Fire Organizations Applaud Florida Governor Scott for Veto HB 653

Bill That Would Have Weakened Fire Codes

On June 26th, Governor Rick Scott of Florida vetoed HB 653, a bill that would have allowed high–rise buildings in Florida without adequate fire and life safety systems to forego the retrofit of fire sprinklers and/or engineered life safety systems in these buildings that are currently required to come into compliance by 2020.

The recent Grenfell Tower fire in London underscored the importance of fire sprinklers and Governor Rick Scott understood the ramifications. His actions were bold and hopefully lay the groundwork for a new era of policy makers who understand the impact of fire.

The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF), Common Voices, and the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors all join to applaud Governor Scott for being a proactive leader who includes fire sprinklers to ensure quality of life for citizens and visitors of Florida.

In his veto letter, Governor Scott explained his decision, “Fire sprinklers and enhanced life safety systems are particularly effective in improving the safety of occupants in high-rise buildings and ensure the greatest protection to the emergency responders who bravely conduct firefighting and rescue operations.”

“As someone who has been directly affected by fire, I implore more policy makers to follow Governor Scott’s lead,” explained Vina Drennan of the non-profit advocates’ coalition Common Voices. “My husband, Captain John Drennan died in the line of duty as an FDNY firefighter and I’ve devoted my efforts to sharing information about fire & life safety and ways to be proactive. Inclusion of fire sprinklers is priority number one.”

In a sense, Governor Scott’s proactive veto for life safety speaks for those who will become advocates, as a result of the Grenfell Tower fire in London. In his veto letter, he explained, “While I am particularly sensitive to regulations that increase the cost of living, the recent London high-rise fire, which tragically took at least 79 lives, illustrates the importance of life safety protections.”

“We hope this veto will encourage other states to stand with America’s fire service and citizens alike,” adds Chief Ron Siarnicki, NFFF Executive Director. “Firefighter and citizen lives will be saved as a result of this proactive decision that supports the NFFF Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives, specifically Initiative 15. We need more policy makers that understand how life safety does impact quality of life, as well as preserving life.”

“As a survivor of the Station Nightclub Fire, I understand the fire problem in America better than most,” explains Rob Feeney, a fire safety advocate for Common Voices and the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. “I lost friends and loved ones in that fire and it amazes me that we don’t have laws that can prevent this from happening again by requiring fire sprinklers. My hope is that everyone will see what happened in London and know that it can happen in America.”

“As a former mayor, fire chief and state fire marshal, I know there is a way to bring all stakeholders together that will receive benefit for doing the right thing. I am in awe of the advocates who have stepped forward to help Governor Scott understand the significance of this veto,” added Shane Ray, President of the National Fire Sprinkler Association. “The Grenfell Tower fire in London helped Governor Scott understand fire and it’s devastating impact on our world.”

Businesses and advocates are all interested in life safety and sustainability. Everyone’s success is a key to the quality of life in any community. Blame after the fact never does anything positive, this veto is an example of good decision making where a balance of life safety and sustainable businesses can co-exist.

Federal legislation (S.602 & H.R. 1481), filed in the 115th Congress, would provide incentives to owners to retrofit with fire sprinklers. This legislation is what America is all about, a public/private partnership that keeps citizens and firefighters safe while saving businesses money. Hopefully, America’s congressional leaders will realize that this legislation can help prevent tragedies like those that happened last week in London.