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:
- 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.