Debate over mandatory spriklers

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"State and local officials are now wrestling over whether to adopt building codes that would require sprinklers in every new home and townhome starting in 2011 amid intense lobbying from both sides."
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090918/ap_on_re_us/us_home_sprinklers
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HeyBub wrote:

I have seen sprinklers by the furnace and water heaters in some houses. Maybe it was only attached townhouses, but I really don't remember. When we were building the church in the mid 80s, the town wanted the entire building sprinkled. The builder/architect didn't want sprinklers and sited a loophole in the code that said the building could be divided into various parts separated by firewalls. I think the architect just didn't know how to put in the sprinklers and properly hide all the plumbing. There were only 2 sprinklers in the boiler room. Otherwise the building was separated into 5 fire zones. The were fire detectors connected to the fire department in each zone. BTW, he also sited statistics at the time where there were almost no church fires on record and the ones sited were always when the building was not occupied. Since then I've seen many church fires on the news, mostly in the middle of the night, though. I think the sprinklers would have been an improvement over the system that was installed. But this was a commercial building. Homes are another thing.
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wrote:

Until I read this, I thought Bub was talking about lawn spnklers, and it was like homeowners associations gone wild and infected the whole state.
I thought there was going to be a local law that everyone had to have a green lawn.
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mm wrote:

Hmm, now that I think on it...
In some places (California comes to mind) fire suppression systems may be appropriate for lawns.
It's for the children.
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I've always been a fan of that plan. I see it as the best solution, eliminating the response time from the fire department. The downside would be the water damage from a relatively easy to control fire, but likely worth the risk. They should be zoned though, no point in washing down the TV in the living room to control a little fire in the kitchen. Easy to turn off would be another good feature, auto off after flames subside for 10 minutes or so. even better, so long as it had the ability to turn back on if the embers came back to life. Cost would probably eliminate those desirable features though.
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Cost? How about the cost of all the systems that are going to be installed compared to the number of lives they MIGHT save? According to the article, 3000 people die each year in fires. I'm sure some reasonable estimate can be made of how many of them would actually be saved if there were sprinklers. Certainly it's not anywhere near the total 3000. Is a sprinkler gonna save someone smoking in bed by going off from the heat before they are already dead? I think not.
Now compare how much money would be spent and I'd venture there are plenty of other things the money could be spent on, like healthcare for the poor, which would save an order of magnitude more lives. As the opponents point out, smoke detectors are very effective. I'd like to see statistics on how many of those 3000 deaths had working smoke detectors.
Lots of theoretical ideas turn out to be nowhere near what they were supposed to be. One prime example is anti-lock brakes. They were supposed to drastically reduce traffic fatalities and serious wrecks, but curiously in practice they have done little if anything.
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installed compared to the number of lives they MIGHT save? According to the article, 3000 people die each year in fires. I'm sure some reasonable estimate can be made of how many of them would actually be saved if there were sprinklers. Certainly it's not anywhere near the total 3000. Is a sprinkler gonna save someone smoking in bed by going off from the heat before they are already dead? I think not.
***************************************************************
Saving lives is a big emotional issue. I think it is more about saving property, but saving lives just sounds better.
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As of three years ago there had NEVER been a fatality reported in a fire with a functional sprinkler system.
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That's a good thing, but I bet the statistics on property damage are even better. If you were selling sprinkler systems, you'd get a better reaction from potential buyers when you tell them crippled granny or the new baby can be saved compared to telling them the attached garage won't get burned down.
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I wish that were true but it is not. People die from fires in sprinklered buildings quite regularly. What is true is that there is no known record of a multiple fire death in a building protected by a working automatic sprinkler system. People who smoke in bed or while consuming alcohol or other intoxicants are often dead before the sprinkler can activate. There is a special smoke detector that can be fastened to a glass bulb type of sprinkler head that will break the glass bulb when it activates thus saving a person who is intimately involved with the source of ignition. They are sometimes installed over nursing home beds were the patient has previously attempted self immolation. They are also useful in the bedrooms of children who have a history of fire setting.
-- Tom Horne
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Kurt Ullman wrote:

Uh, both World Trade towers had sprinklers.
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wrote:

I'm almost sure the Oklahoma City Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building had sprinkler units.
After the MGM fire circa '87, 74 souls lost, Las Vegas became a leader in mandatory sprinkler system for high rises.
Locally, a city ordinance requires sprinklers in any home that is 5,000 sf - even a single story home of that size.
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I'd have to dig out my copy of the report, but all the fatalities were from the blast and (mostly) collapse, IIRC. I don't recall there being any fire or if it was it was very small.

