September Is Campus Fire Safety Awareness Month
A Guest Column by State Senator Bill Beagle
September 16, 2014
[ Bill Beagle Home | Bill Beagle Press ]

September marks the beginning of a new school year, the start of football season and cooler weather, but more importantly, it’s Campus Fire Safety Month.  Last month I introduced Senate Bill 359 which addresses the very real need for improved fire safety measures in off-campus and rental homes.

Nearly two years ago on January 1, 2013, two families in our community endured a horrific tragedy.  Ellen Garner, graduate of Tippecanoe High School, and Chad Kohls, graduate of Centerville High School, were trapped in a third story attic bedroom when a fire started on the second floor of a University of Cincinnati off-campus house.  The only safe exit from the room was an internal staircase, which quickly became engulfed in smoke.  The 36-foot jump from the third story window that was blocked by an A/C unit onto the cement pavement was not a viable escape route.  Ellen and Chad were trapped and decided to try to escape through the smoke-filled stairwell.  Ellen and Chad passed out from smoke inhalation before the fire department could rescue them, and tragically, the two later passed away at a nearby hospital.

After subsequent conversations about fire safety with fire prevention experts, rental property owners, and parents, like Ellen's and Chad's, I discovered that according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, egress and escape problems account for one-third of fire fatalities.  The need for legislation to protect our students and others who rent homes with a third-floor bedroom is all too apparent. 

As a solution to this problem, Senate Bill 359 requires a separate means of egress for all dwelling areas above the second story of a residential rental property, like the one that Ellen and Chad were trapped inside.  An egress ladder, a one-time $250 cost, is an inexpensive safety measure that could save lives in the event of a fire. 

It is my hope that Senate Bill 359 will honor Ellen and Chad and work to encourage greater fire safety awareness that could save lives.  One basic fire safety tip is to always have two ways out.  When a fire breaks out, you have moments to make a decision on how you will escape.  Every second matters and ensuring you have an escape plan is critical. I encourage you to make that plan now. Once you have a plan, practice your home fire drill with your family or roommates at least twice a year.

More tips on fire safety and information on Senate Bill 359 are available at: Please feel free to contact my office with any questions about Senat Bill 359 or other issues that are important to you. I can be reached at (614) 466-4247 or

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