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Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Initiative Calls for Sprinklers for Older Multi-Family Buildings

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

Two Multi-Family Fires in 2022 Killed 31 People

ALSIP, IL (January 18, 2022) – The Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Initiative is joining fire safety organizations across the country calling for sprinklers to be required in older residential multi-family buildings.

Fire safety agencies nationwide have renewed their calls on the heels of two fatal fires already in 2022 that killed at least 31 people with more than 60 injured. A January 5 fire at a Philadelphia public housing rowhouse killed 12 people, including eight children. The worst fire in 30 years in New York City occurred on January 9 with 19 people killed and 44 injured.

Federal law has required that multi-family public housing buildings be outfitted with sprinklers since 1992. However, nearly 600,000 individual units built before 1992 are not subject to the law, according to a recent letter from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to Congress.

“We’re joining the call for congressional leaders to update the laws last passed in 1992 – 30 years ago,” said Tom Collins, business manager for Sprinkler Fitters 281 based in Alsip, Illinois. “Enough is enough. These buildings – that house hundreds of people – need to be made safe for these families.”

The Build Back Better Legislation, that passed the U.S. House last year, includes $53 billion in public housing upgrades, including fire sprinklers.

"Enough is enough. These buildings - that house hundreds of people - need to be made safe for these families."

Tom Collins, Business Manager - Sprinkler Fitters 281

“We are not only concerned for the safety of the residents of these developments, we are concerned for the safety of our first responders,” said Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Initiative. “These older buildings are very dangerous for firefighters – retrofitting them with sprinklers helps keep everyone safe.”

U.S. Representative Marie Newman (D-IL-03) is part of the bi-partisan effort sponsoring the High Rise Sprinkler Incentive Act. The act was created to incentivize building owners to install fire sprinklers in older high rise residential buildings.

In a news release about the act, Newman said, “Our first responders make sacrifices every day to keep our communities safe. It’s on us to not only express our gratitude but ensure we enact legislation to make their jobs as safe as possible.”

“Our country has had two horrific fires a few days apart,” Collins said. “It’s time to update sprinkler legislation and do what we can now to keep residents and first responders safe.”

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