HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – After a tragic daycare fire in Erie that took the lives of five young children in 2019, lawmakers in Harrisburg made a big step to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.
The General Assembly passed Senate Bill 563 last week. The legislation seeks to improve fire safety in daycare homes.
“Obviously, it was an important bill to get done. I wish that we could have got it done sooner. Honestly, I don’t know why it took so long,” said SB 563 sponsor State Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie).
SB 563 requires family daycare homes to have a smoke detector on each floor and in the basement, a portable fire extinguisher, while also ensuring occupancy and licensing requirements are met. Laughlin says it’s a common-sense bill he would have liked to see enacted sooner.
“I realize nothing around this building is a no-brainer, but in my opinion, that’s a bill that’s as close as you can get to that,” said Laughlin.
He adds that the bill has several components that can prevent future tragedies, not just in Erie, but across the state.
“One of the things that that wasn’t already codified into law, was that the smoke detectors weren’t interconnected,” said Laughlin.
His bill would change that by syncing, or interconnecting the smoke detectors and alarms on each floor of the home.
“If one goes off, they all go off. That’s really the biggest portion of this bill, is that they have to be interconnected now,” said Laughlin, adding that it’s a bill he wishes he didn’t have to sponsor, but an important one nonetheless. “I wish that I hadn’t had to run it. It was a tragedy in Erie. And we’re trying to prevent this from happening again. This is just the right thing to do,” said Laughlin.
Laughlin says smoke detectors are an important investment, especially for daycare facilities. He says sometimes, they can be obtained for free from your local fire department.
“You can buy a five-pack of these at Home Depot and Lowe’s right now for roughly $100. And if you’re running a daycare center, I don’t consider that a burdensome amount of money,” said Laughlin. “I think every homeowner that might be watching this newscast probably has smoke detectors in their home, and I would say if they don’t, you can get some for free, even from the fire departments, you don’t even have to buy them,” added Laughlin.
SB 563 passed unanimously out of the House and Senate and is awaiting a signature from Governor Tom Wolf.
Press Secretary for Governor Wolf, Elizabeth Rementer, confirmed to ErieNewsNow Tuesday afternoon that the Governor intends to sign the bill into law.