YouTube Video of Cecil County Sprinkler Debate

YouTube has this video about the sprinkler debate.  It was produced by the WhigOnline.


14 responses to “YouTube Video of Cecil County Sprinkler Debate

  1. It is too bad that Cindy Emmerich is ill informed when she compares a leak in her washing machine with the failure rate of automatic sprinklers. Using her logic, she would do away with all appliances and and services in her home that use water. It is a proven fact that with home fire sprinkler systems there is a very low risk of leaks. The National Fire Protection Association states “Each individual sprinkler is designed and calibrated to activate only when it senses a significant heat change, directing water to the area of the fire. Over the last 50 years, records indicate the likelihood of leaks form automatic sprinkler syytems is very remote.”

  2. Richard:

    Thanks for sharing your expertise and clarity on this matter. As a credentialed, professional fire protection engineer, you’re well aware of how much misinformation was so easily tossed out at the meeting about the effectivenss of sprinklers. The data clearly shows that residential sprinkler substantially increase safety in residential units and the issues about leakage and much more are not relevant, the problem being a rare occurrence.
    We were very surprised about misinformation about this matter that was being handed. When a member of the Republican Central Committee, Joe Carabetta, came forward he made a significant number of statements indicating that sprinklers aren’t effective as, for example, when he said “smoke is going to get you long before the sprinklers.” He worried about how frequently sprinklers leak, the need for air conditioning units so the heads don’t go off during hot Maryland summers, the need for a back up generator, a second water supply and much more. Once he finished talking about how the systems aren’t effective, he spoke about the upkeep and maintenance indicating that a homeonwer would have “all the inspections that have to be done, annually, quarerly, montly, weekly and daily.” Later with a a registered fire protection engineer had a chance to speak he specifically addressed many of these myths.

    The commissioners really need to sit with qualified people to get the correct information on that matter, from both sides. If one wants to aruge about the right of government to require life safety features or the cost benefit of the devices, that’s fine, but there isn’t an argument about effectiveness.

    Anway thanks for sharing. It would be helpful if the boared of commissioners would go you as you have a fire protection engineering professional and have no vested interst on either side.

    • Thank you Richard and Mike.

      Now, how do we get the commissioners to pay attention and learn from the professional sources and make intelligent decisions?

      • That’s hard to answer. Richard Glover, by-the-way, would be a good person for them to talk to us as he is professionally credentialed, having spent a career in that field, but doesn’t have a vested interst locally from a political or economic point.

        Listening to many of the speakers, one would walk away from there thinking that these were industrial strength sprinklers not the residentially specific sytems speced out by NFPA 13D as they worried about the frequency of failures, water damage, high maintenance costs and how smoke detectors will resolve the issue.

  3. Mike,
    I never questioned that sprinklers were not effective. I did present and ask questions about specific circumstances that are realities in Cecil County. Much of the data presented by the other side was from PG County, where there are little trees to fall on electric lines and public water supplies and few summer homes. The issues I raised were from a websites selling sprinkler systems. I also beg to differ with the professional who said all you do is just install them and no maintenance is required. Any mechanical system requires servicing or it most likely will not work when it is needed most. I also stated that we need to keep government out of our private homes, there is far to much intrusion already. Also, I never mentioned that night that I was a member of a political central committee, that is your words. I was speaking as a private citizens. Please review the information that I supplied to the commissioners that night before attacking my or anyone on their credibility. Thank you.

  4. Joe, thanks for sharing your perspective on your public comments during the commissioner’s hearing on residential sprinklers. The audio is archived and I went back to listen to it to verify my recollection.

    A couple of times during your public remarks, as you itemized the problems with sprinklers system, you made comments that gave me the impression that you thought they didn’t work. For example, after you mentioned that an air conditioning system might be needed because some sprinkler heads activate at 100 degree F and temps in this area can exceed that, you said “They also don’t work.” At that point you were beginning to discuss sprinkler failures. You had a list of failures and at one point you said “and this is a classic, in 17 fires” they failed and in some cases the sprinklers were right above the fire.

