Editorial - Regulations should be enacted reasonably
Published: Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, August 28, 2012 01:08
A public hearing was held at the Charleston Civic Center in our state’s capital this Friday to discuss proposed changes to regulations on West Virginia’s fire departments.
The proposals, which are currently being considered by the West Virginia Fire Commission, would require all of West Virginia’s fire departments to abide by a new fire code. This new code would include more than 90 rules and regulations recommended by the National Fire Protection Association. Although the intent behind requiring the implementation of these measures is to improve safety procedures at our fire departments, critics argue these changes would ultimately do more harm than good as a result of their exorbitant costs. Most of the opposition to these changes voiced at Friday’s public hearing centered on these costs.
Current estimates suggest compliance with these new rules would cost millions of dollars. Additionally, any fire department that does not fully implement the new rules would face a daily penalty of at least $100 until all the all the new standards are met.
While we can all probably agree on the importance of enhanced safety protocols, it seems unreasonable to suddenly impose a torrent of costly measures on our unsuspecting fire departments and expect them to shoulder such extreme punishments if they struggle to meet the new requirements.
There are close to 400 fire departments in West Virginia, and there is no question the lagging economy has taken a toll on their financial health.
Many of the leaders of West Virginia’s firefighter community, including the president of the Monongalia County Fireman’s Association, have voiced their opposition to the proposal. Some have expressed their belief that many of West Virginia’s struggling fire departments would be unable to survive under the new rules because of the heavy financial burden. Certainly, the closure of many of the state’s fire departments would not be an improvement to the status quo.
The WVFC needs to closely reassess their proposal to ensure it does not lead to such closures. They might consider introducing the new standards incrementally, in a manner that gives fire departments ample time to prepare.