Fire safety email, explained

Claire Henry, Contributing Writer

Broadway, a popular street near campus, is home to many off-campus residencies. (Josh Jessiman)

This month’s fire safety email from Dean Erica Woodley caught the attention of off-campus students, leaving many uncertain about their homes’ fire safety measures. 

In the email, Woodley said the state fire marshal will conduct spot-checks on residences with more than four occupants to ensure they are up to fire code following neighbors’ concerns about the fire safety conditions of residences occupied by Tulane University students. 

The new push for fire safety stems from complaints by the community surrounding Tulane, who have long been critical of “doubles-to-dorms” — family homes landlords turn into multi-bedroom complexes for large groups of students. 

But the email warned the fire marshal has the authority to vacate properties deemed unsafe, leaving some off-campus students worried about how that enforcement might affect their housing. 

“I don’t think it’s fair that people could be forced out of their house by the fire marshal even though they didn’t know about this when they signed the lease,” junior Kaitlyn Wesneski said. “I get that it’s for our safety, but it feels like they’re punishing the tenants instead of the landlords.”

Ashley Rodrigue, spokesperson for the state fire marshal, recently told The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate that eviction is a last-case scenario. According to Rodrigue, the fire marshal intends to communicate with landlords to make residences compliant with commercial fire safety standards as quickly as possible. 

Other students said they were glad that the school is taking action to address off-campus housing safety, even if the effort comes a little late. 

“It’s good that they’re finally pressuring landlords to do something,” senior Cece Bouza, who had to buy and install smoke detectors herself when she moved into her current off-campus residence, said. “My house had been rented out to Tulane students for a few years before I moved in, and there still weren’t any smoke detectors when I got here.”

Bouza added that she believes the school still has more work to do. 

“I think Tulane should have some sort of fire safety education for off-campus students because for most of us this is our first time living on our own, and we don’t know what to look out for. We don’t know how to be prepared for a fire or a similar emergency,” she said. 

Katie McCormick, a junior living off-campus, echoed Bouza’s recommendation for fire safety education. “My apartment is fire safety compliant, but I used to have a desk blocking one of the exits in my room that I wouldn’t have been able to move out of the way in an emergency,” she said. “I moved it after I saw the email.” 

Woodley recommended all students living off campus have the following, even if they have 4 people or fewer in their residence:

  At least one smoke alarm in every bedroom, as well as one on every floor in hallways outside of sleeping areas.

  Two exits for every room. If a window is one of the exits, and it’s above the first floor, it needs a ladder. Exit windows cannot have security bars or be sealed.

  An ABC, multi-purpose fire extinguisher on every level of the home.

  Carbon monoxide detectors installed in the home.

Woodley said Tulane is considering some form of fire safety education. 

“We do hope to ramp up education about fire safety to make sure that our students, particularly those who choose to live off campus, understand the basic components that are required by law as well as what experts recommend,” Woodley said. 

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