    Another time you were discussing fire deaths and you said the smoke was going to kill people “long before they have sprinklers” activate.

    You had a list of technical challenges for the systems that would or could cause failure here such as the liability issue local government would face if they could off water, need to heat summer homes in the winter, water treatment issues, water storage tank requirements, product recalls, and the more efficient application of smoke detectors to prevent fire deaths.

    Later in the evening the state’s registered fire protection engineer addressed several of these points, such as when you said annual, quarterly, monthly and daily inspection requirements were required for the homeowner.

    I think the problem area is in the use of the code you selected to mention. The code for residential sprinklers is different than the one for commerical applications. Residential uses 13D and the standard is designed for life safety, not a major industrial fire. You mentioned NFPA Code 25 for the inspection, maintenance and testing of commercial sprinkler systems. That code clearly says: “This standard shall not apply to sprinkler systems designed and installed in accordance with NFPA 13D, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes.” Perhaps that’s where a lot of the differences are coming in as the residential sprinkler code is far different that NFPA 25 and commercial requiremetns.

    My opinion on the matter of most of these points differs from the statements you made during the meeting, but that’s what a public hearing is about, a chance from a range of people to stand up and say what they want to. It just happens we disagree and that’s fine, for the presentation of a range of perspectives is important as one seeks to gain validiated knowledge and understand a situation.

    The summarization of your comments about sprinkler effectiveness and the technical challenges to maintaining them and pointing out differences (comments that were made in a public forum where a range of opinions is anticipated), isn’t an attack on your credibility. We have an difference of opinons, which often happens in public discourse and I’ve shared what I believe. That’s simply it. It’ll happen in public discourse.

    On the point you made about being a member of the Republican Central Committee, that is correct. That is something I inserted in preparing the news piece. If I had made public comments (which I didn’t), someone might have added he is a lifetime member of a Cecil County fire company, though I wouldn’t have entered that in the public record. It just gives readers an orientation to the person making the public comments and certainly wouldn’t imply that I was there speaking for the fire company.

  5. Mike,
    Thank you for stating your side of the story. Just for clarification, the failures I cited were from actual recalls of sprinkler heads. My point was that as with any mechanical system there are inherent failures, whether they be infant, mid-life or late stage. Even if the current code, whatever is proposed, does not require maintenance, the homeowner will have to conduct maintenance at their cost. Another point that I did not raise is that the homeowner will also incur a yearly cost on these systems through real estate taxes, not to mention the cost of financing and the additional upfront fees during settlement which are tied to the mortgage amount. That is a nice back door tax increase! If they are mandated, I would ask that they be tax exempt. I think that in a free-market it should be the homeowners choice. I still maintain that there are many challenges in implementing sprinklers in rural areas which while not impossible to solve will drive cost and system complexity which will lower overall system reliability. This will create a false sense of security.

  6. Joe I didn’t realize we were going tohave to give your comments receive a thorough airing or I would’ve created a stand-alone op/ed piece where we both could have shared our viewpoints in an upfront, regular post.

    The peer reviewed journals and independent data, I’ve reviewed do not support your statement that sprinklers create a false sense of security. The independent governmental bodies such as NTIS, USFA, and lots more say they are very effective. Studies separate from the federal government, such as the NFPA & PG County found that they substantial increase safety and don’t create a false sense of security.

    I agree you are able to find some sprinkler failures in the literature, just as you would with any other type of product, but overall they work and do save lives, greatly enhancing life safety.

    Commissioner Hodge recognized the same matter when he initiated the public policy and framed the argument that he thought was appropriate for this discussion. He said something along the lines of this is not about whether sprinklers save lives. This is about whether government should have the right to tell people the level of safety that’s required for them and so it wants it to be an option. That’s where the debate should be centered for any reasonable review based on valid data will show that overall sprinklers are very effective in saving lives.

    Remember, this is an entire different type of sprinkler system than the ones you were citing for the commisisoners when you said “code 25 requires.” Of course some maintenance is required, but not the level you cited.

