Lieutenant Gregory A. Woodbury of the Canton Fire Department and I had a good conversation about fire safety as he was completing his inspection of 90 Lawrence Street, Canton back on March 24th, 2016. I brought up the issue of mandatory sprinkler system legislation. As you would imagine, he is in favor of requiring sprinkler systems in new construction homes throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
FOX25 ran a story on April 26th, 2016 entitled “Mass. fire chiefs push for mandatory home sprinklers“.
“The smoke alarms really aren’t doing it. We think with sprinklers in the home will knock down the fire and stop the progression” Westfield Fire Chief Mary Regan said.
Bill Ethier, CEO of Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Connecticut, in a piece ran by NAHBNow on March 11th, 2016 entitled “Connecticut Lawmakers Reject Sprinkler Mandates“.
“The benefits of smoke detectors are huge. It costs about $600 a house to install hard-wired smoke detectors with battery back-ups, and they are 99.6% effective in preventing fatalities,” said state EO Bill Ethier. “Fire sprinkler systems bring that up to 99.8%, but they cost about $15,000-$20,000 for the average single-family home. Six dollars a square foot. It’s a huge extra cost for a tiny incremental increase in life safety. You can’t deny the numbers.”
I side with builders and buyers. Requiring the installation of sprinkler systems in single family homes would raise the cost for builders and those additional costs would undoubtedly be passed onto consumers. Lower income buyers would be most affected by the proposed legislation.
It’s not just the cost of installation that’s cumbersome. It’s the monthly monitoring fees of the sprinkler system and the bi-annual inspections of the sprinkler system by the local fire department and the potentially increased costs of home insurance due to the specter of a sprinkler system discharging under false pretenses which could cause massive water damage to a home or the outright failure of a sprinkler system which would most likely trigger an insurance claim due to the costs associated with repairing or replacing the system. Those costs can add up quickly.
Am I against fire safety? No! I’m against prohibitive regulations that will increase costs for builders and buyers. I’d be in favor of sprinkler systems if the costs of installing and maintaining those systems fell dramatically.