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Residential Sprinkler Mandate

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  • Residential Sprinkler Mandate

    All new homes constructed in the county soon will be required to install sprinkler systems.

    On Tuesday, the County Council unanimously approved legislation scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) is expected to sign the bill.

    County and state laws already require the devices in townhouses and apartments. Councilman Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg, the primary sponsor of the bill, said mandating sprinklers will save lives and property damage.

    Opponents of the legislation said homebuyers should be able to decide for themselves whether to install sprinklers. The cost of installing sprinklers is about $1 to $1.50 per square foot. Andrews said homebuyers could receive insurance discounts for installing the devices, and pay off the remaining cost for less than $20 a month.

    "You really are getting a firefighter in your house for that," he said.

    Homes that use well water would need a water tank with sufficient water pressure to power sprinkler systems. The cost of the tanks ranges from roughly $500 to $1,000.

    The change would cost the county about $750,000, most of which comes from hiring four more fire inspectors. About three inspections would be processed daily to handle about 2,000 building permits each year, said Michael T. Love, deputy chief of fire and rescue services.

    Fees charged for the inspections would offset the cost eventually, Love said. The fees are $2 per sprinkler head for commercial development and .015 cents per square foot in a residential development.

    Realtors and developers opposed the legislation, saying other measures would be more effective.

    Raquel Montenegro, a lobbyist for the Maryland National Capital Building Industry Association, said many fires are sparked in older homes with bad wiring.

    "If the goal is to reduce property damage and save lives, we think what should be looked at is warning systems in existing homes," she said.

    New homes, on the other hand, have better wiring, use fire-retardant materials and have firewalls, Montenegro said.

    Andrews said the county already provides a property tax credit for retrofitting homes with sprinkler systems, and the process is much more expensive than installing the sprinklers during construction.

    Prince George's County has required sprinklers in all new residential buildings since 1989, and both Rockville and Gaithersburg enacted the requirement last year.
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    These realtors and contractors get every damned time. It is only about their wallets and fattening them up. Do they really think in the real estate market we have in this country, especially around D.C. that people will stop buying new homes becuase they have sprinklers? Are they really that stupid?

    If the realtor explains to them taht "Yes, you are payin a bit more for the sprinklers but after 5 year or so of ownership, the savings on your insurance premium will have paid for the added cost."


    This one gets me too:

    Raquel Montenegro, a lobbyist for the Maryland National Capital Building Industry Association, said many fires are sparked in older homes with bad wiring.
    And these homes' wiring will never go bad or be out of code? The overall goal is to prevent loss of life and then loss of property. I just have to quote one of my Fire Science professors here when he said that these architects and GCs design and build 'em for optimal conditions. We have to go in at 3 in the morning when they're going like a snot and lives are at stake. What do these guys care?

    OK. I am done venting now. I just have residential fire sprinklers as a pet project and love of mine. Plan to have them in my house too........ Whenever I can afford to actually buy one.
    "Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like." Will Rogers

    The borrower is slave to the lender. Proverbs 22:7 - Debt free since 10/5/2009.

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  • #2
    Raquel Montenegro, a lobbyist for the Maryland National Capital Building Industry Association, said many fires are sparked in older homes with bad wiring.
    Could she really believe that load of crap? I guess on the surface, it's somewhat true. What's her definition of "many" and "bad wiring".

    THe USFA reports stats as:
    • There were 3,745 civilian deaths and 20,300 injuries due to fire.
    • Fire killed more civilians than all natural disasters combined.
    • 84% of all fire deaths occurred in residential properties.
    • Over 1.7 million fires were reported. Many more went unreported.
    • Direct property loss due to fire cost over $10.6 BILLion.
    Nope....nothing here to indicate that residential sprinklers are necessary, or even remotely helpful.
    Last edited by Steamer; 10-08-2003, 02:35 PM.
    Steve Gallagher
    "I don't apologize for anything. When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes


    • #3
      I'm all for it.

      We know damn well if it isn't legislated or included in a code, people won't do it simply to save a buck. I would suggest a break on fire/property taxes for a few years as well, to further encourage people to retrofit old homes.

      It will be a hot topic for a few years, and then once the systems are widespread enough to prove thier effectiveness, everyone will shut up.

      Bring them on!
      Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!



      • #4
        The builders lobby has been against sprinklers for ages. They state that there is no evidence they save lives, but in reality, they are only concerned with one thing...the bottom line.


        • #5
          And Now, A Word From Where It All Started..........

          Back when many people in Prince Georges County, Maryland were pushing for a sprinkler law, some of the arguements were the same old stuff that you hear today. No Question that greed drives the opposition, but after having a sprinkler mandate for the past 14 years, we have had no deaths or serious injuries in a sprinklered occupancy. BUT, guess what? We're still running fires on a regular basis, still getting workers on a regular basis, and life still goes on. Several years ago, I was the first Chief to arrive a fire in a sprinklered 3 story multi family building. IT WAS THRU THE ROOF! The attic spaces were not sprinklered because they were not heated, occupied, accessible, and a bunch of other reasons, BUT THE WOOD STILL BURNED. The balance of the structure survived, intact but wet, as were the occupants. Sprinklers save lives. Period. That they also save some property is a bonus, as far as I'm concerned. Stay Safe....
          Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
          In memory of
          Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
          Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

          IACOJ Budget Analyst

          I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.



          • #6
            No question that this law is good for everyone. I would point out to the lobbyist that while older homes have older wiring that can fail, they are not built in such a way that they fall apart after 10 or 15 minutes of fire exposure.

