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« News report demonstrates power of home fire sprinkler system | Main | Welsh Assembly votes for fire sprinklers in new homes »

02/05/2010

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Something very basic seems to be missing from the whole argument. What about freedom? Freedom is always compromised under the skillful words of those who want to take it away. Are there a thousand reasons to have sprinklers? yes probably a thousand and one but shouldn't I have the freedom to review the data and make a decision? If I don't make the decision on sprinklers some else likes do they get to over rule me. If so, when was that freedom taken from me and why was I not given a vote? I'm not knocking sprinklers, I think they have value but not at the expense of someone's freedom to choose.

"Freedom" is such a great concept and one that is very misused by those who feel compeled substitute it for common sense. If all things were equal and the result touched no one else but you then the freedom of this decision is yours and yours alone. "But" and this is a big "But" There is more involved here that your basic freedom to make a choice. This problem involves those that can not chosse, The responder that is expected, no is demanded, by the public to make entry into lightweight construction and unprotected areas to save life and property. The community that has to support the result of incidents in unsprinkled decisions, loss of life, loss of community, loss of quality, loss of tax base, increased insurance costs, and if that responder or responders are hurt, maimed or killed, (of course you still had YOUR freedom of Choice) they did not. You would still demand thier service (Can you see how this whole issue is not really just yours to chosse?) This whole cascade of response and dependencies involves just more that you and your choice. Anytime a change is needed that is different that the status quo, someone wil coplain that this change is being thrusted upon them, its the same argument that we heard when cars where required to have seat belts, anti-lock brakes, and when structures were rquired to have smoke alarms, and exit door were required to swing out, and seat belts were required in aircraft... All of these are safety considerations that required US... YOU AND ME... to give up our personal freedom to choose and become safer by mandadted safety regulations... It has cost us more in the end in the form of more expensive cars, more expensive buildings, more expensive travel. But we are much safer, the people that respond to our emergencies are safer, and our live will be better and longer becasue if it. IF YOU WANT TO EXERCISE YOUR FREEDOM GO AHEAD, BUT NOT AT THE PRICE OF MINE !!!!!choosing to not have sprinkers drives Insurance costs up, MINE, Health Costs Up, Mine, replacement costs up MINE, Infrastructure Costs up MINE, Societal Costs up Mine, So are not in this by yourself and the decision is not just yours to make!!

Freedom is a privelege not a right. No matter what the circumstance, freedom comes with responsibility. For example, you have been given the freedom to drive a car. There are several responsibilities attached to that freedom. If you choose to drive drunk and cause an accident that kills innocent people, that freedom along with many other freedoms will be taken away. So lets say you choose not to sprinkler your townehome. Now you choose to use a crockpot to cook roast beef, but you decide to go to work while your crockpot is left unattended in your townehome. So at some point the element in your crockpot malfunctions and causes a fire in your townehome. Several minutes elapse before there are any visible signs of fire inside your townehome and a passerby calls it in. So by the time a fire dept/co. arrives, there is flame impingement on the middle townehome unit attached to your townehome. So in order to bring the fire under control, the fire dept/co. must enter the middle unit attached to your townehome. Even though the fire dept/co. moved furniture and covered your neighbors belongings with tarps, there is still considerable water/structural damage to his/her townehome, which was caused by your actions because you were given the freedom not to sprinkler your townehome.

