To committee members,
I am writing to strongly urge Wisconsin DSPS Administrative Rules Committee to not to consider changes which change the course of public safety relating to the minimum requirement for fire sprinklers in multi-family dwellings and changes to remove requirements for Ground Fault Interruption, Arc Protection for dwelling units and requirement for spacing of outlets.
I have spend a majority of fire 37 years in the fire service being an advocate, educator and evaluator for life safety. I currently sit on NFPA's Education Section Executive Board and actively participate in Vision 20/20, who's slogan is, "Fire Is Everyone's Fight." Each time laws have been passed to help reduce the cause of fires, our industry has been grateful. I can think of no plausible reason how or why an agency with "SAFETY" in its name could consider removing provisions in our code that would take back the very things that help save lives. Simply put, FIRE SPRINKLERS SAVE LIVES! It's a proven fact. There are more myths about what damage sprinklers do, how expensive they are to install, how expensive they are to maintain and how they cause unnecessary damage due to freezing and few beating the drum on how many lives they save and how they reduce fire loss.
In Fond du Lac, WI we have four Habitat For Humanity houses that have been build in the last few years and in each house, a NFPA approved residential sprinkler has been installed. There has not been one single case where a home has been damaged by the sprinkler system. I would argue those home are the best protected residential homes in the entire city! In multi-family dwellings, we see on routine basis the destruction fires have. A fire that could be easily confined to an area or origin (kitchens usually) spread out of control when fire sprinklers are not present. Fire sprinklers give residents a very favorable chance of getting out of a multi-family dwelling alive and at the end of the day, that is what is most important. Each time you increase the number of dwelling units in a multi-family dwelling, you increase the potential fire risk.
Automatic fire sprinklers also give firefighters the best protection possible. Lightweight construction, is not a friend of firefighters. Fires are burning faster and hotter than ever before. Catastrophic failure of floors, ceilings and structural walls in lightweight constructed buildings greatly reduce the time people have to get out once they are alerted of a fire. Time a crucial for our industry as well. As an incident commander, I cannot allow inside fire attack crews the same latitude as I do in older structures. Fire sprinklers keep temperatures down, and keep the fire in check until we can fully extinguish the fire.
Electrical fires are deadly! Ground-fault and arc protection build into homes greatly reduce those hazards. It's imperative that we continue to move forward and not backwards so we continue to reduce fires and accidental deaths caused by electricity. Extension cords, used as permanent wiring was common occurrence during fire inspections prior to code changes which require more wall outlets in office buildings. Without these requirements, we would see extension cords, underneath carpet, or tacked to the floor, increasing the likelihood for an accidental electrical fire.
Please help the fire service by opposing the proposed changes to that negatively impact public safety, and the fire service. We need to move forward to enhance fire safety in the State of Wisconsin, not turn back the good strides we've made. It truly is, OUR FIGHT!
Peter O'Leary, MPA, EFO, CFO
NPFA Education Section Board