Fire service officials in Massachusetts made pointed comments this week to the state's Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS), which is considering rolling back key safety requirements following an analysis on sprinkler systems that many are calling "flawed."
Issued by BBRS, the draft white paper, "The Cost and Effectiveness for Health, Safety, and Security of Fire Alarm Systems and Fire Sprinkler Systems in 3 to 6 Unit Residential Buildings," examines these fire protection measures and the notion of lessening sprinkler requirements, an idea that drew ire from the number of fire officials attending the BBRS meeting, including NFPA and other members of the Massachusetts Fire Sprinkler Coalition. Its members believe that fire and life safety requirements for new construction should not be reduced.
"The BBRS is playing with fire," says Mary Regan, the coalition's chair and chief of the Westfield Fire Department. "We cannot stand by and see the devastating effects of fire in non-sprinklered buildings when we know that these losses are preventable. Now is not the time to abandon proven technology based on a flawed report."
The coalition notes that the white paper weighs too heavily on sprinkler cost and fails to examine the life-safety benefits of sprinklers, which can reduce a person's risk of dying in a house fire by 80 percent.
Also taking issue with the white paper and BBRS's considerations was Massachusetts State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan. "You absolutely do not reduce or eliminate fire protection in these buildings," he told The Boston Globe. His comments follow a deadly year in Boston and nearby areas. In March, two firefighters died while battling a fire in a Boston townhouse. Months later, seven people died in a multi-family home in Lowell.
Coan also told the paper that he was pleased that BBRS decided to send the document out for comment to its committees on fire prevention and protection. Watch the following video of Coan addressing the board at the recent meeting: