September 28, 2013

Although building codes require fire sprinklers in apartment buildings and factories, residential fires still account for 85% of fire deaths in the United States. The majority of one- and two-family homes lack fire sprinklers. Since 1978, however, a grassroots movement has promoted the passage of more than 360 local ordinances mandating sprinklers in all new home construction. The passage of state preemption of local authority in this case follows an historic pattern in which impacted industries use preemption as a tool to undermine grassroots public health and safety policy campaigns.

The findings about both the power of grassroots movement building and preserving local authority offer valuable lessons for those working on other public health and safety issues.