On March 24, a report came from the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield that an anti-sprinkler amendment to a legislative bill had been filed. Its premise: ban fire sprinklers and form a task force comprised of special interests to recommend future fire and building codes.
While the Illinois Fire Sprinkler Coalition had been expecting legislation opposing residential sprinklers, it was still a shock in many ways when the actual text of the bill was read and the implications understood. The amendment would essentially make fire sprinklers “illegal” in any occupancy, not just residences, and give Illinois a distinction of being the most regressive fire safety state in the country. The proposed legislation was also designed to strip the state fire marshal of his authority through the formation of a “code task force,” which would review and recommend new codes that include fire sprinklers. The makeup of the task force’s membership, as I understood it, would have heavily favored opponents of fire sprinklers.
Shock turned to action as the Coalition immediately issued two press releases on the amendment. The Coalition also developed a call-to-action section on its website, which allowed fire sprinkler advocates to contact members of the committee via a customized letter of opposition.
During the first reading of the bill amendment, representatives voted in favor of the proposal without allowing public testimony. With a 17-2 vote favoring the amendment, the bill moved to the second reading.
On April 9, Illinois fire service and labor groups joined forces to rally against the bill in Springfield, the state capital. All groups met with their representatives to voice their opposition to the bill. The day was topped off with a reception at the Abraham Lincoln Hotel for a final meeting with friendly, yet undecided, representatives.
Two days later, the House amendment did not reach its final reading and failed to move to the Senate.
It’s now up to the fire sprinkler advocates nationwide to rally together and fight back in other states where democracy, open trade, industry, and common sense have been lost due to anti-sprinkler legislation.
Tom Lia is executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB), a nonprofit dedicated to promoting legislation, raising public awareness, and educating code officials and governmental policymakers on home fire sprinklers. This blog regularly features Lia's perspective on sprinkler activities taking place in his state and elsewhere.