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Stewart Bill to Improve Fire Safety in Schools, Hospitals Heads to Senate Floor for Vote 

SB 143 Calls for Rules to Allow More Smoke/Fire Damper Inspections

Sen. Mimi Stewart’s bill to improve fire safety in schools, hospitals and other public buildings by requiring the Public Regulation Commission to update inspection guidelines for smoke and fire dampers passed the Senate Corporations & Transportation Committee on Monday.

Specifically, SB 143 directs the PRC to establish rules that would allow certified technicians who install smoke and fire dampers to also inspect dampers and report damage or needed repairs.

“Smoke and fire dampers are in almost every school, every hospital and every government building in the state,” Stewart said. “You don’t see them—and hopefully one will never need to be used when you’re around—but these mechanisms help keep fires from devastating the institutions we rely on. Without proper inspection, though, dampers can fail, causing a manageable fire to erupt into a devastating tragedy at a school, hospital or nursing home.”

Smoke and fire dampers, at their most basic, are screens or flaps in HVAC systems that close when temperatures reach a certain point in order to prevent the spread of smoke and flames. By containing smoke, dampers help more people safely evacuate before a fire spreads.

Currently, fire marshals handle fire- and smoke-damper inspections. However, by allowing certified technicians who are experts in dampers to also do inspections, the Public Regulation Commission would ensure that more dampers are inspected and more problems with dampers are addressed in a timely manner.

“The inspectors we have today are top-notch,” Stewart said. “The problem isn’t the inspectors; it’s the sheer number of dampers that need to be inspected that is creating a problem. By allowing technicians who install and work with these dampers every day to also inspect them, we can ease the inspection workload and keep kids, patients and the public safe.”

SB 143, which previously passed the Senate Public Affairs Committee, now heads to the full Senate for a vote.


A retired teacher, Senate Majority Whip Mimi Stewart has served two years as chair of the Legislative Education Study Committee. Prior to becoming a state Senator, Stewart served 20 years in the New Mexico House of Representatives, where she chaired the Education Committee. Stewart lives in Albuquerque. Learn more at www.mimistewart.org and follow her on Twitter @Sen_MimiStewart and on Instagram @mimistewart9.