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2010

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The effort must now move to the state legislature, where the requirement is being threatened by Senate Bill 1057. John adds that “in the interest of fire and life safety, I trust that legislative efforts to overturn this decision by the SCBCC will not be successful.” He adds:  “we are fighting for those who will live, or die, in future homes in South Carolina.”


[Maria Figueroa | mailto:mfigueroa@nfpa.org]

 

Fire safety advocates led a successful effort in Kansas this month to defeat what they described as a dangerous piece of legislation. House Bill 2515 would have prohibited local jurisdictions from adopting sprinkler requirements in homes. The bill did not receive the needed votes to pass.


“The fire service in Kansas should be commended for their leadership in promoting home fire sprinklers,” said James M. Shannon, NFPA president. “They know first hand the devastating consequences of fire and know those losses can be significantly reduced with home fire sprinklers.” Click here to read the press release


Similar legislation has been introduced in eleven other states.  The time is now to call your state senators and representatives to provide them with the facts so that they are able to make an informed decision.  Let them know that this is a matter of life safety for occupants and firefighters. These bills also take away the right of communities to make their own decisions. Both points are equally important to emphasize.


Maria Figueroa

New Jersey’s Governor Christie issued Executive Order #1 freezing and suspending all administrative rules for 90 days.The home fire sprinkler requirement is included in this moratorium althought the order makes it clear that it must not apply to matters that “adversely impact public safety or security".


An editorial published in the Philadelphia Enquirer titled “For safety’s sake” posits that the sprinkler requirement should not be halted and should be implemented. It points out that “it’s difficult to see how the governor’s review will alter the compelling case for adding sprinklers to new one- and two- family homes…”


The editorial writer agrees that ‘the governor has the right to explore the regulations and determine if they are "unworkable, overly proscriptive, or ill-advised"’ as expressed in the order creating the “Red Tape Review Group”. However, the master plan committee developing the Master Plan and Advisory Council Final Report recommending fire sprinklers in new one- and two family homes “conducted a study on these issues” for over a year before arriving at the conclusion that this regulation was necessary.

As a participant in this committee I share the opinion of the editorial writer that this regulation has been properly “vetted” through a process and should be allowed to move forward. Most importantly, setting aside this rule does “adversely impact public safety or security” as detailed in the council’s report. I hope the governor is listening.


Click here to read the editorial

Maria Figueroa

Februarynewsletter The February issue of Fire Sprinkler Initiative Update, our monthly e-newsletter, has hit the streets. (Read the issue or subscribe today - it's easy and free!)

In this issue, we provide an update on state-by-state legislative efforts that are threatening sprinkler provisions for new one- and two-family homes. Is your state on the list? If so, we tell you how to get involved! We also debunk some of the arguments that sprinkler opponnents are using against this life-saving technology.

Also in this issue: we highlight the initial findings of a new study on the environmental impact of home fire sprinklers. 

Read the issue.

- Mike Hazell

Well systems incorporating fire sprinklers at the start of the building process are set up to effectively address this fire protection application. The following will explain how NFPA 13D systems are integrated into well systems.

 

Water sits in three areas in a well-fed system: in the well above the pump, refilling into the well as it is used, and in the holding tank in the home. NFPA 13D states that the refill rate can be counted on to help supply part of the demand, and therefore, the duration demand of 7 or 10 minutes can be met by the sum of these three sources. The refill rate can be determined by the person that drills the well.

 

Wells are set up at the inception of the home building process and a larger well pump is usually installed along with larger expansion tanks. Homes on well water most likely will need a pump to serve the domestic water supply. The cost associated with providing additional pressure to run the fire sprinkler system may simply be the difference between the regular pump the homeowner must install to obtain the necessary pressure for domestic use, and a higher flow pump, or a booster pump and tank.

 

Residential pump and tank manufacturers tell us that the expansion tanks are sized to pick up the difference between the well capacity and demand so they are not necessarily as large as some would believe. To meet the requirements of NFPA 13D, many installations have been done using this method, effectively and cost competitively.

 

According to NFPA 13D, where a pressure tank is used for the water supply those who meet the requirement of ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code are acceptable, provided the authority having jurisdiction considers the air or nitrogen supply reliable.

 

Stand alone tank systems are similar to the pressurized tank systems in that they can be set up to provide for the difference in supply as opposed to total demand. According to manufacturers, generally for little extra cost, total demand can be covered. They say that stagnation is easily addressed during testing, and that no problems have been identified. They advise that a separate pump is required but is also for relatively low cost and highly competitive. It has the benefit of not being used for anything but the fire demand, so the system is never compromised.

