Calif. to improve fire equipment approval

Thursday, February 1, 2007

SACRAMENTO--Although it went through some revisions before getting signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger, a California bill designed to streamline the approval process for fire alarm equipment in the state appears likely to do just that.
Before the passage last fall of the bill (AB 2177), California was the only state in the country that required special testing, review and certification of fire alarm equipment by the state fire marshal before it could be sold or used in the state.
All other states rely on entities such as Underwriters Laboratories to review products.
"The original bill would have done away with the fire marshal's involvement" in the process, said Alan Edelstein, legislative advocate for the California Alarm Association. "The final bill was a compromise," he said.
The governor proposed a last-minute amendment that required the fire marshal's office to create a working group to develop and review a certification process to get fire alarm products to market expeditiously.
"The sponsors thought the bill would be vetoed if the fire marshal review was outright abolished," Edelstein said.
Among legislative watchers, it is thought that the governor feared he could be accused of being weak on public safety, something that could be dangerous for him in an election year.
The bill was passed and signed by the governor prior to last year's November elections. It called for a working group to be appointed in October and for the group to come up with a plan for expediting the approval process.
The bill stipulates that the fire marshal must adopt a plan before March 30, 2007.
The working group was not appointed prior to the deadline, but Edelstein believes the group is in on track now: "It's my understanding that the committee has met and is working to meet the bill's tight time requirements."