Editorial: Butler Township, Pensylvania fire marshal weighs in on PBA’s battle against home fire sprinklers

Blog Post created by ryan.quinn Employee on Aug 13, 2010

In an editorial piece published by The Tribune Democrat on August 8th, Larry Christy, Butler Township (Butler County) fire marshal and a member of the Pennsylvania Residential Fire Sprinkler Coalition opines; “the Pennsylvania Builders Association (PBA) is putting its profits ahead of the safety of residents and fire service professionals in Pennsylvania.”

Pensylvania was one of the first states to adopt the 2009 IRC with the one- and two-family homes and townhomes fire sprinkler requirement intact. Since then the PBA has filed and injunction and a lawsuit to block its adoption.

Mr. Christy says; “the PBA has created a barrage of propaganda and misinformation” including inflated system prices. NFPA's President Jim Shannon wrote a letter to the PBA asking them to "clarify or omit the information contained on the PBA website regarding the effectiveness of smoke alarms." The PBA has been using the 99.45% smoke alarm survival rate statistic out of context, as others have similarly done, to make an argument against the home fire sprinkler requirement. NFPA has consistenly provided  the facts debunking opponents' arguments; but they continue to be used to mislead the public and policy makers into making wrongful decisions.

The battle continues to rage on in PA, pitting builders and the fire service against each other, when they should be standing hand-in-hand suporting this important life safety feature in all new homes. I believe that homebuilders’ insistence and heavy lobbying against home fire sprinklers will create, at the very least, a public relations nightmare for them in the future. It also remains to be seen if they will be cleared of liability when, not if, a new home built under the code that removed the requirement based on their recommendation, misleading tactics, and "red herring" arguments, burns and kills or injures a home occupant or firefighter.

Ours is an extremely litigous society. We expect that the products we buy, including our homes, will include minimum standards of safety. Removing the fire sprinkler requirement from the building code, when all model codes include the requirement, translates into substandard homes being built. One never knows how a jury will act upon hearing about all the homebuilder arguments against installing these life safety devices as unnecessary, and observing the suffering of home fire burn victims and survivors. I am certain that many home fire sprinkler advocates will be there when the time comes to exclaim loudly; "WE TOLD YOU SO".

Maria Figueroa