 

Stand-by power is not required by code, but many manufacturers build their systems with battery back-up as a standard feature. They posit that frequent maintenance is not required on these systems. It consists of periodic checks that are neither difficult nor time consuming.

 

According to General Air Products, one of the manufacturers consulted in order to address this technical issue, they “sell systems every day to meet the varying demands of the marketplace. Every situation is not the same but we have yet to find a scenario which cannot be addressed technically or cost effectively.”

The following piece appeared in the Central Penn Business Journal on February 12, 2010:

By Robert K. Fritz

My company, Fritz Fire Protection Company Inc., has been a subcontractor member of the Pennsylvania and Harrisburg homebuilders associations for many years, and we install a modest number of single-family residential fire sprinkler systems each year. Our main source of work is small to mid-size commercial sprinkler systems and retrofit projects.

We decided to keep a low profile in the debate between the homebuilders associations and firefighters until now, for obvious reasons. It appears outwardly that we would stand to profit from an updated building code that requires fire sprinklers in new construction. But our business is to assist in meeting a code, not in developing one.

Experience has shown us it is difficult to make a profit in single-family home installations. (Liability insurance premiums for our business are brutally high, which creates higher-than-average overhead costs.)

We have to take exception to some of the arguments circulating in the state on TV and radio and in the newspapers. Allow me to cite a few points I feel are most important to this current debate:

  1. The fire sprinkler industry is not behind the International Code Council Inc.'s requirement for fire sprinklers in new homes. Firefighters are the force behind the code revision. So, tracking this new code requirement back to the source, as one person suggested, would not end with a friend of Gov. Ed Rendell. True, the fire sprinkler industry has tried for many years to advance fire sprinklers, with limited success. Only after firefighters united at the local, state and national levels did the process gather support from building code officials.

Read the entire article.

 

Chesterfield, VA Fire Marshal Robbie Dawson and NFPA's Maria Figueroa were featured in a recent news  story on the NBC affiliate in VA about the current debate to bring sprinklers to that state. Marshal Dawson correctly points out the need to have sprinklers because, while smoke alarms are a critical piece of home fire safety protection, they aren't always enough.  He cited the fact that in Henrico County in the past quarter they had seven fire deaths, five of them occurring with with working smoke alarms. Advocates know the facts. Smoke alarms alert residents to a fire. Sprinklers control or extinguish a fire while the fire department is en route and give people more time to escape. You need both - smoke alarms and sprinklers - to give your and your family the best protection.This topic was covered in great detail in a previous blog post.



The piece also contained one of the most effective tools to make the case for home fire sprinklers, a side by side demonstration where one room had sprinklers and one did not. The visuals are compelling as the unsprinklered room goes to flashover as the fire is quickly extinguished in the sprinklered room.



All model safety codes now include a requirement for home fire sprinklers in new one and two family homes. The VA Board of Housing and Community Development is considering whether to adopt this requirement.



 

Lorraine Carli

A high school English class in Huntsville Alabama conducted a feasibility study on home fire sprinklers and ended up advocating to the city council for adoption of the requirement in new homes. An article in the Huntsville Times titled "Passion pours out in sprinkler project" explains how students became advocates for home fire sprinklers during the project.

According to the article this was more than just a study out of the blue, one of the students in the class experienced a house fire in October of last year. The teacher asked her to share her experience, and out of that the project was born.

Students conducted research and agreed that the systems were needed. They asked the council to write a city ordinance to require sprinklers in new homes. During their presentation they were able to answer the council's concern with cost and aesthetics. What an excellent example of energizing a community behind the requirement.

Maria Figueroa

The Welsh Assembly voted to require sprinkler systems in all new homes late last month. With this vote all homes in the country of Wales will be protected for this and future generations against the ravages of fire.

These legislators saw the "overwhelming moral and technical case for sprinklers" in making a decision to move on this national groundbreaking measure. It would certainly be good for our own legislators to consider this also, and not fall for the baseless arguments of the opposition.

According to the USFA, "the United States historically has had one of the highest fire loss rates of the industrialized world - both in terms of fire deaths and dollar loss." Other countries in the UK and New Zealand are also taking steps to adopt a national home fire sprinkler requirement. In fact, we have advocates from those countries actively participating on this website.

We need to continue to fight to "bring safety home" so that we can eliminate our fire death problem, save the lives of thousands of people, and billions in property loss each year.

Maria Figueroa

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