House of Reps. passes college fire protection bill

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Monday, May 1, 2006

WASHINGTON--The National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association declared a milestone victory in late March in its campaign, announced last fall, to raise awareness about fire detection on Capitol Hill.
A bill, introduced earlier this winter by Rep. Vito Fossella (R-NY) (see February issue of Security Systems News) to establish a pilot program to make government matching funds available to colleges and universities to pay for fire detection and prevention technologies in student housing, passed the House of Representatives on March 29.
"Our message of 'fire detection plus suppression equals fire safety' is getting through," said John Chwatt, NBFAA director of government affairs, in an interview conducted in Las Vegas at ISC West.
The bill was attached as an amendment to HR 609, "a major higher education bill that has a whole series of [$40 million] grant programs," said Chwatt.
Chwatt said support from the National Fire Protection Association and the Central Station Alarm Association was important in getting the bill passed.
The bill was reworked, but retains language important to integrators, such as that the systems be professionally installed in line with NFPA standards, Chwatt noted.
The bill originally called for a four-year, $12 million ($3 million per year) pilot project, administered by the U.S. Department of Education, that would award matching grants on a competitive basis to colleges for the professional installation of fire detection and other fire prevention technologies. Now that the bill is part of a package of the $40 million grant programs, advocates will have to push to get as much funding allocated for the pilot project as possible while it's under consideration in the Senate. If, as Chwatt expects, the bill becomes law, he and other advocates will have to make similar efforts with the Department of Education when officials there set up the pilot program.
The bill is now in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, where it has the support of Sen. Lamar Alexander, (R-TN), Chwatt said.
Chwatt expects the Senate to vote on the bill in August.