Debunking the "New Homes are Safer" argument

Blog Post created by ryan.quinn Employee on May 10, 2010

VAfire http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef0133ed849625970b-pi http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef0133ed8495be970b-piA devastating fire in a new home in Stuarts Draft, VA, destroyed most of the home, surprised the homeowner, and provided evidence that newer homes are not safer homes. The home involved in the fire is less than one year old. The homebuyers occupied the home in October, 2009.

How many times have you heard a homeowner say; “I thought it would never happen to me.” What is interesting in this particular fire is that,  according to the story, the homeowner’s statement was “It’s a brand new house. I never thought this could happen to me.”

Opponents of residential fire sprinkler systems like to boast that newer homes are safer homes and that the fire and death problem is limited to older homes.  Age of housing is a poor predictor of fire death rates.  When older housing is associated with higher rates, it usually is because older housing tends to have a disproportionate share of poorer, less educated households.  Statistically, the only fire safety issue that is relevant to the age of the home is outdated knob-and-tube wiring.  Beyond that, age of the home has little to nothing to do with fire safety.

In fact, newer homes are also more likely to include a threat to firefighters in the form of lightweight construction. Lightweight construction has been variously estimated to be used in a half to two-thirds of all new wood one- and two-family homes. Sprinklers can offset the increased dangers posed by lightweight construction and create a safer fire environment for firefighters to operate.

- Maria Figueroa