Town organizations, including Greek houses, to regain place of assembly permits after inspections

The inspections, which are conducted by the Hanover fire department, are due to begin this month.

by Pierce Wilson | 7/2/21 5:25am

7-1-21-websterave-kylespencer

Place of assembly permits are required to legally hold gatherings of over 50 people. 

by Kyle Spencer / The Dartmouth Staff

Following Hanover’s lift of its ban on place of assembly permits from last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Greek houses — along with dorms and restaurants — can now have their POA permits reinstated. In order to regain their permits, Greek houses must each pass an inspection by the Hanover fire department, slated to occur in July. 

POA permits allow organizations to hold gatherings of more than 50 people and are granted by the Hanover fire department. Inspections have 18 health and safety requirements, including mandating that exits are clear and unblocked, occupancy loads are clearly posted and emergency lights are maintained and tested. 

Associate director of residential operations Bernard Haskell said that he has been working closely with Greek houses and the Hanover fire department to support the houses as they prepare for inspections. Although the Office of Greek Life is supporting Greek houses in making preparations, the houses themselves are in charge of ensuring that their spaces are up to standards, Haskell said. According to Haskell, for Greek houses that the College owns, more responsibilities fall on the College.

Haskell said that he and the OGL are trying to ensure that all houses are prepared for inspections, and that he has been meeting one-on-one with the summer term house managers from each house since this spring. 

“All these house managers are new, so it’s a monster learning curve for these kids,” Haskell said. 

Haskell also said the Hanover fire department’s inspections are done in conjunction with the health and safety inspections that the OGL does each term. The OGL resumed these inspections this spring for the first time since the pandemic began, but the fire department has not been inside Greek houses in over a year.

According to Haskell, in order to prepare for inspections, the OGL has scheduled fire drills for Greek houses on July 6, which will give the fire department an opportunity to go inside Greek houses and let members know if they notice any issues that need to be addressed before the official inspection. 

“When we start doing those inspections, everyone should pass and things will go smoothly,” Haskell said. 

Haskell said that houses may begin holding gatherings as soon as they pass inspections.

“When the organization signs the digital record at the end of the inspection, if they pass, they basically have their POA,” he said.

According to Hanover fire chief Martin McMillan, the Hanover fire department is required by law to inspect organizations with POAs twice a year to make sure all guidelines continue to be met, but was not able to do so for the past 18 months due to pandemic restrictions. McMillan said that the fire department typically does these inspections in the fall, but that they worked with the OGL to schedule them this summer. 

Deputy fire chief Michael Gilbert, who performs the inspections, said that several Greek houses reached out to him this week about scheduling their inspections before this weekend so that they could host gatherings. Gilbert confirmed that he conducted three inspections yesterday and will conduct another two today.

McMillan said in an email statement that the fire department issues one POA permit each fall for a 12-month cycle and then combines its second official inspection with the OGL health and safety inspection in the spring term. 

Haskell confirmed that all Greek houses that previously held POA permits will be inspected by the Hanover fire department this summer and that inspections will resume as usual going forward. 

“We’re primarily looking at the basement and the first floor where [Greek houses] hold social gatherings, and we’re looking to see if exit pathways are clear of clutter, if there is emergency lighting, if fire alarms have been serviced within the last year and that there’s no large damage like holes in the wall,” McMillan said. 

McMillan added that if a house does not pass their inspection, the fire department will provide that house “reasonable time” to fix issues before a reinspection. 

The town of Hanover requires all businesses and organizations — not just Greek houses — to possess POA permits before holding gatherings of more than 50 people. McMillan emphasized that different types of spaces are held to the same standards for inspections, although there may be different expectations based on the size of a space and the types of gatherings held there. For example, the waiting area of the Nugget Theater can have a higher occupancy load than other rooms of the same size because it is a transitional area, he said. 

According to Chi Gamma Epsilon fraternity summer president Sean Kim ’23, Chi Gam has been working throughout the summer to prepare for inspections and has scheduled one for the week of July 9. Kim said that Chi Gam has received support from both OGL and the Hanover fire department, but that the process of preparing the house has been largely independent. 

“At the end of the day, the fire department, the police department and [the Department of Safety and Security] want us to have the opportunity to return to normal operations,” Kim said.

Kim added that preparing the house for inspections has been “pretty stressful” because the members of Chi Gam in the Class of 2021 “left the house in a pretty bad condition.” Kim said that as a result, members had to thoroughly clear out some rooms like the storage room and boiler room. 

“We did a few big cleans where we got stuff organized, but we still have a little ways to go,” Kim said.

Sigma Delta sorority summer president Jenna Myers ’23 and Phi Tau gender-inclusive Greek house president Kai Frey ’22 confirmed that their houses are also working towards regaining POA permits. 

“We have scheduled our inspection through the Office of Greek Life and anticipate passing it the first time in mid-July,” Myers said. “During a normal year, Sigma Delt makes it a priority to open our space to people traditionally excluded from Greek life, like self-identifying women and underclassmen. Regaining our [POA permit] would give us the opportunity to be that welcoming space again.”

Madeleine Bernardeau contributed reporting. 

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!