By Brett Friedensohn & Jannat Sheikh
Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor
The New Jersey Division of Fire Safety has been working with Randolph Township’s fire code official to resolve County College of Morris’ outdated fire inspection certificates, according to Department of Community Affairs Communications Office Strategic Director Lisa Ryan.
Currently, there are multiple areas on campus with outdated fire inspection certificates. Updated certificates are required by the state to be posted.
Karen Vanderhoof, vice president of business and finance at CCM, said that after a meeting Monday, Oct. 23 with Randolph Fire Official Richard Briant, the two parties agreed that the college will take down outdated certificates and post updated ones in the Dragonetti Auditorium, the Davidson Rooms, the Health and Physical Education Building, the Cohen Cafe, the Learning Resource Center, the Plant and Maintenance Building, and the lecture halls in Sheffield Hall, Cohen Hall, and DeMare Hall.
Briant said he was in contact with a representative of the Division of Fire Safety to make sure the certificates are posted in the area or areas required by the code. Before a meeting with the division Monday, Oct. 30, he He said that the purpose of it was “to have an agreement” with the Division of Fire Safety.
As of Tuesday, Oct. 31, outdated Uniform Fire Code Certificates of Inspection are still up in five areas on campus.
These areas are Sheffield Hall, Cohen Hall, Emeriti Hall, the Student Center Cafe, and the Student Community Center as a whole. The SCC has posted a Life Hazard Use Certificate of Registration which is made out to “County College of Morris Library” and expired Sunday, Nov. 5.
An expired certificate of inspection in the auditorium box office window was taken down, but an outdated Life Hazard Use Certificate of Registration is up in the hallway outside the box office as of Friday, Nov. 2. The certificate expired in 2014, is made out to “County College of Morris Library,” and does not indicate that it is registered for the auditorium.
Despite the majority of the campus’ science labs being situated in Sheffield Hall, VanDerhoof said that science labs do not fall under the building qualifications that would constitute the necessity for certificates posted. She said that public buildings that do require them are recreation centers and places of assembly and fuel dispensing.
Ryan said that classrooms qualify as places of assembly and did not specify if this applies to only K-12 or includes college. She said that science labs qualify as life hazard use buildings depending on “the quantities of waste or chemicals stored in the building.”
When asked to comment on Ryan’s statement, VanDerhoof said that code is very complex and specifies that classrooms for K-12 be inspected.
“The code also gives a lot of authority to the local fire official,” VanDerhoof said in an email. “We have always worked closely with our local code official.”
Youngtown publically disclosed eight outdated certificates Wednesday, Oct. 11. These certificates included the one in Sheffield Hall, which expired in 2010. Youngtown first reported on the issue in November 2016.
In the Oct. 11 report, CCM Compliance Officer Dawn Latincsics said that the college had in possession updated certificates for all CCM buildings but that there was no posting requirement. Briant and Department of Community Affairs Communications Director Tomari Petty, however, said that the law states otherwise. On Friday, Nov. 3, Latincsics clarified that the certificates are required to be posted in Life Hazard Use areas.
Latincsics also said that day that CCM will keep on record all updated fire certificates in the department of public safety instead of plastering them around the campus. Latincsics said that Briant spoke with a state representative who will allow CCM to keep all the certificates and registrations in a binder kept in the department of public safety available and accessible for anyone to view.
“That way, we don’t have to go running around remembering where the last person in charge of it stuck it on,” Latincsics said.
Each certificate of inspection states, “This certificate must be posted in a conspicuous location in the above premises.” The premise listed above this statement is the building to which the certificate is registered.
Before the meeting between VanDerhoof and Briant, Youngtown staff found one more area with an outdated certificate and four with no certificates posted at all.
The Davidson Rooms’ fire code certificate and Sterno use permit expired in 2013. They were both taken down by Monday, Oct. 23. The areas with no certificates posted were DeMare Hall, HPE, the LRC, and the Music Technology Center.
The Uniform Fire Safety Act of 1983 states that certain public buildings must be inspected periodically depending on their potential risk for fire-related incidents and that after an area is inspected, it must display a certificate of inspection in an inconspicuous location.
The act was first passed because of several multiple-death fires within the state, according to Petty.
On Jan. 19, 2000, three students were killed and 59 injured after a fire in a Seton Hall University residence hall fire; students who pleaded guilty said that they intended it as a prank, according to New Jersey Advance Media. Campus administrators said that the university was under complete compliance with the fire code, but since, the university has since made several fire safety strides including updating and installing sprinklers and banning smoking in all residence halls.
Briant returned to CCM at the end of October to reinspect violations he found over the summer and certificates have now been been issued for the building where corrective action has taken place.
Briant said there are a few buildings that share a violation that requires a specialized contractor to complete the work. He is allowing time for the work to be done, and the extension date is Sunday, Dec. 31. The certificate for Sheffield Hall is not issued due to the extension of time, according to Briant.
Latincsics said that a common violation at CCM is that sprayed on fireproofing insulation has fallen off of beams and that the college needs quotes from three vendors before work is done on this. She also said that Briant will need to return after Dec. 31 to insure that the correct changes are made. CCM will receive the most updated versions of the certificate for each building when it is completely satisfactory.
If any old certificates are found around campus, VanDerhoof and Latincsics said they would appreciate if it is brought to their attention and taken down. They can be reached respectively at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Latincsics said that she and representatives from public safety have looked around for outdated certificates to take down but have not been able to find many.
“For the life of me, I have no idea where they still might be,” Latincsics said.