Washington, D.C. - In the wake of a tragic house fire that killed 12 people, including 9 children, in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the Public and Federally Assisted Housing Fire Safety Act. This bipartisan legislation would help protect the more than 10 million Americans who live in public or federally assisted housing from the risk of fire. The bill would require the installation of hardwired or tamper-resistant battery-powered smoke alarms in federally assisted housing. It would also authorize $2 million for HUD to run a national educational campaign on health and safety requirements in public housing, including how to properly use fire safety features. Congresswoman Madeleine Dean (D-PA-04) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“The Philadelphia fire that killed 12 people, including 9 children, this past January was heartbreaking. We can and must do more to protect families against tragedies like this,” said Senator Casey. “This legislation is simple: by requiring more reliable smoke detectors in affordable housing, we can save lives.”
“The fire in Fairmount was heartbreaking, and the community continues to mourn the sudden loss of 12 family members, including so many precious children,” Rep. Dean said. “Let me be clear – we can never repeat the fire tragedies that we saw in Philadelphia or New York. We must implement critical safeguards that will protect the millions of families that live in public and federally assisted housing.
“The National Association of State Fire Marshals enthusiastically supports H.R. 7981, the Public and Federally Assisted Housing Fire Safety Act of 2022,” NASFM Executive Director Jim Narva said. “This extremely important legislation will require the installation of either tamper resistant or hardwired smoke alarms in federally assisted housing. We look forward to working with Representative Madeleine Dean and her colleagues to enact this bill into law which will prevent future tragedies along with saving countless lives.”
“No one should have to choose between an affordable place to live and a home that is safe. Because of decades of federal disinvestment by Congress, however, some of America’s lowest-income and most marginalized households have no choice but to live in homes without adequate heat or other basic safety standards, putting their health – or even their lives - at risk,” Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition said. “While robust federal resources such as those included in the House-passed Build Back Better Act are needed to repair and preserve public housing for future generations, improving the quality of smoke detectors in all federally assisted housing is a simple, common-sense step in the right direction that will save lives.”
“The tragic loss of lives from the fires earlier this year in the cities of Philadelphia and New York highlights the critical need for working, well-maintained smoke alarms in every public housing unit in America,” International Code Council Chief Executive Officer Dominic Sims, CBO said. “The Code Council applauds Representative Dean and the bill’s co-sponsors for leading the effort to ensure that the more than 1 million households living in public housing units are equipped with working smoke alarms that make buildings safer, protect property, and save lives.”
The horrific blaze on January 5 occurred in a public housing unit with only one working smoke alarm; of the seven smoke alarms in the rowhome, four were in drawers, one was on the floor without batteries, one was on the ceiling without batteries and the final alarm was working but located in the basement.
The House bill led by Dean is also sponsored by U.S. Representatives Dwight Evans (D-PA-3), Brendan Boyle (D-PA-2), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1) and Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA-5).