CINCINNATI - The city of Cincinnati on Wednesday launched a new web site that lists apartments and rental homes that passed recent fire inspections.
The web site, called www.CincinnatiSafeStudentHousing.com , was developed in response to the fire deaths of University of Cincinnati students Chad Kohls and Ellen Garner in January.
The two students died from smoke inhalation after blankets caught fire next to an electric space heater on the second floor of a rental house they were staying in near UC. Investigators said toxic smoke rose to the third floor the pair was in. The two students were awakened by fire alarms but the only exit was an attic stairwell due to the window being blocked by an air conditioner.
As WCPO Digital reported in February, hundreds of residential properties near UC fall into a housing inspection blind spot that limits the city's ability to determine whether homes converted to rental property have enough exits or fire-safety equipment. That's because code enforcement is complaint driven. If no one complains, city inspectors don't check for compliance.
To improve safety, the city, UC and the apartment industry developed a voluntary program in which apartment owners schedule fire safety inspections and a city web site reveals which properties passed inspection. Fire officials told WCPO Digital in July that the success of the program will depend on apartment owners willingness to participate and the ability of fire fighters to find time for inspections. The city has inspected 245 rental units since July 2. Those will be the first listed on the Safe Student Housing site. About 10,000 students live in the blocks surrounding UC.
Also on Wednesday, city council approved a motion to change the city's municipal code so that each sleeping room below the fourth story of a building must have at least one window or emergency door that is operable and unobstructed for emergency escape and rescue.
Ann Garner, the mother of Ellen Garner, said those changes will help save lives.
"Ellen is smiling," she said.