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Shantel McCoy

Viniello leaving NFSA, but still passionate about the cause

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

John Viniello, president of the National Fire Sprinkler Association, is stepping down after 28 years on the job.

In announcement on the Patterson, N.Y.-based organization’s website today, Viniello writes that he’ll retire as of March 1. “I will turn 70 years of age at the end of February and it’s time step down. It’s been a great run.”

He said that Russ Fleming, NFSA’s executive vice president will handle day-to-day association matters until a new president is elected. “I will work with him to insure a smooth transition of responsibilities,” Viniello pledged.

I haven’t met Viniello personally but have interviewed him over the phone on a number of stories. I’ve been impressed with the way he always returns my calls so promptly. I think that’s because he’s so passionate about the need for fire sprinklers that he never wants to miss an opportunity to get publicity for the cause.

A recent letter that he posted on the site is a good example of his passionate feelings about fire sprinklers. It’s an open letter to Chicago media outlets regarding a tragic fire in a high-rise apartment complex in that city last week.

A 32-year-old woman who lived at the Lake Shore Drive building died when she arrived on the 12th floor by elevator after a fire had begun in an apartment belonging to other tenants, the Associated Press reported. The elevator door opened onto an inferno and Shantel McCoy died of carbon monoxide intoxication and inhalation of smoke and soot, the AP said.

McCoy’s mother has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the companies that manage the building, the AP said. It said the Chicago Sun-Times reported that JoAnn McCoy claims her daughter still would be alive if a sprinkler system had “been in place to put out the Jan. 9 fire.”

Such a tragedy could happen again, Viniello warns in his strongly-worded letter to the editor. Here’s what he wrote:
 

Elevators stopping at the fire floor…no fire sprinklers installed. Sounds more like the script from the film “The Towering Inferno”. Yet, sadly it happened once again in the City of Chicago. It becomes painfully evident that hundreds of thousands of residents living in high-rise buildings throughout Chicago are at risk of dying in a fire. These “ovens in the sky” will continue to kill or injure Chicagoans, including firefighters, because of a failed administration, including the former and current Mayors and Board of Alderman. They all lack the political will to enact legislation that requires retrofitting these unsafe building with life saving fire sprinkler systems. It is not a question of if it will happen again. It’s a question of when. How high does the “body count” have to get before the city administration becomes proactive rather than reactive? Sadly, those “who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.