Officials sound alarm about schools without current fire safety reports
Hundreds of schools in the Hudson Valley may not be up to code on fire safety, but Rockland County officials are hoping that's about to change.
Fire officials sounded the alarm Wednesday about private schools across Rockland County that don't have current fire safety reports.
Lawmakers say those that do were often filed by people not even qualified to conduct fire inspections.
“Lay people, regular folks, were able to inspect these schools that employed them and check off the boxes,” says Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski.
Zebrowski says he hopes that will all change after a new state bill he co-sponsored was signed into law Tuesday.
The law allows the state to take action against both public and private schools if they don't file fire safety reports annually and if those reports aren't conducted by qualified inspectors.
“When we started this process, about 50% of private schools weren't inspected. Now, through regulatory changes, we've gotten up to 90%. With this bill, we're hoping to get up to 100%,” says Zebrowski.
The new law also gives fire inspectors access to schools at any time. That's something that hasn't always happened in the past.
Justin Schwartz, of Rockland's illegal housing task force, says some homes in the county get converted into yeshivas without even being inspected for fire safety. It’s something he says puts children, teachers and firefighters at risk.
“You don't know what you're really walking into. And if they don't have adequate hall space or exit options, then it's only one way in and one way out, it's a tragedy waiting to happen,” he says.
The new law goes into effect next February.