NUPD report shows leased properties lack fire safety

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File Photo by Dylan Shen

This year's NUPD Safety Report shows NU leased properties lack fire safety.

Kelly Garrity, news correspondent

The Northeastern University Police Department, or NUPD, recently released its Annual Safety Report for 2019, outlining the university’s “policies, procedures, programs, and services” regarding safety in buildings owned or controlled by Northeastern. 

According to the 2019 report, leased residential facilities such as 132, 136, 165, and 171 Hemenway St.; 97 St. Stephens St.; and 220 Huntington Ave. lack three of the fire safety systems in place in regular residence halls, despite being considered on-campus housing by the university. 

The report includes a chart that shows leased residential facilities do not conduct evacuation drills, nor do they have fire alarm monitoring done on site by NUPD. Additionally, while every Northeastern-owned building has a full sprinkler system, only seven of the 21 leased properties have full sprinkler systems. 

Eight buildings have partial sprinkler systems and six have no sprinkler systems at all. Of these six buildings, four are located on Hemenway Street, about a block away from the site of the destructive fire that occurred there last November. 

Some students who live in these buildings, like graduate digital media student Shrikerish Neradhm, said they are worried. 

“Already, we had one incident last year,” Neradhm said, referring to the Hemenway fire. “I know many of my friends, they were homeless. All their things and all their documents, they got burned.”

Neradhm has been more alert to issues of fire safety in his current apartment at 171 Hemenway Street.

“A couple of weeks ago there was a fire alarm that went off in this building and we were scared,” he said. “So I first took all my documents and then I started moving out.” 

Not all students living in the leased apartments have the concern at the front of their minds, though.

“I’m a little worried. But you have a daily routine, you go to school, you go to classes and I’m not a stay-at-home kind so I’m not constantly thinking about it,” said Huai Huan, a third-year sociology and international affairs combined major who has lived in a leased apartment on St. Stephen Street for over a year.

Sarah Kaufman, a second-year mathematics and computer science combined major who lives in a leased apartment on Huntington Avenue, agreed. 

“To me it’s kind of out of sight, out of mind,” she said. 

She said resident assistants recently came to do their fire safety check on her apartment, asking her to take down her tapestry and string lights that could pose a fire hazard. This visit, Kaufman said, made it feel like fire safety was “still on their radar.” 

Northeastern Housing and Residential Life did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this article. 

There may be logistical issues in implementing some of the on-campus safety policies in the leased facilities. In the leased facilities on Westland Avenue, for example, only six of the apartments in the building are rented out through the university. This means that some practices, such as conducting fire evacuation drills, could disrupt other tenants in the building. In an apartment complex with dozens of units, it may not be feasible to conduct evacuation drills, install sprinkler systems or have fire alarm monitoring done on-site by NUPD. 

Despite this, Neradhm still thinks the university should keep fire safety on it’s radar, even for leased facilities. “It should be a point of concern,” he said.

Kaufman noted she expected a bit more action from the university after last year’s fire. 

“Especially in light of what happened last year, even though that wasn’t on-campus housing, I kind of expected them to step it up a little bit more,” she said.