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?

So, let me be as blunt as I can. Our firefighters must wake up and smell the coffee, and recognize that the building construction codes have a very direct impact on their own safety.

After all, it isn't the fire station but the burning building that is truly our firefighters' real work environment. Structural integrity and safety of those buildings during the fire, are indeed directly relevant to all firefighters and their families who expect them back safe at the end of each shift.

That being said, our country's fire service leadership must unite and stand up, and not allow these special interest groups, who are notorious for lobbying, manipulating and skewing the political system in their favor to serve their financial interests, to decide for the safety of our communities and our firefighters.

Leadership of the major national fire service organizations are now aware and are taking measures to address these challenges. Earlier this year, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) issued a news release titled "Homebuilders Trying to Preempt Adoption of State and Local Sprinkler Regulations." It stated:

"The IAFC has learned that the homebuilders are starting an initiative to prevent local adoption of national standards that require residential sprinklers, by introducing state legislation that would block new code adoptions mandating residential fire-sprinkler requirements... "We have spent considerable time working to help save lives by voting in favor of including residential sprinklers in the model codes," said IAFC President Larry J. Grorud, CFO, MIFireE. "We know there is significant work to be completed to ensure sprinkler requirements are adopted across the country, and we will not let this anti-residential sprinkler legislation deter our efforts to reduce fire loss in America. I urge all fire service members to commit to defeating such legislation. Fire sprinklers save lives, and the public needs to know how important this is for their families, communities and the fire service."

And similarly, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in their newly launched website "Fire Sprinkler Initiative" issued a "Legislative Alert."

"New legislation is threatening the adoption of home fire sprinkler provisions for new one- and two-family dwellings. Across the United States, sprinkler opponents are pushing state legislation that would restrict a community's ability to make its own decision about model safety codes for new construction. The legislation would prevent any community from implementing any new sprinkler mandates in one- and two-family homes. If it becomes law, such legislation will put lives at risk. "

Once again my friends, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The problem is much bigger than just the residential fire sprinkler requirements for the new homes. That is merely a cloak under which our opponents are advancing their goals of having control over the adoption of the building construction codes, to suite their own needs. If the fire service doesn't take immediate corrective actions to change this dangerous course, this could jeopardize the life and safety of our firefighters for decades to come.

One of the first in the fire service to clearly see the big picture and realize what is really at stake, is my good friend Shane Ray, fire chief of the Pleasant View (TN) fire department. Shane recognized this dangerous trend early on just as it began to develop only a few weeks ago. Shane's great article titled "Protect Our Homes, Maintain Home Rule" published quite timely in the March 15 issue of the IAFC's On Scene. This article is a must read for all fire service members. Due to its importance, I have presented it here in its entirety.

"National leadership is calling on leaders at the state and local level. Calling all fire service personnel to action!

Individuals and organizations across our country are taking action that limits our ability to best serve our communities. These special interest groups are introducing legislation to state government that limits a local fire departments' ability to provide fire and life safety techniques and technologies, thus protecting our citizens and firefighters.