Minnesota High Rise Retro-fit Bill Moves Forward at the Capitol

On Wednesday, March 11, 2020, House File 3003 was introduced by Minnesota State Representative Mohamud Noor and supported by testimony from the Minnesota State Fire Marshal Jim Smith, NFSA State Coordinator and former Minnesota State Fire Marshal Tom Brace, and Local Sprinkler Union 417’s Business Manager Trinidad Uribe. Representative Noor’s bill would require any Minnesota high rise over 75 feet be sprinklered by 2032. This bill is a result of the fatal fire in Minneapolis on November 27th, 2019, which occurred on the 14th floor of a Minneapolis Public Housing residential high rise, killing 5 residents.

Testimony included references to several myths regarding the cost and disruption to the residents of a high rise during a retrofit project. This bill would apply to roughly 100 high rises across the state. Testimony dispelled belief that a retrofit project would be cost prohibitive and having to displace residents for days. Committee members raised the issue that public high-rises have many high priority improvements to complete, but it was suggested in response by Tom Brace that sprinklers be moved to the top of that priority list. It strikes this writer: What would be more of a priority than protecting life? Public housing should provide the highest safety standards to their residents rather than just meeting the minimums. Falling short results in having residents lose their lives in a residential fire when the technology and process are available to provide superior protection.

It was stated by a couple committee members they were sympathetic to our bill, but their concerns come down again – as always – to funding. With this being said, the bill was unanimously passed to the Government Operations Committee to be heard. We are moving forward!

Esme Murphy, a local CBS news reporter, covered the testimony in a televised report following the hearing. Liz Navratil, a Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter also covered the hearing in her March 12 article

Joel Hewitt, MN State Coordinator