”
The Uniform Fire Code describes life hazard use as “the use of a building or structure that may constitute a potential risk to human life, public welfare or firefighters.” The majority of the campus’ science labs are situated in Sheffield Hall, and the culinary arts classes are taught in the Student Center.
Non-life hazard use buildings are checked periodically, Briant said. However, the CCM auditorium is required to be inspected quarterly while other buildings are checked annually.
Some concerned students at CCM said they would appreciate updated certificates.
“They should update it unless they want problems if students start posting it on social media,” said Zay Ellison, an early childhood development major at CCM. “I don’t think the school wants to get in trouble over a simple task to just change a sheet of paper.”
Ellison said students should feel reassured that their safety is CCM’s first priority, but instead these certificates might end up making students feel unsafe.
Like Ellison, another student believes that this can lead CCM to unnecessary trouble.
“To be honest, I think it’s a bad look for the college considering these forms are being publicly displayed,” said Fahad Siddiqui, a biology major at CCM. “They are expired for multiple years already, and I feel like some students who actually care might even complain to higher authority feeling as if they are not safe.”
On the other hand, one student tried looking at the situation through the school’s perspective.
“I would believe that running a college is a lot of work and very time consuming,” said Abbey Long, a journalism major at CCM. “They could just be busy and forgot.”