I was appalled and outraged to read a quote in the Jan. 5 issue of the paper from Michael Bazin: “Sprinkler systems really do not save lives; people who die in fires die from smoke inhalation.”
Really? The NFPA and plenty of other reliable and respected sources, readily searchable on the internet, disagree. From an NFPA report US Experience with Fire Sprinklers dated June 2013: “With wet-pipe sprinklers the fire death rate per 1,000 reported home structure fires was lower by 82% and the rate of property damage per reported home structure fire was lower by 68%.”
Aside from reducing the death rate by 82%, residential sprinklers increase the probability that the fire will be contained within one room by 95% - making it easier for occupants to leave and making the structure safer for our firefighters to work in. An automatic sprinkler system inherently has a response time that no fire department can match. On those fewer occasions when people do get killed in a sprinklered building the two main causes are 1) the sprinklers were turned off at the time 2) the fire was caused by an explosion and people were next to it when it happened.
I worked in commercial real estate development and property management for 30 years – in all that time, I never managed or built a property without sprinklers. The fact that they are now becoming more prevalent in residential structures is something to be embraced, not discouraged - especially as 78% of all fire deaths happen in homes. I wish I had installed one in my own home.
Mr Bazin went on to say that requiring sprinklers was a block to building affordable housing. The NFPA did a study showing the average cost of residential sprinklers dropped from $1.61 per square foot in 2008 to $1.35 per square foot in 2013. I well know that construction costs are higher than the national average in Ouray County, but I believe if he looks into it, Mr Bazin will find a sprinkler system will cost 2% or less of the construction budget, so to say it will discourage development is unreasonable. Further, insurance companies recognize fire sprinkler effectiveness - I called State Farm and was told that an automatic sprinkler system installed throughout the home will reduce the homeowner’s insurance premium by 10%. So, aside from saving lives and making residential fires safer for firefighters, some of the cost will be offset by premium reductions.