May 14, 2018
Letter to the Editor

CT safety code protects families at low cost

The recent HBJ article, "Townhome-sprinkler rule has builders feeling hosed," positioned the issue of fire sprinklers as one of costs and profits related to housing, but the true issue is one of safety for Connecticut families.

Unfortunately, fire-sprinkler opponents and other special interests in the housing industry have repeatedly indicated that their bottom line is more important than saving lives.

The vast majority of Connecticut's fire deaths and injuries each year happen at home, but home fire sprinklers in new construction reduce the risk of death or injury from fire. National building codes recognize this fact. That's why every edition of the national safety codes used in the U.S. since 2009, which have been adopted in many states, include the requirement to install fire sprinklers in new one- and two-family homes.

Currently, Connecticut residents are forced to live with substandard construction requirements that needlessly lead to risk of property damage, personal injury or death. Tragically, we see this come to fruition time and time again in unnecessary incidents, such as the Plainfield home fire in Sept. 2016, in which a young girl was killed in a house fire. That house has now been rebuilt with fire sprinklers in a clear acknowledgement that fire sprinklers keep families safe.

Instead of waiting for another tragedy, the Connecticut legislature is poised to take action to protect families — and the first responders who put themselves in harm's way to keep us safe — by requiring fire sprinklers in all new townhome construction in the state.

If special interests in the housing industry remain focused on profits, they should know that fire sprinklers give homeowners a huge return on investment, and often result in lower insurance costs.

Homebuilders and other special interests have been caught exaggerating what it takes to install and maintain fire sprinklers in the past, but given the protection of life and property offered by sprinklers, any upfront cost is more than offset by the reduction or elimination of other costly code requirements.

We have a long way to go to do everything we can to protect Connecticut families from the dangers caused by home fires, but requiring fire sprinklers in new townhomes is a clear step in the right direction, putting people before profits.

Keith Flood is the fire marshal in the West Haven Fire Department.

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