Washington, DC, July 31, 2020 —
Today (July 31ST, 2020) the U.S. House of Representatives passed the FY 2021 funding bill for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as part of the minibus appropriations bill H.R.7617.
Included in HUD’s Public Housing Capital Fund is $25 million for a competitive grant program to provide funds to public housing authorities who wish to retrofit public housing units with sprinkler systems. The program would also collect data on the presence of fire sprinkler installations in existing public housing units around the country to determine the possible need for additional federal investments.
The funding provided in the appropriations bill is very similar to the Public Housing Fire Safety Act (H.R 5969/ S.3090) introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressmen Max Rose (D-NY) and Peter King (R-NY) and in the U.S. Senate by Tina Smith (D-MN) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).
Although fire sprinklers are now required in many newly constructed public housing units, there are thousands that were constructed before this requirement. For example: prior to 1992, New York City did not mandate fire sprinkler systems in high rise public housing units. Currently, 296 out of 316 New York City Housing Authority developments are unprotected by fire sprinklers. Not having fire sprinklers endangers not only the residents in public housing, but also the first responders who are called to respond to public housing fires.
“As a former firefighter, Fire Chief and State Fire Marshal, I know that fire sprinklers save lives. We have never lost a firefighter in a structure with fire sprinklers properly installed and operating,” explained NFSA President Shane Ray. “Just as important is the long overlooked social justice issue of housing and fire protection. We have experienced too many tragedies that underscore the need for fire sprinklers in HUD housing.”
The catalyst for this initiative was the November 2019 Cedar High Apartment Fire in Minneapolis. That fire killed five and injured four others. Were it not for the incredible work of the Minneapolis Fire Department dozens more could have died. NFSA is pleased that Congress has acted.
“The safety and wellbeing of Staten Islanders and South Brooklynites is paramount, but all too often the residents of public housing are overlooked, which is why I’m proud to have secured these critical provisions to improve safety and accessibility,” stated Congressman Max Rose (NY-11) “When public housing buildings don’t have critical fire sprinkler systems, it doesn’t only put residents in danger, but also firefighters and first responders.”
This initiative to retrofit public housing units with fire sprinklers is supported by a broad coalition that includes the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA), International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA), the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO), the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, the National Housing Law Project and the Congressional Fire Services Institute.
About the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA): NFSA was founded in 1905 and wants to create a more fire safe world and works to heighten the awareness of the importance of fire sprinkler systems from homes to high-rise and all occupancies in between. The Association is an inclusive organization made up of dedicated and committed members of a progressive life-saving industry. This industry manufactures, designs, supplies, installs, inspects, and services the world’s most effective system in saving lives and property from uncontrolled structural fires. For more information about fire sprinklers, how they work and access to additional resources and information, visit www.nfsa.org for the latest material, statistics and a dedicated team of fire safety advocates ready to serve all stakeholders in order to fulfill the vision of a safer world.
Vickie Pritchett National Fire Sprinkler Association 615-533-0305 [email protected]