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2019
One of the arguments being used by Worcester County Commissioners in Maryland to try and opt out of the statewide requirement for home fire sprinklers in new homes is that sprinklers thwart building, a notion that has been proven erroneous in other areas. According to an article in The Dispatch, county commissioners voted to draft a document allowing single family homes to opt out of requirement which has been on the books since 2015. Quoted in The Dispatch article, Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said, “I believe that this is hindering building in the county.”
This is an example of unsupported reasoning being used to allow substandard homes to be built and deny new homeowners the protection home fire sprinklers afford.   A research reportdone several years ago concluded that the presence of sprinkler ordinances had no negative impact on the number of homes being built. The study compared residential construction in the Washington D.C. suburban counties of Anne Arundel and Prince George’s, Maryland and Montgomery, Maryland and Fairfax, Virginia. Prince George’s County and Montgomery County have sprinkler requirements; Fairfax County and Anne Arundel County did not at the time. The counties were selected for comparison based on their demographic matches to each other. A similar study was done in Californiamore recently and concluded there was no indication the presence of sprinkler requirements negatively impacted housing starts. 
Fire Marshal Jeff McMahon was also quoted in the article letting the commissioners know that there had been about 3,000 structure fires in the county in the past five years and the average response time is 17 minutes. This too is valuable information to support the importance of sprinklers. With a response time of 17 minutes, you need all the help you can get in keeping fires small or even extinguishing them before the fire department arrives and significantly reducing loss from fire.  
While there is a lot of misinformation out there about home fire sprinklers, there are a number of resources available to refute them. To arm yourself with the facts, visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiativeand the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition
Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB), laid down a new year’s challenge he calls “Ban the Ban” to others concerned about reducing home fire loss. In a recent articlein the organization’s newsletter he pointed out that while a number of jurisdictions had success in passing sprinkler requirements, others were held back by anti-sprinkler efforts. Lia spurred advocates to press on. He wrote, “How can we allow a ban on improving public safety?” Further saying, “We can’t afford to sit back and watch sprinkler codes blocked … Let’s unite behind this challenge.” The overarching theme for ban the ban is to work together to change the map pictured here to reflect stronger public safety. 
Lia outlined the key steps including developing an action plan, using the resources of the Fire Sprinkler Initiativeand the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalitionto bolster local efforts and participating in National Home Fire Sprinkler Day
As we head into the new year, take the time to read his full article and commit to making greater strides in 2019. 

NFPA has received word from the Fire Protection Association (FPA) Australia that fire sprinklers will be required in new apartment buildings over three stories in height. The association calls the new requirement "the most significant shift in fire safety policy since the introduction of mandatory smoke alarms in homes and shared accommodation more than 10 years ago." 

 

The catalyst for this nationwide requirement was a 2012 Australian fire in an unsprinklered apartment building that killed a woman and seriously injured another. A subsequent inquest concluded that both would have likely survived the fire if the building had fire sprinklers, according to an email from the association. A six-year collaboration with the association and other partners led to the new requirement. 

 

“Automatic sprinklers are one of the most effective life protection measures in a fire. This change to our national building rules will dramatically improve the safety of residents living in the 700-plus new medium-rise buildings of this type built each year,” FPA Australia CEO Scott Williams stated in an email. “This is truly a major milestone for all of those involved in this wonderful collaboration, but mostly importantly the community will see the risk of fire in these types of building reduced significantly.”

 

Congratulations to all Australian advocates who championed for this requirement. 

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