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Monday, February 6th, 2023

Organizations advocate bolstered fire safety legislation

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A group of fire fighting and fire safety organizations is imploring Congress to pass legislation improving public housing and older high-rise buildings’ fire safety.

Officials representing the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA), the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the National Fallen Fire Fighter Foundation (NFFF), International Association Fire Chiefs (IAFC), and the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) noted the advocacy efforts stem from two recent fires in Philadelphia and New York claiming the lives of at least 31 people while injuring more than over 60. The organizations maintain neither building had fire sprinklers.

“It’s going on 30 years since Congress passed the Federal Fire Safety Act in 1992, requiring newly built multi-family housing units to have fire sprinklers,” Shane Ray, president of the National Fire Sprinkler Association, said. “The problem is that the law did not require fire sprinklers for the existing units. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates 570,000 multi-family public housing units were constructed prior to the sprinkler requirement. But fixing this problem is within our reach, with $53 billion in public housing upgrades, including fire sprinklers, in the Build Back Better bill that passed the House last year. This is another reminder why we need to pass that legislation now.”

The groups noted public policymakers should ensure funding is available to protect facilities, and no building owner should want their investment to exist without adequate fire protection.

“There is an incredible toll on firefighters, too,” NFFF Executive Director Chief Ronald Siarnicki said. “It’s too hard to get over the sights and smells of responding to tragedies like these. This risk and loss could easily be mitigated if the law required adequate fire protection in these buildings, especially fire sprinkler systems.”