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Dousing Public Housing Fires

Time and time again, the US has seen tragedies resulting from fires in unsprinklered multifamily housing. While current building codes generally require these new structures to be protected by fire sprinklers, far too many existing buildings are exempted from this very basic safety standard. These fires are even more tragic when they occur in public housing developments – places where the government has a responsibility to ensure safety.

In an effort to continue supporting fire sprinkler retrofit installations, the IAFC is pleased to support the reintroduction of the Public Housing Fire Safety Act (S. 265/H.R. 2638) by Senators Tina Smith (D-MN) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) and John Rutherford (R-FL). This bill would create a competitive grant program within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to support fire sprinkler retrofit installations in public housing developments. This grant would be authorized at $25 million per year and would provide immense help in not only protecting vulnerable public housing residents, but also enhancing the safety of firefighters who must respond to these fires. Without a doubt, the safest fire to fight is one that has been kept in check by a fire sprinkler system. 

Another important component to this bill is the requirement it creates for HUD to identify all unsprinklered public housing developments across the US. It will be impossible to tackle the challenge of preventing fires in public housing developments if we do not know which ones lack fire sprinklers in the first place. This information will be key to future efforts to sprinkler older multifamily housing in the US.  

The IAFC is pleased to join other key partners in supporting this bill such as the National Fire Sprinkler Association, the Congressional Fire Services Institute, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, and others. More information on this legislation can be found online

Evan Davis is the IAFC's government relations strategic manager .

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