Mission Accomplished, Not Yet

It's essential we follow the Unified Command structure, and proceed.


On Sept. 21, 2008, we made a historic and monumental accomplishment for the safety of our public all across the nation. As a result of the direct support and extensive involvement from all fire service organizations and many of our fellow public servants -- the building officials -- we made great fire and life safety enhancements to the building construction codes at the International Code Council's (ICC) Final Action Hearing, in Minneapolis.

There were many fire service proposals that were successful in getting adopted. Two of the most important proposals that were approved to be included in the International Residential Code (IRC), were the requirement for installation of carbon monoxide detectors and also the requirement to install residential fire sprinkler systems in all new homes. This was a great victory not only for us, but most importantly, for our citizens.

It was a joyous moment indeed for all of us in the fire service and the fire protection field, when after a very long debate, the membership voted 1,282 to 470 in favor of requiring the installation of residential fire sprinkler in all new homes. To succeed. we needed to garner the required two-thirds majority to override the ICC Committee Action. We secured 73 percent of the votes. A solid victory by all accounts; and a historical accomplishment for all.

As public servants, it is our professional obligation as building officials and fire service members alike, to work hand-in-hand to provide the highest level of fire and life safety and community protection for our public. The ICC Final Action Hearing was a great depiction of such cooperation. Not only were all of the fire service organizations in our country unified in their stance, but there were also hundreds of progressive building officials that supported our cause. Without that, success would undoubtedly not have been possible.

It is of utmost importance to recognize the contributions of our building official peers in this victory for our public. We must not lose sight that we serve the same master, the public. Thanks to the cooperation and collaboration between the fire and building officials, our public scored a solid victory in Minneapolis.

Our respected opponents have tried to portray the fire service participation and success as a single issue-driven movement. But that simply was not the case. Many of the fire service representatives from the various fire service organizations, working together for months in the Joint Fire Service Review Committee (JFSRC), were present in force and participated for the entire nine days of this process.

Our batting ratio was great and the JFSRC attained a 67 percent success ratio. This means that the votes went in our desired direction 67 percent of the time for all construction codes such as building, mechanical and residential. Our work not only makes buildings safer for our public, but it has a direct impact on the firefighters' safety.

This was my brief post incident critique. Now, enough talking about the past. Let's talk about establishing our game plan for the future. Remember, we may have won the battle, but the war is not over yet. Many serious challenges coupled with political and legal obstacles are still ahead of us before the residential fire sprinkler requirements are adopted in the local codes all across the country.

Let me use an analogy to better explain the challenges yet ahead.

My friends, this was our Normandy, our D-Day. We secured the beachhead, but the war is not over yet by any stretch of imagination. It has just begun in the various theaters of action in all of the states and local jurisdictions.

It would be a grave mistake to gloat and declare success with a "Mission Accomplished" banner behind our back. After all, as we have all learned from the lessons in Iraq, success in the national theater does not bring an end to the hostilities. And, the cost and casualties of the urban guerilla warfare are staggering and present a herculean challenge to us.

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