The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) residential sprinkler initiative was launched in 2009 in an attempt to get sprinklers installed for new residential construction. The idea was relatively simple. Properly designed, working, maintained, and inspected sprinkler systems have been shown to halt a fire, slow fire spread, reduce levels of products of combustion, give people more time to evacuate, and give fire fighters more time to respond to a fire.
The NFPA’s initiative was successful in getting adopted by the International Codes Council’s IRC (International Residential Code). However, to date, only California, Maryland and the District of Columbia have accepted the residential sprinkler requirements for one and two family dwellings. Many of the other states have either ruled against adopting sections of the ICC/IRC, have modified the scope of adoption (i.e. sprinklers required based on square footage or residential type) or have simply required that the systems be offered to new residential construction customers along with the additional cost.
A residential sprinkler system has the additional cost of plumbing, boost pumping, stored water source (if necessary), permitting and inspection, backflow preventers (if required), and flood alarm, and can result in an upfront cost of several thousand dollars. The cost can grow when the system becomes tied to a monitored fire alarm system or is more complex.
Residential sprinkler systems are currently not required to have annual maintenance, and many are advertised as maintenance free. However, it is a good idea to have a periodic inspection and test of any system.
So why the push-back? There is a genuine fear of the upfront cost, as well as the recurring cost of inspection and maintenance. There is also a fear that the system will be one more that can fail within the home (i.e. frozen pipes) or that the system will be activated inadvertently (i.e. kids throwing balls within the home) resulting in water damage. Detractors also believe that the initiative is being pushed by those who would stand to gain from its adoption, such as those in the fire protection industry, sprinkler system component manufacturers, and plumbers.
When you need to know the cause and origin of a fire or explosion, ARCCA has the experienced engineers and fire experts to assist you throughout an investigation.
PETER CHEN, M.S.M.E., M.B.A., P.E., CFEI, ACTAR, is a mechanical engineer at ARCCA specializing in Accident Reconstruction, Fire Cause/Origin, Product Failure, Car/Truck Failure Analysis, Industrial Equipment, Worksite Safety, Aviation, Medical/Rehabilitative and Exercise Equipment, Warnings and Instructions, and Transportation, including Railroad incidents. He is ACTAR-certified, a Certified Fire/Explosion Investigator, a Certified Crash Data Retrieval Analyst and a JLG Certified Equipment Trainer.