Let's face it. People don't want to burn to death in the middle of the night in their homes. They don't want to see their belongings destroyed by fire either. More importantly, what they don't want is for the government of any size to come into their homes and tell them there is one more thing they must do........because it's law. That's just wrong!Maryland has adopted the National Building Code, effective Jan. 1, as the standard for all new residential construction in the state. One of its provisions is a mandate that fire sprinkler systems be installed in all new one- and two-family dwellings. Municipalities may exempt themselves from the requirement --but only if they do so by mid-December. Berlin is considering exempting itself; Salisbury has adopted the requirement.
While it's easy to see how homeowners might be skeptical, the available literature and video demonstrations on the Internet are convincing. In staged demonstrations, a fire can destroyed a room in less than 2 minutes; in an identical room with a sprinkler installed, the fire is extinguished in about 15 seconds.
There is no convincing argument for any builder or homeowner to choose not to install sprinklers.
Sprinklers cost between $1 and $1.50 per square foot of living space; therefore, for a modest 1,200-square-foot starter house, the additional cost would be about $1,200-$1,800 --equivalent to modest upgrades in flooring, kitchen cabinets or other fixtures in a new home. The additional one-time cost is offset to some degree by a 1 to 2 percent annual discount on homeowner's insurance.
Plumbing, which is required for home sprinkler systems, is a self-contained system that does not experience the wear and tear of ordinary plumbing; it is installed inside the walls where it is not exposed to freezing temperatures. Because sprinkler heads are activated independently, only the amount of water necessary to contain the fire until help arrives is dispatched, limiting water damage. And because the sprinkler heads are heat-activated, there is little chance for accidental triggering of the devices.
Smoke alarms increase the chances of surviving a house fire by nearly 50 percent; sprinklers increase it to about 97 percent.
In the end, the argument comes down to whether government should tell people what to do. When government steps in to protect people instead of giving them choices, it should because of the potential for that decision to harm others -- as this one could in apartments, hotels or duplexes.
Multi-family structures should be required to have sprinkler systems; however, builders or owners of single-family dwellings should retain the right to make the decision.