University’s Greek housing ahead of the curve in fire safety

When Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law on July 27 a bill requiring fraternity and sorority housing in Illinois to have automatic fire sprinkler systems, the University’s Greek chapters in Champaign and Urbana were already on top of it.

Fraternities and sororities in Illinois built before Jan. 1, 2011, have until Jan. 1, 2019, to install an automatic fire sprinkler system, but thanks to ordinances already passed by the two cites, the fraternities and sororities on campus will have no problem meeting that deadline.

“Both the cities of Champaign and Urbana have sprinkler ordinances that will go into effect much sooner than the state law,” said Ashley Dye, assistant dean of students and director of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs.

The Champaign City Council passed an ordinance in November 2004 requiring sprinkler systems to be installed in dormitories and other housing units. That ordinance’s deadline was in 2009, and all of the chapter houses in the city of Champaign have been found compliant, said Champaign Deputy Fire Marshal Janet Maupin.

Dye said there are only four chapter houses left in Urbana that still need to install sprinkler systems. The deadline for Urbana’s ordinance is March 2012.

“We’ve been lucky that our chapter facilities have all been able to make the significant financial investment to install automatic sprinkler systems,” Dye said.

“We can call both Champaign and Urbana a little progressive in this area by taking action early,” she added.

In 2009, Delta Tau Delta’s efforts to comply with Champaign’s ordinance hit a snag when its house, located at 401 E. John St., caught fire while its sprinkler systems were being updated. But otherwise, fire incidents at fraternities in Champaign remain small and relatively infrequent.

“We are proud to be leaders in this area and we have shared our ordinance with many other communities,” Maupin said.

Maupin said fire safety and education continues to be a priority for the Champaign Fire Department and the University’s housing units, including Greek housing. The department frequently collaborates with the University, Urbana Fire Department and the Fire Service Institute to host a fire safety program known as Fire Factor. Representatives from all Greek chapters are among the regular attendees.

“The University has the largest Greek system, and so it’s been a priority for fire services to protect its structures,” Maupin said.