February 18, 2022

Watson Coleman Leads Letter to House and Senate Leadership Calling for Immediate Consideration of Fire Safety Bills

The bills, introduced by Reps. Watson Coleman and Pascrell would increase the use of lifesaving sprinkler systems in multi-family housing units

Today, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) led a bipartisan group of her House colleagues in a letter to House and Senate Leadership calling for immediate consideration of two bills designed to reduce the risk of fires in residential buildings. The Public Housing Fire Safety Act (H.R.2638, S.265) would create a grant program for public housing agencies to install automatic sprinklers in public housing buildings and collect data on the status of sprinkler installations. The High-Rise Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act (H.R.6192, S.3346) would create an incentive for owners of high-rise buildings to install sprinklers in their buildings.

New attention has been brought to the need for increased fire safety in the wake of recent fires in New York City and Philadelphia that caused the deaths of 29 people including 17 children. When properly installed, fire sprinkler systems respond to fires quickly and effectively, controlling the spread of fatal flames and smoke and preventing deaths of residents and first responders as well as preventing further damage to the building or surrounding property. According to the National Fire Protection Association, buildings with fire sprinklers had a civilian fire death rate 88% lower and an injury rate 28% lower. Additionally, the rate of firefighter injuries was 78% lower compared to homes without sprinklers.

The letter reads in part:

“Despite the well-known benefits of fire sprinklers, countless buildings across the United States do not have fire sprinklers. From 2015 to 2019, only an estimated 8 percent of the residential fires that local fire departments responded to had fire sprinklers. Other studies suggest that only 42 percent of high-rise apartments and 15 percent of low-rise apartments are equipped with sprinklers.”

The Public Housing Fire Safety Act was introduced in the House in 2021 by Democrat Bonnie Watson Coleman and Republican John Rutherford (FL-4). It was introduced in the Senate by Democrats Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. The High-Rise Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act was introduced in the House in 2021 by Democrats Bill Pascrell (NJ-09) and Marie Newman (IL-03) and Republican John Katko (NY-24). It was introduced in the Senate by Democrat Michael Bennet of Colorado and Republican Susan Collins of Maine.

The letter, addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, was signed by Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman, Bill Pascrell, John Rutherford, and John Katko.


The letter can be read here.