Scott Loh, former director of the Fire Academy at Mercer County Community College, became the University's fire marshal on Oct. 21, ending a period of at least 19 months during which the position had been left vacant. Twylen Hicks, associate fire marshal and manager of library security, filled in as acting fire marshal throughout the interim.
Loh's predecessor, Robert Gregory, left to work for the Office of Emergency Management of Princeton Borough — now consolidated Princeton — in early 2012.
The University had begun soliciting applications from Feb. 24 to March 15, 2012 and had re-published the advertisement multiple times since then, according to University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua. He declined to elaborate on why the hiring process for the position had taken so long, citing "personnel matters."
In an interview earlier this year, Executive Director of the Department of Public Safety Paul Ominsky said the initial phases of the process had failed to identify a "quality candidate."
Loh joined the Mercerville Fire Company in 1991 and served as a senior supervisor for six years, according to a press release issued by the University. He also spent eight years at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory as a site protection specialist and in other roles.
He served as director of the Fire Academy at Mercer County Community College from 2007-11. Loh continues to be involved as an instructor at the Fire Academy and as a lifetime member of the Mercerville Fire Company and has also attended the National Fire Academy and Emergency Management Institute in Emmittsburg, Md.
Loh declined to comment for this story.
The University fire marshal is responsible for ensuring building and public event compliance with all relevant fire codes and developing and implementing a fire prevention and protection program, according to the University's advertisement for the position. The position also carries limited emergency response and investigatory authority in the event of a fire.
Additionally, the University updated the responsibilities of the position after failing to identify a final candidate from the first advertisement, to include for the first time a role in developing and implementing "fire prevention and awareness programs to ensure [the] campus is aware of the causes of fires, actions that help prevent fires and procedures that should be followed if a fire or similar emergency occurs." However, fire safety training for some classes of employees predates Loh's hiring, as this duty had been included in Gregory’s job description as well.
The University has seen an expansion in its fire safety operations in recent years. In 2009, the University launched a pilot program in which 24 employees volunteered to be trained to respond to fire incidents and alarms on campus. That operation has since become the University's volunteer firefighting program. Although the program is ultimately under the aegis of Roger Demareski, Facilities’ assistant vice president of operations, the fire marshal oversees “membership within the University Volunteer Firefighting program," according to the advertisement for the position.
Kramer & Associates, a Cincinnati-based consulting firm, advised Princeton Borough and Princeton Township in 2011 that their volunteer-based firefighting model caused the community to rely too much on mutual aid from other departments and that using more paid staff would become necessary in the long run. The report raised the possibility of eventually locating a fire station on the University's campus for use by the University's volunteer firefighters.
One fire was reported on campus in 2012 — a microwave oven fire in Spelman Hall — according to the University’s 2013 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report.