Grassroots change: Understanding the residential fire sprinkler movement

Blog Post created by ryan.quinn Employee on Jun 20, 2013

Dr. Flatolli During a recent interview  with Grassroots Change , an organization created to “to empower grassroots leaders to build and sustain effective public health movements at the local, state, and national levels, Shannon Frattaroli, Ph.D., Associate Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Injury Research and Policy, offers her insight on the success of the grassroots movement for residential fire sprinklers.

Dr. Frattaroli has studied the residential fire sprinkler movement and tells Grassroots Change that “this is a fantastic, energetic grassroots movement that’s been going on for the past 30 or 40 years in this country."

Preliminary lessons include:

•     The power of organizing and what a small, committed group of people can do to make their communities better for all.

•     It shows the power of particular agencies, life the fire service, which is not often thought of as companions in public health. Their contribution to the residential fire sprinkler issue shows how much public health there is in the fire service.

•     We’re recognizing that public health is something that has a lot of potential for partnerships outside of our traditional sphere.

What Dr. Frattaroli found, first and foremost, is “the energy and commitment of individuals who make up the grassroots” and are willing to take action to make change. Secondarily, she finds "there’s an important technical expertise that can elevate a grassroots movement from a collection of people who want to do good and who are organized, effective, and achieving real change.”

She recognizes how preemptive residential sprinkler prohibition laws have been counterproductive to the goals of public health and devastating to grassroots. “When the federal or state government says to the states or local government that you cannot legislate on a particular issue, that’s just debilitating” says Dr. Frattoli.

Despite the setbacks of preemption Dr. Frattaroli says “we can look back on the history of public health and see how we’ve won tremendous victories through grassroots movement building, and as we look ahead to what public health is going to look like in the future, movement building and the grassroots has to be a part of that if we’re going to be effective on the policy front.”

Read the whole interview