Fire Prevention Week: Fire Union Members Continue to Advocate for Home Sprinklers

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT)- In July WHNT News 19 brought you Smoke Detector Fail a Taking Action Investigation revealing the importance of photoelectric smoke alarms which effectively and quickly detect smoke, and the shortfalls of ionization alarms which only detect flames.

This may be National Fire Prevention Week but for years now the International Association of Firefighters and municipal agencies right here in the Tennessee Valley have been pushing legislators to up the ante on preventative measures by adopting laws requiring home sprinkler systems be installed in all new homes.

“I don’t think it’s actually on the minds of people who are building homes,” says Huntsville Firefighter’s Association Vice President Dan Wilkerson.

If the idea of installing sprinklers inside your home sounds bizarre to you consider this:
according to FEMA when fire sprinklers alone are installed in a residence the chances of dying in a fire are reduced by 69 percent. Fire sprinklers and photoelectric smoke alarms together reduce the chance of death by a whopping 82 percent.

“The amount of time that you have to actually get out of a house fire is less than three minutes,” says Wilkerson. All the studies that have been done and all the research shows the sprinkler head would go off in that amount of time and almost extinguish the fire giving you a greater amount of time to escape from the burning house.”

Dan Wilkerson says in 2008 the International Code Council unanimously rejected appeals by the National Association of Home Builders for approved residential sprinkler requirements. The code requirements were passed, but it was up to local municipalities to enforce those codes in each state.

In March of 2010 governor Bob Riley signed a bill in to law saying you could not as a local municipality enforce having mandatory sprinkler systems in one to two family dwellings.”

Despite the fact that in 2006 nearly 20 percent of all reported fires occurred in these types of dwellings and accounted for 66 percent of fire fatalities that year alone. Despite the fact that sprinkler installation in new homes only costs about a dollar per square foot, Wilkerson says the largest barrier to a change in the fire code mandating these lifesaving devices is still the National Association of Home Builders.

“Their standpoint was it was going to raise the cost of the homes and they just felt like it was unnecessary cost where the International Association of Firefighters realizes that it dramatically increases the safety of those homes having that sprinkler system present.”

Members of the Huntsville Firefighter’s Association say they hope the code changes will be reintroduced to legislators soon.

For some great fire prevention and safety tips, click here.

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