The Charger Blog

MPA Student Proposes Legislation to Protect Firefighters

What began as a class assignment for Adam Hansen ’05, ’20 MPA has become proposed legislation that would warn firefighters when entering a potentially dangerous building.

June 12, 2019

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications


Image of Adam Hansen ’05, ’20 MPA
Adam Hansen ’05, ’20 MPA and his son, Adam Jr.

Adam Hansen ’05, ’20 MPA still remembers when Eddie Ramos, a firefighter in his hometown of Branford, was killed in a warehouse fire on Thanksgiving Day in 1996 when the roof collapsed on him. The structure was built with truss-type construction, consisting of a triangle or an organization of triangles that enables the building’s roof to support heavy loads, such as snow.

The problem, however, is that when this type of construction is exposed to fire, it can fail within approximately ten minutes.

When Hansen was working on a briefing memo to address a problem in the public domain for his "Principles of Public Administration" class, he knew that he wanted to focus on preventing deaths like Ramos’s.

"I chose a topic I was very passionate about," said Hansen, a Milford Fire Department lieutenant who studied fire science as an undergraduate at the University. "Many states dictate that any new building with truss construction in the roof or flooring assembly has to mark it at the front main entrance. That way, firefighters will see that before they enter the building."

Researching what other states, including Florida, have done to address the issue, Hansen recommended drafting and passing a bill in the Connecticut General Assembly that would require marking truss-construction buildings with a Maltese cross within 24 inches to the left of the structure’s main doorway.

"I want to make changes. I know it’s not easy. If it doesn’t pass this time, I’m not going to take my ball and go home."Adam Hansen ’05, ’20 MPA

Even after turning in his assignment, Hansen continued to push his idea forward. Hansen, who spent nearly a decade in local politics – including six years as clerk of the Branford Representative Town Meeting – had connections in local government. He sent his proposal to several lawmakers who supported it, and it has now become two proposed Connecticut General Assembly House Bills.

Dr. Christy Smith, director of the University’s MPA program and the professor of Hansen’s "Principles of Public Administration" class, challenged him to identify several possible solutions to address the problem. Hansen, acknowledging that it would be expensive and difficult to pass legislation that would include all buildings, proposed the legislation to cover new commercial and industrial buildings, as well as multifamily homes.

Image of Adam Hansen ’05, ’20 MPA
Hansen is a lieutenant in the Milford Fire Department.

"My goal is for students to relate what I’m teaching and apply it," said Smith. "The assignment challenges students to figure out a way to help. That’s the purpose of effective government – to fix problems in meaningful ways. It’s important to focus on solutions, not just what’s wrong."

Hansen has the support of several lawmakers, including State Representatives Ben McGorty, Robin Comey, and Sean Scanlon.

"I don’t know of any former or current students who have worked on something in the class and then taken it to the state level, so this is exciting," said Smith. "Adam is not a watcher. He’s a doer."

Hansen continues to learn about policy and politics as he advocates for the legislation. He knows that bills are not typically passed the first time, and he is unwavering in his determination to protect his fellow firefighters.

"I want to make changes," said Hansen. "I know it’s not easy. If it doesn’t pass this time, I’m not going to take my ball and go home. I’m going to keep pushing forward, because I know how hard it is to get something passed at the local level, let alone at the state or federal level."