Maryland's news outlets have been producing stories with a slanted view on home fire sprinklers, prompting the state's fire service and NFPA to take action.
Maryland joins California in requiring fire sprinklers in new, one- and two-family homes. (Washington, D.C., and hundreds of other communities across the U.S. also require sprinklers in new homes.) Following a building code update in Maryland, the local media have been crafting what appears to be anti-sprinkler stories featuring a host of myths that downplay the benefits of a statewide, sprinkler requirement.
An article published in The Star Democrat, which interviewed seemingly anti-sprinkler sources, included statements such as "pricing people out of the [housing] market." The mandate, it adds, places "the dream of building a new, affordable home...out of reach."
Countering these statements in a letter to the editor was Brian Geraci, Maryland's state fire marshal. The story's estimated installation rates ($5,000 to $25,000) highball actual costs, which Geraci places at $1 to $2 per sprinklered square foot and views as a small price to pay for safety.
"Not one person has died from a fire in a sprinklered home or building in the state of Maryland," he says. "We have seen, in Maryland and across the country, more individuals who are dying in home fires with a working smoke alarm, but lacking fire sprinklers. In the last five years 77 individuals [in Maryland] died in home fires where the smoke alarm was present and working."
NFPA President Jim Pauley also offered another perspective to an article failing to tell the full story on sprinklers. Responding to a story titled "Sprinklers, and added cost, now universal in Maryland," he urged the writer to investigate California. A recent article in The New York Times confirms that when it comes to California's housing market, business is booming."That state has been requiring sprinklers in all new homes since 2011, and has not seen a negative impact on housing stock or affordability. Hundreds of other communities ... have seen similar results."
One of those communities is Maryland's own Prince George's County. Pauley pointed to a report highlighting the town's sprinkler ordinance that has been in effect since 1992. No lives have been lost in the community's sprinklered homes, and sprinklers have cut property loss from fire by half.
"Your state now has the power to reduce--and possibly eliminate--the tragedies associated with home fires," stated Pauley. "Perpetuating the many myths associated with home fire sprinklers is taking a step backwards and fails to place value on what matters most: the value of saving a human life."
Please do your part to counter similar myths in your state and community. Use one of the Fire Sprinkler Initiative's templates to create an op-ed for your local publications.