At the end of last week, U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., threw his support behind a proposal from U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-NJ, to update sprinkler systems in public housing.
“The Public Housing Fire Safety Act would create a program at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide grants to public housing authorities that wish to retrofit older high-rise apartments. Additionally, it would collect data on the status of sprinkler installations and submit a report to Congress on the presence of automatic sprinkler systems in public housing, with recommendations to improve fire safety,” Rutherford’s office noted.
“Sprinkler systems have been shown to be one of the most effective ways to prevent widespread damage and loss of life in the event of a fire,” said Watson Coleman on Friday when she introduced the proposal. “As this country commits to rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, ensuring our citizens living in public housing have the most basic fire safety measures should be a priority. The added benefit that it will help save the lives of our nation’s bravest makes this a no-brainer.”
“A public housing building without proper fire safeguards is a tragedy waiting to happen,” said Rutherford. “In recent years, fires have claimed the lives of those living in public housing without installed or up-to-date sprinkler systems. Many of these deaths were preventable. Today’s legislation will save both property and lives.”
Watson Coleman and Rutherford pointed to many examples of public housing without fire sprinklers, noting more than 2 million Americans are currently at risk.
The bill has the support of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the National Fire Sprinkler Association, the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA), the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO), the National Housing Law Project, the Congressional Fire Services Institute, the International Association of Fire Chiefs and Public Housing Authorities Directors Association (PHADA).
The bill was sent to the U.S. House Financial Services Committee on Friday. U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Tina Smith, D-Minn., are championing the bill in the U.S. Senate.
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