COLUMBUS—State Representative Rick Perales (R-Beavercreek) today introduced legislation aimed at keeping renters safe in the event of a fire. The bill requires a separate means of egress for all dwelling areas above the second story of a residential rental property.
Currently, rental homes that have more than two stories are not required to have any secondary means of egress. Additionally, it is common for landlords, specifically for off-campus housing near colleges, to renovate an attic or top floor into a bedroom, despite the staircase being the only safe means of egress.
“This is an issue that is particularly important to me, especially since I dealt with a similar situation in 2000 when I was Executive Director of Facilities at the University of Dayton,” Rep. Perales said. “I want to make sure that we are taking every appropriate measure to ensure the safety of our students and renters in this type of housing. Parents sending their children off to college expect as much, it's our responsibility and the right thing to do.”
The need for legislative action became evident after two University of Cincinnati students, Ellen Garner and Chad Kohls, were trapped in a third story attic bedroom when a fire started on the second floor. 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 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 the two later passed away at a nearby hospital.
The bill would require adoption of rules in the state fire code requiring a simple secondary means of egress. Anything from a rope ladder, to a permanent fixed exterior egress would qualify as a “secondary means of egress” and could save lives.
State Senators Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City) and Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) also introduced similar legislation today in the Ohio Senate. Both pieces of legislation now await committee assignments.