            The way new homes (and in my area some multi-family apartments as well) are being built, they are large piles of kindling just waiting to burn. Wood trusses in roofs and floors coupled with composite beams of small wood sections connected with chip board webs all add up to houses that burn rapidly if there are improperly firestopped penetrations to the void spaces (and we all know these never occur! ). The sprinklers are absolutely necessary to keep these homes from becoming giant bonfires. And as hwoods pointed out, even sprinklered homes will burn quite dramatically if the fire reaches areas not covered.
            Chris Minick, P.E., Firefighter II
            Structures Specialist, MD-TF 1

            These statements are mine and mine alone
            I.A.C.O.J. Building crust and proud of it


            • #7
              posted by hwoods: Sprinklers save lives. Period.
              Absolutely, and that's what's important. I was told by a Factory Mutual rep years ago in a sprinkler design class that there had never been a fatality in a fire with a properly functioning sprinkler system. It seems to be a pretty incredible statistic, but certainly interesting if true.

              Chris hit on on some really good ancillary issues. I don't think that a sprinkler system is the only, nor the most important issue that faces the fire service today. Buildings are essentially built to defy the effects of gravity, and weight equals money as a general rule. That's the main reason for the rate of propagation of the light weight construction systems.

              The designs of these materials are for nominal conditions, and have no, or at least minimal concern for the effects of fire on the light weight members used in buildings today. The engineered joist, also commonly called an I-joist is a thing of beauty from both the homeowner and the builders viewpoint. The builder often needs fewer employees to hang these things because they are so light, so that equates to less money to employ them on a job, and potential savings to both the building owner and the builder. They are damned strong too...until fire eats at them.

              I've seen several floors collapse under conditions that would have never caused this to occur if dimensional lumber had been used. The thing that has really struck me was the near total failure with very little warning. This alone demonstrates the need for sprinklers. If they are going to increase the use of these light weight systems, as we all know is going to happen, then the sprinkler system needs to be a major part of that system in order to protect the components from the effects of fire.

              I'm a firm believer that one of two things is going to happen with these lightweight systems. We are going to see an increase in the number of civilian/firefighter casualties in these buildings, or the dollar loss is going to go higher because the FD's realize the risks involved with interior operations, and damage amounts will increase. Then, maybe someone will get the point.

              The insurance industry is willing to give breaks on their rates with a sprinkler system present for a reason. It saves them money. They aren't about to do it out of the kindness of their hearts.

              I'm not so naive as to think that sprinklers are the absolute solution to all fires, but a properly designed, installed, and maintained system is an incredible advantage to being able to watch either the repair/replacement of the building versus being carried out in a body bag. I think it's a no brainer. People complain about the cost of something that could save their lives, but not bat an eye at spending a fortune on something strictly for building cosmetics.

              Any doubt about the effectiveness of sprinklers, check out this link. The difference in the results speaks for itself.

              Oh, and by the way. I'm not buying it that the issue of older homes and the old electrical systems failing being the real problem. I'm sure that the general public took it hook, line, and sinker.
              Last edited by Steamer; 10-09-2003, 11:16 AM.
              Steve Gallagher
              IACOJ BOT
              "I don't apologize for anything. When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes


              • #8
                I'm very supportive of residential sprinklers. I think they'll do a great job in containing fires in the compartments they cover. However, as Chris mentioned, most new houses have large void spaces containing lightweight wood trusses. These will be unsprinkled. So, if the fire either starts in these areas: wiring, lightning strike, overheated can lights, etc, or penetrates the drywall, we'll probably loose the structure.

                I'd like to see research into the next step, which would be some method to sprinkle these void spaces. A dept I run with coveres many $500K & up homes. Without some way to contain fires in these truss void spaces, sooner or later we're going to have a high $ loss. One thought, is there a possibility of a relatively low cost dry pipe system?
                Proud to be honored with IACOJ membership. Blessed by TWO meals cooked by Cheffie - a true culinary goddess. Expressing my own views, not my organization's.


                • #9
                  Steamer: the quote used to be no multiple fire deaths (defined as 3 or more bodies) in bldgs with functioning systems. It has had to be revised over the years to exclude explosions and fire service deaths.

                  Woods: do you really believe it all started in PG? The Republic of Montgomery County required apartments & townhouses before that, and jurisdictions in Georgia and California were before that. I do think that PG, under Jim Estepp, was better with its public relations machine.

                  As a final note, Montgomery is hiring 4 new inspectors to handle the extra workload but NO additional plan reviewers. Make sense to anyone?


                  • #10
                    Grit76, does that surprise you? Burueacracy at it's finest (and Montgomery County has a crushing bureaucracy to deal with). They are currently combining highway inspectors (of new roads and bridges)and building inspectors into one large department. In my opinion they will then try to say "look, we're more efficient. There are now more highway inspectors if needed or more building inspectors if needed." Only problem is, the two types of inspections are entirely different so until the cross training is done (probably by on the job experience) the level of competency of both will, again in my opinion, suffer.
                    Chris Minick, P.E., Firefighter II
                    Structures Specialist, MD-TF 1

                    These statements are mine and mine alone
                    I.A.C.O.J. Building crust and proud of it


                    • #11
                      Does it surprise me? hehehehehehe I used to work there.


                      • #12
                        I live in a 3 year old Townhome in Illinois and we have sprinklers in every room and closet. It's a comforting feeling to be sure. It also helps on our homeowners insurance dramatically.
                        Someone once told me that time is a predator that stalks us all our lives. But maybe time is also a companion who goes with us on our journey, and reminds us to cherish the moments of our lives because they will never come again.


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