    Anyway, that’s what public forums are about. You shared what you believed about sprinklers so the commissioners could take that into consideraiton. I think the video demos the value of them and the independent authorities validate findings give policy makers valid information to consider.

  7. Mike,
    We obviously disagree on this issue, which is fine and normal. I am not arguing nor I am I maintaining that if sprinklers operate as designed that they will be effective. What I am trying to have you and the commissioners understand that there are differences between systems designed and installed in urban settings and ones in rural areas. How much of the available data on these systems is from rural areas versus urban areas?? I do not want the county to enter into yet another mandate on emotions, I prefer to deal in facts and reality. The fact is a home with a well will require back up power and storage systems to provide the large quantity of water which will be required for sprinklers. Not to mention that the water will have to be treated because of the high incidence of acidic water in this area. All this needs to be thought out before such a mandate is thrown on the back of the citizens. Again, I feel that it should be a consumer’s choice not the governments. This is where we probably disagree. Have a good day.

    • Joe we disagree on what the engineering and technical data indicates from the independent testing laboratories and federal agencies, that’s for sure. If I might suggest that you read those engineering studies carefully, you’ll see answers to many of the technical challenges and efficiencies questions you mentioned to the commissioners. On the point you made in this post about you feel it shouild be the consumer’s choice, tha argument does have points to be considered and evaluated.

      Anway, I think we’ll just have to leave that we diagree on the technical and engineering aspects, though I would suggest that anyone considering those arguments read the actual studies and take a look at the appropriate code.

      Whatever the case, thanks for sharing your points of view. If I had know we were going to give your remarks such a detailed airing, rather than just a couple of sentences I originally posted, I’d have given each of us a commentary piece, for pro and con.


  8. Joe and Mike,
    The Fire Protection Research Foundation published a report “Home Fire Sprinkler Cost Assessment” in September 2008 in which the following is quoted from the Foreword: “Residential fire sprinkler ordinances have been adopted by several hundred U.S. communities for use in single-family dwellings. Such systems have been shown to provide significant life safety benefits, however the installed cost of these systems
    remains as a point of uncertainty and a potential barrier to broader adoption. Informal estimates of typical installation costs can vary widely, and influence decision makers’ views on the viability of sprinkler systems in new homes.
    In order to provide information on this topic, and to understand the factors that may influence the costs and hence impede the widespread use of residential fire sprinklers, the Foundation undertook this study to provide a national perspective on the cost of home fire sprinklers by developing data on installation costs and cost savings for ten communities distributed throughout the United States. The study also explores the range of insurance premium discounts which are available to home owners with
    sprinkler systems in their houses.”
    It should be noted that two Maryland counties were selected — Prince George’s County and Carroll County. The importance of this is all three homes in Carroll County rely on well water. Because a booster pump and tank were required for the sprinkler system, which was included in the contractor’s installation price, the system costs for Carroll County were approximately $3000 more than for Prince George’s County with other aspects being equal. $3000 will not cover the cost for an upgraded kitchen. Everything needs to be put in perspective.

  9. Richard,
    Thank you for the data point. However, this makes my point that the data for rural areas are limited. Interesting that there was no cost for back-up power, which can run in the 6ooo-7ooo dollar range, and that I maintain would be absolutely necessary. Do you know what quality of water was being produced by the wells in Carroll county? Were these three homes full or part times residences? As you can see there is much decisions and discussion that must be undertaken before full implementation of such a far reaching requirement. I am sure that if properly structured some common ground could be found on this matter. My opinion is that we need to free people from government mandates and let the free market rule. If people see value they will buy any product. Could you provide your study to Mike and maybe he could post it for all to see?? Thank you.

  10. Joe, I’ll be glad to link to the study as what is needed here is valid technical data that could be used to make an informed decision. Your point you make in this post about governmental regulation is the one that Commissioner Hodge said he was framing when it started this, not the one about sprinkler effectiveness. There certainly is lots more room for debate on the right of government to require these safety systems, rather than on questioning effecdtiveness and whether they save lives. Of course, there are some failures that can be identiifed, but that needs to be looked at in a statistical way to see determine the frequency of incidents.

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