MU’s Greek houses desperately need better fire protection

Monday, October 22, 2007 | 3:25 p.m. CDT; updated 9:53 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Mayor and City Council:

I am writing to urge you to continue to support the fire code approved in January that requires sororities and fraternities to install a fire sprinkler system. No additional time should be given for compliance with the requirement past 2013. In fact, because of the life safety issue involved here, the date for compliance should be accelerated.

Buildings that house sororities and fraternities are “special use” housing units, and cannot be compared with multifamily or other dwelling places.

These “special use” housing units are generally packed with an unusually large and significant amount of furnishings and materials resulting in a “fire load” not typically found in other dwelling places.

Many of these houses were built prior to the implementation of present-day building codes. The interiors, soffits, and attics of these houses tend to lack adequate smoke and fire separation components. In addition, numerous occupants are roomed in small areas, and in many cases the occupants cannot gain immediate access to the exterior in case of fire.

These special circumstances, coupled with the fact that the number of people attending events at these houses may at times number in the hundreds, combine to create a design for disaster.

Even one human life is worth the relatively small amount of money required to sprinkle these structures. As a caring community let’s do the right thing and require these housing units to have a fire sprinkler system.

The sooner the better!

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Ellis Smith October 26, 2007 | 2:49 p.m.

Close the offending fraternity and sorority houses and re-open them, on a case by case basis, only when they meet fire codes.

If a disaster should occur at one of these houses and legal actions (in common parlance, "lawsuits") occur, the university may very well find itself named as a defendant. Maybe MU can afford that, but Missouri taxpayers cannot.

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