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?

Remind them that the fire service members and our fellow building officials are the public servants tasked with protecting our public and our communities. And that contrary to the private sector, we don't have any vested financial interests in the building construction codes.

The primary tactic that these special interest groups use in approaching the state legislators and local politicians is to claim that these cost prohibitive and unfair governmental burdens, are restricting their abilities to build new homes thus creating more jobs which would help with the current economy recovery efforts to revive our communities. They play the sympathy card by claiming to be the victims of these current economic conditions and foreclosures. Yet don't forget that in reality they were at the epicenter of this crisis in the first place.

Homebuilders are not building new homes and are not able to sell their existing inventory not because of the residential fire sprinkler requirement; but because people are now unemployed and can not get the credit to buy the homes.

They were building and selling at high prices like there was no tomorrow only a few years back when variable loans were way too easy to obtain. And that was the major contributing factor to our current economic misery -- not the residential fire sprinkler requirement that was adopted in the IRC less than simonths ago which will not go to effect until January 2011.

The real victims then are the American people. Our state level politicians must be reminded of these facts constantly.

When approaching the state legislatures these special interest groups cloak their true intention behind the flag of freedom, democracy and the right to chose for each state to determine their appropriate levels of fire protection and life safety. And yet, hypocritically they want to deprive the local jurisdictions in those states, the very same rights to make the determination for their level of acceptable risk and safety.

We all believe in our American way of freedom of choice, democracy, and the rights of states. But then by the same token, as a public servant, I believe that providing for the safety of our public and our communities, is the main responsibility of the local government. Logic then dictates that the fire service and our fellow public servants, the building officials, should be the ones responsible for establishing the levels of fire protection and life safety in our communities, and not the homebuilders and other special interest groups.

I believe that in the absence of a true set of national building construction codes in our country, it is indeed every states' right and very appropriate for the states to adopt and establish their own building construction code based on the ICC and NFPA codes and standards. But then these state codes must only be the minimum, and not the maximum. Each of the local jurisdictions then has the right to exceed those minimum state codes, but is prohibited to be less restrictive. That is what we are doing in most of the states right now.

In his article titled "NFPA's Take: The Importance of Speaking Out About Fire Sprinklers,"Jim Shannon, NFPA's president, underlines the importance of this issue and the threat that it presents to the safety of our communities.

"State legislation being introduced and debated all across the country could prevent these life-saving requirements from ever being adopted in local communities, putting the lives of Americans at risk. The threat from these legislative attacks is real and immediate. Sprinkler opponents are working to undermine those safety provisions. In several states, sprinkler opponents are pushing bills that will prohibit local communities from adopting home fire sprinkler requirements in their jurisdictions. In other states, sprinkler opponents are even working to change the structure of statewide code adopting authorities, removing fire safety officials from this important decision-making process. Though the tactics of sprinkler opponents may differ from state to state, one thing is certain - we must do everything in our power to stop these efforts to undermine public safety and reduce input from the fire service. We must protect a community's ability to choose for itself the right model safety code."