Saturday, August 18, 2018

Commissioner Causey, UNC Asheville reach agreement to abate new dorm safety issues, allow student to move into residence halls immediately

Aug 18, 2018

Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey and UNC Asheville Chancellor Nancy J. Cable have reached a late-night agreement that will address fire safety concerns and allow students to move into their dorms immediately.

The Commissioner and the Chancellor worked into Friday night, along with attorneys and technical staff, to craft the agreement.

"I want to thank Chancellor Cable for her diligence and patience in working through the process with our attorneys, and for her concern for the safety and well-being of students, faculty, and first responders," Commissioner Causey said. "She and her staff were very cordial, and she kept a calm demeanor under a lot of stress."

"I take my statutory responsibility to make sure all state buildings, including university buildings, are safe seriously," Commissioner Causey said. "State law allows NCDOI to intervene only after the State Construction Office issues a Certificate of Occupancy. In this case, the Certificate of Occupancy was issued one day before the semester began. That required quick action by DOI’s Risk Management Division because of construction hazards and life-safety issues in the event of a fire."

The University has agreed to the following abatement plan:

  • Repositioning the valves on the water supply pipes in the stairwells so that when firehoses are attached to them, they will no longer pose an obstruction to evacuating residents.4
  • Installing a sprinkler system in the attic of each dormitory acceptable to the Department of Insurance and the State Construction Office. This will make the dorms and stairwells safer in the event of a fire.

The agreement includes special fire protection measures for the University to take to protect students while the abatement takes place:

  • The University must allow the Asheville Fire Department to park a fire engine with a 35-foot ladder near the dormitories.
  • The University will house four Asheville firefighters in one of the dorms free of charge. In addition, a 24-hour fire watch by a competent adult shall be implemented in each of the other four dorms.

In the spring of 2018, the Asheville Fire Department alerted NCDOI of fire hazards in the construction of the residence halls. The NCDOI Risk Management Division proactively recommended ways to remedy the hazards. By law, NCDOI could not intervene until the State Construction Office issued its Certificate of Occupancy.

"It is my desire that the NCDOI and the State Construction Office work hand-in-hand in future construction endeavors to ensure the safe construction of our state buildings and that they stay on schedule," Commissioner Causey said.

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