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Associations, economics, politics, fire & life safety

The National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) has been in existence since 1905, opening  our first office in New York City in 1914 and hiring our first employee. We have recently relocated our national headquarters to Maryland, between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. While this was quite a challenge it is intended to position us for the next 100 plus years.

In the initial days of fire protection associations, the driver was improving the profession, limiting losses from the ravages of fires, and working with the many stakeholders with an interest in or who were also impacted by fire. According to all the research we can find on our own association, we could have been in St. Louis, Chicago, or New York. It appears we were in New York because that is where the largest impact could be made from working with the insurance industry and a major partner was in Boston, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA.)

Does the smaller commercial and residential insurance market still view its role as reducing losses or is it just paying claims and calculating new fees? When you watch all the major insurance commercials on television you can hardly use them as a basis for making a decision that the insurance industry is interested in reducing risks. I am not speaking of FM and UL in this because they are certainly dedicated to limiting risk and improving safety. I am also not speaking of State Farm as they are great national partners and support programs nationwide that limit losses.

How about our current political environment in the USA? There are 12 states that passed laws that prohibit state and local government from adopting the requirements for fire sprinklers in one and two family dwellings. The state of Wisconsin would like to go back to allowing 20 unit apartments without fire sprinklers and the state of Hawaii House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, yes, Consumer Protection and Commerce, is about to remove the sunset clause from the law they adopted in 2012 that prohibited the adoption of fire sprinkler requirements in homes. The courts in Minnesota ruled that the selection of requiring houses 4,500 square feet or greater was arbitrary and capricious and couldn’t be enforced. The courts in Massachusetts ruled that in order for a fire official to require the retrofit of multi-unit apartment complexes during remodels they had to prove the units would be “essentially new construction,” Maryland, which is the only other statewide requirement for one and two family fire sprinklers besides California, is again under attack for the requirement and opponents would like to exempt certain counties and buildings without adequate water supply, the very places that need fire protection the most.

The NFSA is a close partner with and contracts certain management functions for the International Fire Sprinkler Association (IFSA.) The IFSA is an organization intended to promote and enhance the business of manufacturing and installing fire sprinkler systems from homes to high-rises worldwide. There are many additional associations starting up world wide with the support of the IFSA to help with the advancement of fire sprinklers around the globe. While the United States and Canada embraced the concept of fire sprinklers earlier than the rest of the world and continue to expand their use, North America no longer accounts for the majority of sprinklers installed worldwide each year, as many countries have begun to appreciate the effectiveness of built-in fire protection. Yet there are still many countries where high-rise buildings are being built without built-in fire protection.

In the US, an estimated 675,000 homes will be built in 2017 without fixed fire suppression. Economics and politics should not override fire and life safety, especially when it is affordable and the many luxuries currently added to our buildings and our communities don’t contribute to the health, safety, and general welfare of the occupants. Our governments around the world are charged with the health, safety, and well-being of the citizens and visitors. It is sad to see corruption in some parts of the world and government bodies in the US that are requiring economic impact studies that are special interest driven to over-ride the health, safety, and general welfare of the citizens and visitors.

The current political environment and the many advances in technology makes an associations role as vital in society now as ever before. It is an honor to serve in a profession focused on the protection of property and the saving lives from fire. Please be sure to be involved in your industry associations as we all strive to educate, inform, and improve our professions.

For more information, go to www.nfsa.org

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President of the National Fire Sprinkler Association

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