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Scott Somers

 

How Mesa, AZ, is using federal money for sprinkler projects and stabilize troubled neighborhoods

Scott Somers
Scott Somers, Ph.D. is Vice Mayor of the City of Mesa, Arizona and a 17-year veteran of the Phoenix Fire Department. The state prohibits local jurisdictions from requiring fire sprinklers in homes. The City of Mesa has taken an innovative approach to sprinkler advocacy by using federal grants to install home fire sprinklers in low- and moderate-income homes - designed to stabilize troubled neighborhoods and stimulate economic growth.

Video: Scott Somers explains how federal program dollars helped fund sprinkler effort

Mr. Somers spoke about how Mesa is using federal money for sprinkler projects designed to stabilize troubled neighborhoods and stimulate economic growth in a recent issue of NFPA Journal®:

"In my nearly two decades of fire service experience in Phoenix, Arizona, I have witnessed firsthand how fire sprinklers are guardians of life and property. As vice-mayor of the neighboring community of Mesa, I have also found that sprinklers can be a strategic tool to spur job growth and economic opportunity.

The City of Mesa recognizes the mutual benefit sprinklers can have for businesses, residents, and the city, but many in the community do not. Arizona politics has mostly been adverse to fire sprinkler mandates. A residential sprinkler ordinance was adopted by Mesa’s city council in 1999 but was overturned by voters the following year in a referendum funded by homebuilders. State law enacted in 2011 now prohibits cities from requiring home fire sprinklers. Business owners have been reluctant to retrofit their properties due to cost concerns, even though sprinklers offer opportunities for growth by providing greater occupancy capacities for their buildings.

In this environment, the City of Mesa has taken an innovative approach to sprinkler advocacy. Mesa has used federal grants to install home fire sprinklers in low- and moderate-income homes, as well as to create a city-run grant program to retrofit sprinklers in historic downtown businesses. I’m not aware of any other community that has taken this approach, but it has also become clear to me that sprinkler advocates around the country need to explore increasingly creative ways to integrate fire sprinklers into their communities. Mesa’s sprinkler initiatives provide a unique case study on how the fire service can apply federal grant dollars to improve public safety while achieving the broad national objectives of these grant programs: to eliminate blight and meet community development needs". 

Read his entire column in NFPA Journal.