"Policymakers need to be gently nudged along the right path," Shari Shapiro told attendees at NFPA's recent Fire Sprinkler Initiative Summit in Phoenix. Nudging legislators in a pro-sprinkler direction has been a task of Shapiro, founder of Calliope Policy Advisers, which represents nonprofits and other industries in state and local affairs, including building code updates.
During her presentation, Shapiro outlined necessary actions that can get and keep home fire sprinklers on the radar of legislators and influential groups. "Fire sprinklers are a taxpayer issue," she told the crowd. "When a home burns down, it has an impact on the community, and that impact can be quantified. It can be used to engage community members." Use your state or region's home fire statistics to your advantage, she added.
If a state or region is going to initiate a push for home fire sprinklers, inviting all stakeholder groups to the table is a must, Shapiro added. The most effective state sprinkler coalitions, she noted, are the ones that make it seem like it is in a specific group's best interest to join the cause. "You need to make it as easy as possible for other organizations to participate in your efforts. You need a strong coalition with a strong strategy."
Before you even propose the idea of a sprinkler ordinance, legislators also need to know who you are, Shapiro said, adding that inviting legislators to informal community events is a great means of introduction. "You need to be in their office, just to say hi."
Looking to showcase support for a sprinkler ordinance in your town? Start a petition! Use this template produced by NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative. If you'd like to create an online petition, we can help you. Email us for assistance.