When Manchester Fire Chief Dan Goonan warns of a tragedy waiting to happen, people should pay attention. In this case, the people are in the state Legislature and they should work to enact a bill of which Goonan spoke favorably this week.
His reference was to so-called sober houses, where some people in the throes of the ongoing opioid crisis turn to live, at least temporarily. Goonan and others are worried that, without proper fire and safety regulation, some such places are fire traps.
The chief says he has identified almost 40 homes in Manchester where a dozen or so unrelated individuals may be living. His instinct tells him there are more. Some are owned and run responsibly as truly “sober’’ houses. But others are far from sober. Their tenants are using and misusing alcohol and drugs and the homes are otherwise unsafe.
State Rep. Erika Connors, a Manchester Democrat, is sponsoring HB 311, which would allow cities and towns to regulate safety (alarms, evacuation plans, etc.) in “sober homes” in which from four to 16 unrelated adults are residing. Those who run such a facility would have to file with the local authorities and pass inspections.
We don’t see this as government overreach. We see it as an issue that has cropped up as a consequence of the opioid epidemic. It seeks to address a new problem, where unscrupulous people are attempting to make money off epidemic victims and where others are inexperienced regarding safety.
The proposal should be carefully vetted and considered but, in the end, we think it should be worthy of passage.