You do not have the "freedom" to build sub-standard housing. You do not have the "freedom" to have an outhouse. You do not have the "freedom" to build a chimney out of sticks and mud. You don't even have the 'Freedom" to omit interconnected smoke alarms. Once you did and the cost to society was deemed too great and so we have building codes, starting with Hammurabi. Of course there were those that opposed every change and many based their arguments on the cry "Freedom." Let's look at a little history. In Rome their were the Vigiles who were essentially the fire marshals of their day. Their charge was to patrol the streets of Rome after curfew (the hour after which you had to have your fire extinguished) and summarily punish anyone caught being irresponsible with fire (subject to the whim of the Vigilum). Certainly an imposition on personal freedom. In American colonial times the tactic of fire fighting was to require (an imposition on freedom) every citizen to have a bucket and pike. When the fire (church) bell rang all citizens were required (an imposition on freedom) to bring their equipment to the fire where bucket brigades were formed and adjacent buildings torn down to make a fire break. The basic fire fighting tactic these days, once all rescues have at least attempted, is called "surround and drown." This puts lots of water on your neighbors' houses to keep them from catching fire (a modern fire break) and yours is left to pretty much burn itself out. So the issue isn't really about YOUR freedom to do what you will but about OUR freedom to not be threatened by your activities, OUR freedom to not have to pay the costs associated with increased numbers of firefighters, fire engines, fire houses and all the associated infrastructure needed to protect ourselves from the inevitability of fire, OUR freedom to not be impacted by increased insurance costs, etc. caused by your claim, and OUR freedom to override your bad decision regarding the safety of your family and your neighbors. And yes, this is what's known as the tyranny of the masses but that's what you get in democracies. And this was not an indictment of Jon Ruch but of the attitude of "my freedom" at any cost so pervasive in America today. In a society in which we are all so specialized we must give up a little personal freedom from time to time for the welfare of the community.

As a sprinkler system designer, I understand that having sprinklers in a home increases the likelyhood of surviving a fire, but to force 100% of society to pay more for a house or pay higher rent to decrease the mortatlity rate of fires from 0.6% to somethng lower and unkown seems unreasonable. I also like how they portray the maintenance as almost free, which disregards the cost of the mandatory inspection by qualified contractors and the additional inspection and testing of backflow preventers serving the systems. Also, you are not going to get a sprinkler system installed in 1500 sq.ft. house for $2300. It would be closer to $5000 and the annual inspections will run approx. $300 if no parts or devices need to be replaced/repaired. You are going to tell the most vulnerable (poorest segment) of society to suck it up and pay more for 0.6% of the country? Fortunatly I live in VA which is more than likey going to amend this requirement out in the adoption process.

NFPA 13D multipurpose systems do not require backflow preventers. A check valve is all that is required. Requiring backflow preventers for a multipurpose system is a capricious requirement by uninformed water authorities. The AWWA agrees that these potable water systems do not need the kind of backflow prevention you describe. Therefore the inspection costs you list are not necessary. Backflow preventers are only required for anti-freeze systems.

I wonder if you could back up your cost estimate with objective research, we have. A national study revealed that the average cost per square sprinkler foot (not total square feet of the house) is $1.61. We stand by that figure.

The 0.6% statistic you cite is not accurate. This blog post explains how this statistic is cited completely out of context by home fire sprinkler opponents. Your chance of surviving a house fire are increased by about 80% when sprinklers are installed.

It is the most vulnerable members of society who need this protection the most, and builders don't have to pass on the cost to them. The cost of this fire protection feature should be included in the price of a home without regard for increasing profits. A comparison done by Fire Team USA in the state of TN found that a home without sprinklers was priced higher than one with the sprinkler system installed. We also performed a study you may find on this website that proves a home fire sprinkler requirement does not impact housing supply or cost.

The people of the great state of VA need this protection. It is my sincerest hope that your prediction does not come to fruition.

Maria Figueroa

I'm still concerned here in the northeast that homeowners will endure many broken sprinkler pipes, as we currently experience in commerical buildings in the winter. Although the ISO advisory suggests that insurance companies will cover the water damage, it seems like insurance companies never cover 100% of the damage from any disaster.

NFPA 13D prescribes ways to insulate sprinkler pipes to prevent freezing. Multipurpose systems are integrated with the domestic water supply. The same care that is used to prevent the plumbing in the home against freezing is what is required. Antifreeze systems may also be used, albeit for a higher cost.

Insurance policies always have deductibles and set their own criteria to pay out claims. Those procedures are applied to any claim, not just sprinkler activation claims.

Maria Figueroa

I can't believe that anyone can't see the obvious consequences here! Mandatory sprinklers will without a dought make houses more expensive not only to buid but to maintain as well. Economics 101, higher cost = fewer people able to afford a new home especially on the lower end.
I know for a fact that as the homes age these systems not only will fail; but cause severe damage when they do. Who will pay for that, the contractor? Also as these homes get older, insulation falls off, pipes fail, lines are accidently cut,improper installation, ETC.; People will cut the systems off. And who will that help? At a time in our country's history when so many people are losing their homes because they can't afford them and so many construction workers and companies are going out of business, is this really the time to impose another burden on the people of our country? Will sprinklers save every life? Why not? Think about the consequences and use some common sense.

