Stillwater Fire District
|Stillwater Fire District - Arvin Hart Fire Company|
Photos compliments of Bob Eastman owner of Ground Aerial photo services 2013
The Real Truth About Residential Sprinklers – A Firefighters Perspective
At its August 19, 2015, meeting in Albany, NY, the New York State Code Council took a step closer to adopting the 2015 International Residential Code (IRC) for New York state. However, the council chose not to include the portion of the code that would have required the installation of residential fire sprinklers in newly constructed one- and two-family homes. The council opted to continue using the previous version of the code, which only requires sprinklers in wood frame residences that exceed two stories above grade. Understand that the International Codes Council has included residential sprinklers for one and two family dwellings for the last two code cycles or six years. We find it ironic that the New York City Council voted last week to require sprinklers in pet stores because they can’t save themselves, yet the State of New York refuses to protect children such as 2 year old Nora Lamirande the same way. Lamirande perished in a fire in a Central New York community in a home built in 2013.
Both the home builders and realtors fought hard against the measure and spent considerable money lobbying against sprinklers. According to the home builders association sprinklers would have been so costly they would have prevented everyone in this state from participating in the “American Dream”. What the fire service wants is to prevent that “Dream” from going up in flames in a matter of minutes and insuring that your loved ones and pets are able to escape a tragic fire. The actions of the Code Council devalued human life in New York State and acted on misinformation perpetrated by the home builders association, which by the way has been the same mantra used in every state they have fought the inclusion of sprinklers. The State of California and the State of Maryland have let stand sprinklers in one and two family dwellings as well as several jurisdictions across the country. The main argument is that sprinklers are a “mandate”, mandate becoming the dirty word. No one wants mandates, no one wants to be mandated. Excuse me, but all fire and building codes are mandates and they have come into existence for one reason to save lives and property, in many cases from unscrupulous builders, building owners and employers. Some of the most famous large loss fires have resulted in sweeping changes to the fire and life safety codes.
After the mandate issue, cost is the number one complaint. The problem is unrealistic figures are being used and there are variables involved depending on where you live. Just recently a 15 year study released indicated that a residential sprinkler system in Scottsdale Arizona costs as little as 80 cents per square foot. It must be remembered that a residential sprinkler is part of the plumbing system. If planned correctly the plumbing pipes can be well planned so that there is a valve on one end and the toilet on the other with sprinkler heads in between using the same pipe of your choosing, copper, plastic or PEX. There is no annual maintenance for residential sprinklers and they are designed so that only one or two heads operate when a fire occurs, they don’t all go off at once, like some would lead you to believe. The choice is yours, 16 gallons per minute for a sprinkler head or 260 gallons per minute for one fire hose line; what causes more water damage? We have also endured the litany about freezing pipes; so lets connect the dots, residential sprinklers are attachments on the plumbing system, if we install a plumbing that freezes we probably didn’t install the system properly, we need to take care not to install any plumbing lines so they don’t freeze, on one end is a valve on the other is a toilet, and in the middle are sprinkler heads, it’s just that easy.
The next misconception perpetrated by the builders is that if sprinklers are mandated, the housing market will go bust. Well, sprinklers are required in Maryland and in this article by the Mid-Atlantic Multiple Listing Service as of March of this year, not a single word relating to the strength or weakness of the market is attributed to mandated sprinklers. The real factors relate to the interest rates, the ease of obtaining a mortgage and everything but sprinklers. (http://www.baltimoremagazine.net/2015/3/20/real-estate-predictions-for-2015) . In article after article, not one mention of sprinklers were stunting the market, most of the problems are attributed to the mortgage and foreclosure debacle caused by the housing bubble, where real estate was overpriced and where the requirements for mortgages were lowered.
So to recap, the cost of residential sprinklers is being inflated, the freeze problem is exaggerated, there are no maintenance costs, the lack of fire service staffing is mitigated, property damage is reduced, insurance pay outs can be reduced, will provide you and your family additional time to escape and your “American Dream” along with all of your possessions will not be reduced to a pile of ash in a matter of minutes. Last but not least if you are in a rural area, on a well you will have a cache of water when others don’t. So what is the issue. The home builders and realtors fought against the installation of smoke detectors several years ago.
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