Maryland's fire service and other advocates stand ready to defend the state's sprinkler requirement following the filing of a bill this month to eliminate this feature in new, one- and two-family homes. Maryland is one of two states (California is the other) with a statewide, sprinkler requirement.
Sponsoring the bill is Maryland Delegate Chris Adams, who told a local newspaper that this legislation "brings a responsible return of critical decision-making to the local level, where these decisions are best made." Adams also fears sprinklers will halt economic growth, a myth that has been addressed by various reports by NFPA. For example, the report "Comparative Analysis of Housing Costs and Supply Impacts of Sprinkler Ordinances at the Community Level," examined certain counties in the Maryland and Virginia area. It concluded that the enactment of sprinkler ordinances did not cause any detrimental effects on housing supply and costs. Furthermore, the data revealed that fire sprinkler requirements were a minor influence on regional housing costs compared to fees, population and job growth, and land availability.
Defending the necessity of the sprinkler requirement has been Maryland's fire service. In a recent piece written for a local publication, volunteer firefighter Mark Cotter used NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative research to state his case. He also offered an apology to readers.
"I want to apologize on behalf of the fire service for this delayed response to a significant threat to the safety of our fellow citizens," he stated. "We had been led to believe this life-saving building feature, costing less than many cosmetic upgrades to a new home, could no longer be ignored by local jurisdictions. We were surprised and alarmed by recently reported efforts to seek assistance from the Maryland state legislature to circumvent this requirement.
"Another apology: No fire department will arrive in time to stop a fire that has extended beyond the room of origin in a home built with modern components. Our efforts will likely instead be directed at preventing its spread to nearby structures." This reality underscores the need for fire sprinklers, he added.
Citing the benefits of sprinklering the state's townhomes, Cotter noted that failure to sprinkler its new homes will continue to result in needless fire deaths. "We in the fire service have sworn to protect the lives and property of our citizens. It would be nice if our elected officials acted in the same interests."
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