Ensuring A Safe Chapter House

Short Description

A Safe House is Our Goal
The responsibility of maintaining a safe and positive learning environment for chapter members is a concern. Our goal in the area of chapter housing must be to make sure that all who live in our chapter houses are protected to the best of our ability.

Target Audience

House Corporation
House Manager
Board of Governors

Borradaile Challenge or Area of Focus



The responsibility of meeting our housing goals rests with chapter members working in close cooperation with local property-holding alumnae/alumni corporations. The policies and standards that we establish to meet this goal become a risk management program.

Area of Concern
Two major issues of concern have been shown to cause liability and property loss problems for fraternities: fire safety and house maintenance. In both areas, a responsible risk management program can lesson the probability of causing damage to the chapter house.


How we manage risks will determine our ability to obtain liability and property insurance. Insurance provides a basic tool we use to limit or control exposure to loss. It does not take the place of anything else, nor does it excuse anyone for exhibiting a lack of common sense. Insurance is only designed to control the losses of corporation, chapter officers and members in the event of a genuine accident.

Alumni Set Standards

In most chapters, one role of alumni is to form a not-for-profit corporation within the state in which the chapter is located. This corporation serves as the landlord when it owns the chapter house or the leaseholder if it rents. In either case, the primary responsibility for operating and overseeing maintenance of the chapter house rests with this group.

Chapter house officers serve as the agent for the corporation. In doing so, chapter officers manage the house on a daily basis, making sure policies and procedures adopted by the corporation are implemented and adhered to by the chapter house residents. While chapter officers and members should regularly have input regarding house policies and procedures, the corporation must have the final voice since it bears the major burden of responsibility.

House Maintenance Suggestions

A successful risk management program requires a cooperative effort of both alumni and chapter members to lessen the likelihood of accidents and hazards that potentially exist in the chapter house. Listed below are some basic suggestions that any chapter and corporation can follow to develop their own local house maintenance risk management policy:

  1. Schedule regular inspections. Thoroughly inspect the chapter house every three months, with the chapter president, house manager and a specified alumni corporation board member doing the inspection together and completing a written checklist.
  2. Pay attention to traffic areas. Particular maintenance attention should be directed toward doorways, railings, stairways, carpet, floors and windows. Outside, regular inspection of fire escapes should be scheduled to check their operation and to make sure they are clear of obstacles.
  3. Develop a written maintenance program. Have a written schedule to replace or change furnace filters, light bulbs, exit lights, smoke detector batteries, etc. when needed.
  4. Keep halls and stairways cleared. All halls, stairways and exits should be kept clear and well lighted at all times.
  5. Service heating and air conditioning equipment. Schedule annual service and inspection of these and other major mechanical systems.
  6. Service kitchen equipment. Schedule regular cleaning, service, and inspection of all kitchen equipment, paying particular attention to stoves, deep fryers, exhaust hood filters and fire extinguishing systems.
  7. Restrict access to dangerous areas. As appropriate limit or prohibit access to certain areas of the house such as roofs, furnace rooms, fuse boxes, etc.

House Security

Chapter leaders must become more aware of the need to limit access to the chapter house. Unfortunately, cases of arson and vandalism are not unknown to fraternities. Some house security suggestions are listed below.

  1. A locked house is a more safe house. The minor inconvenience of maintaining a locked house is justified by the safety benefits to the members and physical structure. Give all members a key.
  2. Install deadbolts on all doors and lock windows. Consider installing a timer that automatically sets deadbolts from midnight to 7:00 a.m. Lock all ground access windows during the same hours.
  3. Let people knock. No one enters your family home without knocking. Keep it that way at your chapter house. The only exception should be during social events with door monitors greeting guests.
  4. Designate “key alumni”. Give keys to alumni, such as your advisor and corporation officers, who require access to the house.
  5. Have “key alumni” check house during breaks. Whenever the house closes for holidays, term breaks, etc., establish a schedule of “key alumni” who will regularly check house security and make sure all mechanical systems functions.
  6. Install outdoor lighting. Floodlights in front and security lights in back are the best way to deter chapter house vandalism and arson.
  7. Greet unescorted strangers. Don’t let strangers roam the house. Confront them, student or not, and ask if you can help them.

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