Town will consider sprinkler
Emmitsburg Commission President William B. O'Neil Jr. wants to see the town
adopt an ordinance requiring sprinklers in new homes.
"Anyone with children would want sprinklers, to keep them safe," O'Neil said
in support of the ordinance he will introduce at a town meeting Wednesday.
The ordinance would require sprinklers in newly constructed homes.
Townhouses are also included in the ordinance, but a state law already mandates
sprinklers in new townhouses.
O'Neil said the town's board would consider the ordinance Wednesday, hear
testimony from experts on fire safety and take public comment. O'Neil
acknowledges builders and developers may be apprehensive about the ordinance.
The cost of installing the sprinklers is a consideration, but not
necessarily a concern to one major builder in the area.
Randy Krom, division manager for Ryan Homes, said he is not concerned about
how a sprinkler system will affect Ryan Homes. It shouldn't affect their sales,
he said, but it may affect the people buying the homes and cause them to
sacrifice an upgrade in carpet or other things they want.
On the other hand, he said, if it really is a safety issue and they can show
that, then it's something people will understand. "If it's a requirement and
they show the physics that it saves lives, then people will look at it and say
'Yeah maybe its important I do that,'" he said.
Maryland State Fire Marshal Bill Barnard agrees the issue of safety trumps
Barnard said has seen the enormous benefits of sprinklers firsthand in
Prince George's County, where a similar ordinance has been in operation for
more than a decade.
Barnard said property damage has dropped dramatically and no fire fatalities
have been recorded in homes equipped with sprinklers in that county.
Another benefit may be that sprinklers also protect the lives of
firefighters, Barnard said.
Both O'Neil and Barnard worked on the ordinance and two representatives of
the fire marshal's office will attend the town meeting to give testimony and to
help answer any questions, Barnard said.
The sprinklers' cost varies -- they average between $1.50 and $2.50 per
square foot, he said.
But the true value is that a sprinkler system is not just a warning system,
like a smoke detector; it is a fire protection system.
Each sprinkler can be adjusted to respond to a different temperature and
will react independently of the other sprinklers in a home. If there is fire in
a kitchen, only the kitchen sprinklers go on, Barnard said.
The sprinklers then put out the fire or suppress it long enough for help to
arrive or for people to leave the building.
Barnard also pointed out that there is increasing evidence smoke detectors,
while extremely helpful, have shown lesser benefits for the elderly and
children who have limited mobility.
They often do not realize what the alarm means or what to do about it.
And that, O'Neil said, is the point of the ordinance saving lives.
"I think this is a thing that will do a lot of good. I only wish it had
happened before I came there," he said.