Reagan on Tulsa and the National Fire Protection Code

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Looking for some information relating to my next column (dealing with the requirement to add sprinklers to older apartment and condo buildings), I found the text of one of Ronald Reagan's radio commentaries from the summer of 1977 that had to do with Tulsa and part of the local Army Corps of Engineers office moving into more expensive digs because of Federal fire prevention rules. It's found on pp. 178-9 of Reagan's Path to Victory, but with Reagan's edits and abbreviations. I've retyped it to read as he would have read it for broadcast.

Government Cost
July 6, 1977

Every once in awhile another example pops up to illustrate why government costs so much. Since it's your money, I figure you should know about it. I'll be right back.

Over in Tulsa, Okla., the Army Corps of Engineers is moving about a fifth of its operation out of its present quarters and into a new office building at roughly four times the rent NOW being paid. The figures are really interesting. The engineers are leaving almost 21,000 sq. ft. of office space for which they pay $2.89 a sq. ft. to move into only16,000 sq. ft. of office space for which they'll pay (make that, we'll pay) $11.88 a sq. ft.

The operation that is moving represents only about 22% of the Corps' Tulsa headquarters. The other almost four-fifths of their offices are located in the old Federal building which has 75,000 sq. ft. of vacant space and which was remodeled 10 years ago at a cost of $700,000 for use by the engineers.

Apparently none of this is the doing of the engineers. The Business Service Center of the General Services Administration is in charge of this move. According to the chief of GSA the new more costly office building is the only building in Tulsa which meets "Standard 101 of the National Fire Protection Code" called "Code for Life Safety from Fire in Buildings and Structures." He says the government is really getting tough about the fire regulations. Standard 101 is a book with 16 chapters.

The CIty Fire Marshal of Tulsa says he doubts any building in Tulsa can meet all the requirements of Standard 101. The Fire Marshall isn't saying downtown Tulsa is a fire trap -- he's indicating Standard 101 like so many government documents goes beyond the bounds of common sense and reason. To their credit the Corps of Engineers had asked for other locations but were turned down by GSA.

A lot of questions come to mind in this whole thing, beginning with why the one-fifth of the engineers' operations aren't over in the Federal Building with the other four-fifths where there is vacant space amounting to more than four and a half times as much space as they are moving into. If the Federal Building doesn't meet the rigorous requirements for fire safety laid down in Standard 101 why haven't the rest of the engineers been moved out? A spokesman for the Corps can only say it will be up to GSA to say when the building is no longers uitable for use by Federal employees. That answers another question. Standard 101 isn't a code that can be enforced on buildings in general. It's just a code for the protection of Federal government employees. Taxpayers can work and earn in less protected quarters. And just between us I'm sure with every bit as much safety as government employees are provided.

According to the Tulsa Tribune the shortcomings of the building the engineers are leaving consists of the following: one stairway is 4 inches too narrow, and there was some concern expressed about the distance to the rest rooms.

Don't feel guilty if you can't make sense out of what they're doing. Let me read a paragraph from a memo on another subject -- zero budgeting by the Office of Management and Budget. When you can understand this paragraph everything will become clear to you.

"Agencies may use whatever review and ranking techniques appropriate to their needs. However the minimum level for a decision unit is always ranked higher than any increment for the same unit, since it represents the level below which activities can no longer be conducted efficiently. However, the minimum level package for a give decision unit may be ranked so low in comparison to incremental levels of the decision units that the funding level for the agency may exclude that minimum funding level package."


This is Ronald Reagan. Thanks for listening.

( offers a downloadable five-hour collection of Reagan's radio commentaries for less than $20.)

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on January 2, 2009 10:43 PM.

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