There We Go Again

Well, there we go again.

Well, there we go again. Just as they did last year, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has once gain increased their systematic behind the scene maneuverings at the state legislative levels in many states, demanding that the legislatures pass laws that prohibit all jurisdictions from enforcing the requirement for installation of residential fire sprinklers in all new homes.

As you know, the fire prevention proponents and the fire service representatives worked tirelessly for a couple of decades to finally succeed in adopting the requirement for installation of the residential fire sprinkler systems in all new homes.

We were defeated many times before due to the strong influence of the NAHB in the building construction code development process. Yet, we continued to work hard through the formal process, and we were finally able to obtain the two-thirds majority of the votes during the International Code Council's (ICC) hearings in Minneapolis, back in September of 2008.

Since then, NAHB has done all that they could, to discredit the ICC process, the fire service participation in that process, and to derail our success in enhancing the safety of our communities. They gathered all their strength to confront us once again in the ICC's code hearing in Baltimore last October. But with strong fire service participation, we obtained an overwhelming majority and were able to soundly defeat their attempts.

And now once again, we must participate at the ICC's Final Action Code Hearing in Dallas (May 14-23, 2010) to defend our success and vote to maintain the residential fire sprinklers requirements in the 2012 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC).

I briefly explained the history of this issue, just to show that we in the fire service have done all that we professionally could through the established process, and our long awaited success was achieved fair and square. Yet, NAHB has not taken the defeat well, and it is obvious that they are not accepting the majority's will in the ICC's consensus process.

The system was just fine, as long as they were getting their way for all those years. But now, they are fighting it all the way. Not being able to succeed through the ICC's national code development process, they have since shifted their focus and started mounting political pressure on the states and the local jurisdictions. Hoping that they can manipulate the politicians and get their way after all.

Their short-term strategy was to prevent the local jurisdictions from adopting the 2009 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC); or at the very least, persuade them to yank out the residential fire sprinkler requirement out of their local codes.

And for their long-term strategy, their goal is to do away with the home rule and legislatively prohibit the municipalities and local jurisdictions in all the 50 states from ever adopting the requirement for installation of residential fire sprinklers in all new homes.

For them, this was not a bad strategy. NAHB recognized that the technical battle at the national code level was lost, and now they want to defeat us politically at the state legislative levels.

With this tactic, they plan to decentralize the battlefield, spread us thin and keep us fighting in 50 different states. Divide and conquer. They believe that since they can't win nationally, then, by winning in each of the states, their financial interests would still be served just as well. They hope to accomplish their goals through their financial strength, and by their manipulation and intensified lobbying efforts to influence the legislators on the state levels.

I believe that this indeed is an outrageous overreach and sets a terrible precedent. In my mind, this is not merely about the residential fire sprinklers. Although very important, the residential fire sprinkler issue is only one small piece of the puzzle. The problem goes way beyond fire sprinklers.

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