What's at Stake?

Do you really trust the special interest groups to keep your safety in mind and provide you the necessary level of fire protection?

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Danger is lurking and our firefighters must be aware and take immediate measures to protect their own safety along with the safety of the public they are sworn to protect. All firefighters across America must become fully aware of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) systematic behind the scene maneuvering in state legislatures which is intended to erode the rights of the jurisdictions to adopt and enhance building construction codes at the local levels. This indeed is an outrageous overreach and sets a terrible precedent.

Such maneuvering in manipulating the state legislatures has not gone unnoticed. The International Residential Code Fire Sprinkler Coalition (IRC) posted this news update on their website on Jan. 23:

"ATTENTION FIRE MARSHALS - Homebuilder tactic against residential sprinklers. It has come to our attention that homebuilders are beginning a move to prevent adoption of the 2009 IRC provisions for residential fire sprinklers by introducing state legislation that would block new local adoptions of these provisions. Such bills were recently filed in Arizona (HB2267) and North Dakota (SB2354)."

My focus in this article is not on the residential fire sprinklers. Although very important, they are only one small piece of the puzzle. This problem goes way beyond sprinklers. Believe me my friends; what's at stake is much higher than that. It is the safety of our public and our own firefighters. We must stop this disturbing trend now before it snowballs.

Today, the special interest groups want to discard the fire sprinkler requirements. But who knows what other provisions of the building construction codes they would want to yank out next? Fire protection and life safety provisions of the codes, may seem as expensive and unnecessary to these special interest groups opposing us. Those measures not only protect our public, but also our own firefighters.

Remember that all those fire safety provisions made it into the body of the codes as a direct result of many failures, losses, tragedies and thousands of fatalities. Those fire safety provisions in the national codes are the results of dedicated efforts of by many technical experts, building officials and fire marshals that spend many decades analyzing the failures and seeking technical solutions to address the fire safety problems.

And now, the special interest groups want the state legislators to grant them the right to adopt their own substandard building construction codes as they deem appropriate in serving their needs. And to make matters even worse, they want the OK to disallow the local jurisdictions from adopting a more stringent building construction code.

Honestly, I doubt that I am the only one who sees this as nothing more than "putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop." How would that enhance the safety of our public? What about the safety our firefighters?

Look at it this way. If they can pick and choose what they like or dislike, they would cherry pick and throw out most of the fire and life safety provisions in the codes since in their view those are cost prohibitive and unnecessary.

To use an analogy, that is like giving the truckers driving those big 18-wheelers the right to decide on the speed limits and all other pertinent highway traffic safety laws. How much sense does that make? Would that enhance the safety of our public? What's the difference here?

The main focus of this article is on our firefighters' safety. They are accustomed to routinely respond to the immediate emergencies and life threatening situations. Thus they are not intimidated when facing danger. They can in time mitigate any and all emergencies. But then, the flaw with that perspective is in downplaying the risk probabilities and dangers that are not immediate in nature. And not noticing or at least being much concerned about the adverse impacts of policies and regulations that in the long run could erode the safety of their communities, and their own.

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