Research

Home fires account for 85% of fire deaths in the United States, the majority in 1- or 2-family homes lacking fire sprinklers. Since 1978, however, a grassroots movement has successfully promoted more than 360 local ordinances mandating sprinklers in all new residential construction, including 1- and 2-family homes. The homebuilding industry has responded by seeking state preemption of local authority, a strategy previously used by other industries concerned about protecting their profits. From 2009 through 2011, 13 states adopted laws eliminating or limiting local authority over residential fire sprinklers. This study of the residential sprinkler movement adds to our understanding of grassroots public health movements and provides additional evidence that preemption can have a negative impact on public health and safety. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print August 15, 2013: e1–e8. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301317)

This article presents the findings of research on the impact of state laws that preempt local smokefree ordinances, including the negative impact of state preemption on social norms change. Public health advocates are advised to learn about preemption while working towards local change.