Responding to a commentary that questioned the necessity of requirements for home fire sprinklers, a fire official has given solid facts on why this requirement has been a tremendous benefit in his town.
Years ago, Rockland, Maine, adopted NFPA 101, Life Safety Code®, and decided to include the requirement to sprinkler new, one- and two-family homes. [Maine does not require sprinklers statewide, but allows jurisdictions to adopt.] The fire chief at the time helped "educate the city council and those interested in the benefits of sprinklers, and subsequently the council adopted the Life Safety Code," wrote Assistant Fire Chief Adam Miceli with the Rockland Fire Department in his commentary. "The fire department...merely supported leaving the requirements as they were written by NFPA.
"We feel it is the fire department's role to provide the citizens and council with factual best practices and information and allow them to decide what measures to legislate."
As a fire service member, Miceli and his colleagues also see the reality behind statistics. In the commentary to which he responds, the author questions the necessity of sprinklers due to the effectiveness of smoke alarms. "NFPA estimates that residents have a 99.45 percent change of surviving a fire if a working smoke alarm is present," wrote Miceli, a member of the Maine Fire Sprinkler Coalition. "Rockland firefighters can tell you firsthand how few homes in our community have working smoke alarms. During last fall's smoke alarm campaign, we evaluated over 50 homes. Only one of the 50 homes had properly working smoke alarms. Many were too outdated to be reliable.
"All conditions would need to be perfect to reach the 99.45 percent statistical mark. On the other hand, home fire sprinklers, once installed, require next to no continual checks or maintenance."
Cost-saving "trade-ups" have also made Rockland's sprinkler requirement palatable to local builders. There you'll find longer access drives without turnarounds and water mains sized for domestic systems versus ones to accommodate fire hydrants.
Miceli admits that allowing consumers to decide whether or not to install this life-saving technology has its drawbacks. "I know of only two [sprinkler] systems in Rockland that pre-date the ordinance requiring them."
Further educating the public on sprinkler benefits has been a priority of Rockland and the Maine State Fire Marshal's Office.
Read this recent story on Rockland sprinklering its first Habitat for Humanity home.