Investigators met in LV and went over that in really great detail. The HQ hotel was the Bally (earlier the MGM). It was strange sitting right next to where the fire blew out the front door like a blo wtorch.
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wrote:

And then, LV got a fire truck (largest in the country then). Posted right off the Strip at a fire house. I wish I could find the picture. I occasionally speak with a strip fire captain and he remembers the name of the fire engine. The Engine had a driver on the rear-end to turn corners.
It is a two-driver truck....
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WHich were not functional after the planes took out the risers.
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That's not quite the same as a cigarette butt lighting up a trash can.
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> " The downside

The sprinklers only go off in the area of the fire, not the entire property so that is not a consideration. Homeowner should be able to turn them off, also. In commercial/industrial applications, the shut off valve is usually chained open to prevent accidental or mischievous turning off of the valve.
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Eric in North TX wrote:

I'm of the opinion there are better solutions:
1. If a city can mandate smoke alarms (at, say, $5.00 each), it could easily mandate fire extinguishers for the same amount. This is a big difference from $1,500.00 to install sprinklers. 2. If response time from the fire department is an issue, beef up the fire department! In my city, our fire department virtually guarantees the first piece of equipment will be on-scene within four minutes of the alarm.* 3. If sprinklers were worth it, insurance companies would be offering discounts to homeowners. Obviously, the insurance people couldn't offer a big enough discount to amortize the cost of sprinklers.
------- * Last year the power went out in my home. After putzing around for about ten minutes, I stepped outside from boredom. Jay-suss! There were FORTY-TWO fire department vehicles on my block! (I've got pictures) Seems there was a spreading kitchen fire in the apartment house across the street.
The fire department had ripped down and uprooted the iron-picket fence between the apartment units and the street, had run hoses off to the horizon, and swarmed over the whole shebang like vultures on a dead zebra. There were ladder trucks, ordinary pumper trucks, a truck with ladders that could reach the thirty-seventh floor of this two-story aparment house, a water-spray truck with a boom like a cherry-picker, supervisor vans, ambulances, a cascade unit, special operation's vans, and a HUGE, black, bus-looking vehicle labeled "City of Houston Mobile Command Center" that looked like the thing that carries seniors to the local Indian reservation for a day of gambling.
I recognized one of the station numbers on a pumper. It was from the station near the Texas Medical Center, some eight miles away.
In addition to the 42 fire trucks in front of my house, a couple of neighbors reported that several pumpers were stationed up to six blocks away with hoses connected to fireplugs ready to race to the scene with more water.
There were police cars without number to direct the traffic. News vans. A helicopter. A power company truck (he was the one that cut power to the block). Everything but a steam-powered calliope playing the Star Spangled Banner. I half-expected a hurdy-gurdy man with a monkey and a tin cup.
Lordy!
On the plus-plus side, I now know what to do if I get lonely.
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The same as for having an alarm. I would amortize it within 10 years, using your $1500 scenario.
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*In NJ the fire extinguisher manufacturers lobbied for mandatory fire extinguishers in every home. So now we are required to have a visible fire extinguisher in or close to our kitchens. When we sell our homes we have to pay for a smoke alarm and fire extinguisher inspection by the town before we can close. I talked to several fire inspectors about this and they all said that they were against this law. Their thinking is that they want people to get out of the house if there is a fire; not stick around and try to put it out.
There are many towns here that have all volunteer fire departments. The response time can be as long as 20 minutes. Sprinklers are not a bad idea in a situation like that. I personally feel that the fire rating for walls and ceilings should be increased in certain areas of the house such as the kitchen and garage.
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