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PTC Council mistaken not to approve sprinkler rule for new homes

The City Council showed their extreme shortsightedness and succumbed (read “caved-in”) to specious arguments by representatives of the local builders group in voting down, 4-1, the proposed ordinance which would have required sprinklers in all new, single family construction.

Only Councilwoman [Kim] Learnard displayed genuine concern for lives and property, for which great thanks are owed for her courage. (The ordinance would have also required installation in instances of remodeling greater than 50 percent of the home value).

“Free choice,” cost and downright ignorance were the shallow positions advanced. Cast your memory back (if you are of sufficient years) to the 1960s when the installation of seat belts was finally mandated in this country.

Follow that with the introduction of airbags and the mandatory use of those seatbelts and Councilwoman Vanessa Fleisch would have voted against all, stating that it isn’t up to the government to “save us from ourselves.”

Certainly the federal government should be responsible for but a few public goods, of which the military is one example, and cases where market mechanisms fail, the state responsible for slightly more, and then down to our local municipality, where the rubber meets the road.

If we are unable to recognize the opportunity for groundbreaking legislation that is a proven lifesaver ... do we leave it to special interests groups to determine our path? Is the price less for those lobbyists than for even one life? Have you ever been asked by a builder, in a pre-construction meeting, if you would like to consider a sprinkler system for your new home?

Fact: Not a single documented case of loss of life in a residence equipped with sprinklers.

The price tag: 1 to 1.5 percent. A roughly $4,500 investment on a $300,000 residence here in our fair city. Over the length of most mortgages that home will save the installation cost easily in fire insurance alone. What price(less) piece of mind and the life of a single 3-year-old child, trapped in a burning bedroom?

And finally, the last two points: not the only ones lacking in any understanding of fire behavior and residential sprinkler operation but the two most notably advanced. “Most victims die from smoke and that smoke won’t activate the system to save them.”

Well, yes – most who succumb to residential fire do perish from smoke inhalation as the toxic byproducts of combustion overcome them before they are reached by flame.

Those byproducts, by the laws of physics, demand a heat source and that source will activate the sole sprinkler head, in most cases, necessary to put out the fire quickly and with minimal damage to property and, more importantly, to life – priceless.

“Have you ever seen the brackish water in an older system? It causes far more damage than the fire ever would.” Ludicrous to the extreme but it would matter little if that single, even two or three, head(s) spit out peanut butter to extinguish the flame.

If a firefighter comes through your front door with a 2.5-inch diameter hose (the mid-size of your department’s three attack lines), at 125 gallons per minute, the spray from sprinkler heads activated well before they could ever respond, will seem like an April shower compared to Hurricane Katrina.

I’m passionate about this subject and I do have a vested interest. What value do you place on your child and the safety of my fellow firefighters? Priceless.

Les Dyer

Peachtree City, Ga.

[Dyer is president of the city’s volunteer firefighters association. He lost the Post 4 City Council race last fall to Vanessa Fleisch.]



Robert W. Morgan's picture

To draw a comparison between seat belts for cars and sprinkler systems for houses in PTC is silly beyond belief.

Yes, both save lives. Yes, in a perfect world all cars would have seat belts (and people would use them) and all houses would have sprinkler systems. However, when you start regulating after millions of cars and houses have been built, you have to do it sensibly.

When seat belts (and air bags) were required they were required for all new cars built after a specific year. That's ALL NEW CARS, ok? That means Fords, Chevrolets, all of them. Level playing field. No competitive disadvantage. If you require Peachtree City builders to install sprinkler systems in new or remodeled houses after a specific date, you will accomplish 3 things:
1. About 50 houses a year in PTC will get sprinkler systems and they will cost $3 or 4,000 more than those built just outside PTC.
2. Then the other 9,950 houses in PTC and the many thousands outside PTC will sell quicker because they are cheaper (and also because very few care about a sprinkler system when buying a house). And BTW, no one actually cares about buying a new house anymore. We are in a deep recession and foreclosures and price cuts are driving the housing market.
3. Then we will have 50 houses in foreclosure that will sell for half price - albeit with a sprinkler system that may or may not work and will not be warrantied by the bank that sells the property.

In other words - still using the seat belt analogy - it would be as if the federal government said only Mercedes Benz SUV's built in SC had to have seat belts and all others did not.

Maybe if you started this sprinkler system requirement in 1960 or whenever the first house in PTC was built, but now?

Live free or die!

We could ban the use of steak knives in all new homes too..that would save me from myself. Maybe a chair lift to take me up and down the stairs so I don't fall.
Are we trying to save lives, save money, or trying to be different from what is standard everywhere else.

With little raw and available land left to build on, this would certainly help to prevent the redevelopment of some of the older residential areas of town.

Be Yourself: Because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind!

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