Fed grants for purchase of security, fire systems passes House

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

WASHINGTON--A bill that would allow colleges to use federal matching grants to purchase security and fire systems moved one step closer to becoming law on Feb. 7 when it passed the U.S. House of Representatives.
Lauded by security and fire officials, the bill would also require colleges to make full disclosures to prospective students and parents about their life-safety systems and fire history, something fire industry advocates are happy about.
"This legislation is a tremendous leap forward for fire safety across the nation," said Campus Firewatch publisher Ed Comeau in a statement. "Students and parents will now have access to vital information that will help them make an informed, fire-safe decision when selecting a school. In addition, this will be an opportunity for schools to showcase how they protect our nation's future."
The Security Industry Association worked to get a provision included in the House bill, that would allow grants to be used for the "acquisition and installation of access control, video surveillance, intrusion detection, and perimeter security technologies and systems."
SIA's legislative director Don Erickson said the grant "gives colleges and universities another option when accessing campus safety grant funds to develop a more complete or holistic approach to protecting faculty, students, and visitors on their campuses."
Before this bill becomes law it must go to a House-Senate conference committee to reconcile differences between H.R. 4137 and a similar bill passed in the Senate last summer.
While the Senate version does not currently include the SIA provision, SIA "certainly intends to communicate with the Senate about this provision," said Don Erickson. "I am not aware of any opposition to it at this time. I know the House committee, as it was developing its own changes to the bill, was understandably very strict about the number of new proposals that it would consider. To their credit, they saw the value of our suggestion," he said. "Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) was instrumental in advocating for this security provision with her committee leadership," he added.
Erickson said the conference is expected to be completed by the end of March and the House and Senate are expected to vote on the final agreement in April.