New NY Law Mandates Fire Inspections, Annual Reports From Schools – New City, NY Patch

Posted By on December 18, 2019

ROCKLAND COUNTY, NY Lawmakers representing Rockland County commended Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for signing legislation to regulate the process of conducting annual fire inspection reports for public and private schools.

Assembly Member Kenneth Zebrowski has been working on the issue for some time.

"Every school building, public and private, should be safe and up to code. Unfortunately, school inspection regulations have been untouched for decades, leading to an outdated process where some school buildings can be left un-inspected and unsafe," he said in an announcement sent out by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office. "This bill overhauls the process to ensure every school is inspected, by only qualified individuals, with accountability and enforcement. I thank Governor Cuomo for his collaboration on these critical reforms."

The bill prohibits unqualified persons from conducting the inspection and requires schools to request inspection from the local fire department or certified fire inspector. The bill also provides schools with flexibility in meeting the public notice requirements associated with these inspections and eliminates the "hold harmless" provision which has allowed inspectors who made errors on an inspection reports to evade liability.

Poorly done or fraudulent fire inspections or the lack of them entirely have been a contentious issue in Rockland County. In 2016 New York state education department officials found many serious safety violations at the local schools they checked.

Firefighters warned that some private schools in the local Hasidic community were unsafe and the children were in danger. SEE: Fire Captain Says Local Yeshivas Unsafe: VIDEO.

At one point, a new group called the School Religious Freedom Coalition wrote to then-Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia informing her that the yeshivos would not be allowing Rockland inspectors into their buildings, reported. They accused county officials of anti-Semitism. The yeshivas later permitted the inspectors in.

"School fire inspections keep our children safe and protect our first responders," said NY Senator David Carlucci. "Our new law will strengthen inspections by ensuring they are done in a timely manner by qualified individuals who are held liable when problems are not corrected."

While current law requires schools to submit an annual fire safety report which includes an inspection of school buildings, there is no recourse for schools who fail to do so. The bill clarifies the current power of the commissioner to deny the certificate of occupancy if a public school fails to correct deficiencies following an inspection. If a private school fails to comply with the requirement, the commissioner must inspect or request a local authority to inspect the building.

"The safety of our children is a top priority, and while school fire inspections are sometimes perceived as just another administrative requirement, the truth is that lives can be endangered if they aren't done right," Cuomo said. "This law will help ensure these inspections are handled by qualified and properly trained individuals, so that students are protected and avoidable tragedies are prevented."


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New NY Law Mandates Fire Inspections, Annual Reports From Schools - New City, NY Patch

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