Mr. Penegar:

The "sky is falling" argument and other "red herring" arguments similar to yours are not supported by facts.

Fact: Home fire sprinklers are cost-effective
Fact: It takes no more to inspect and maintain an NFPA 13D system than other similar appliances in your home.
Fact: Home fire sprinklers do not impact housing supply or cost.

The obvious consequences of requiring home fire sprinklers will be saving thousands of lives each year. This has been demonstrated over and over in communities that have required fire sprinkler systems in new homes for years.

New construction homes are not better than homes built even ten years ago. These craftsman nowadays are not taking the time to do it right like they used to. The argument that new homes are safer couldn't be further from the truth. These newer houses are built as least expensively as possible to put more profit in the builder's pocket. It makes since to have sprinklers in your house instead of the whirlpool tub. As far as yearly maintenance, just add the task to getting your HVAC system serviced. It's extra, but if it gave your family more time to get out, it's worth it.

I do not buy into the notion of the costs of the sprinkler system being an "obstacle." Do the financial math of the costs of a 13D system spread over 30 years, integrated in a standard mortgage and you get a return that is peanuts for the added value of fire protection that is second to none. Newer built homes are not fire safe and NHBA continues to accentuate smoke alarms which the fire service believes that no longer can be justified as the sole source fire safety device. If a smoke alarm sounds, chances are it is either too late or one must immediately seek their secondary exit poste haste with the cloths or lack thereof. Adding 13D systems to new single family homes will reduce the need for firefighting equipment and assures the fire is extinguished or contained at the source. The fire service has a stakeholder value in one area...the life safety and protection of our citizens. We would rather see our citizens rotected with a 13D system than adding the burden of taxes to pay for a fire station in a 4 minute response radii thus increasing the costs of services delivered. No longer is the fire service a business as usual profession. More and more elected officials are looking at curbing the fire service and one way to do it effectively is adding sprinklers to new homes. It is our goal to reduce costs to the taxpayer and with a long termed goal of a smaller smarter emergency response department that responds to EMS with an occasional fire.

Top 5 Reasons to Build with Fire Sprinklers

1. Most importantly is LIFE SAFETY. Fire Sprinklers allow the time for occupants to escape a burning structure.

2. Fire Sprinklers dramatically reduce the amount of waste piled into our landfills from burned out structures and personal property.

3. Fire Sprinklers have been saving the amount of damage caused by fire which significantly reduces the use of our natural resources to rebuild the burned out structures.

4. Fire Sprinklers have been reducing the amount of toxins introduced into the environment and atmosphere by extinguishing fires while they are in the incipient stage or still small.

5. Fire Sprinklers have been saving treated water by the millions (probably billions) of gallons.

Sprinkler votes were appeared to be usual politics. I was at a meeting where the NFPA rep said that sprinklers were 90 cents a foot. Our spinkler compaines came back and said the real cost is was 3.00 a foot. We went back to NFPA and it was explained that the cost will go down because of the competition will lower the cost to get the work. I agree with sprinklers but NFPA has to do a better job about being honest.

Mr. Scott:
I am deeply troubled by your belief that NFPA is not being honest. I assure you that NFPA relies on scientific studies and research when providing information or formulating a position.
The Fire Sprinkler Cost Assessment report that may be obtained here: http://firesprinklerinitiative.org/~/media/Fire%20Sprinkler%20Initiative/Files/Reports/FireSprinklerCostAssessment.ashx contains the $1.61 per sq. ft. average cost of home fire sprinkler systems. Any other cost/price does not represent the position of NFPA.
We will continue to advocate for home fire sprinkler requirements because it is estimated that they will save the majority of the over 3,000 people a year (on average) who perish in home fires.
We will also continue to provide honest objective information based on ongoing research, as it becomes available, so that policy makers will be able to make informed community risk reduction decisions.

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