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.]