On Wednesday March 9, 2011 our nation was faced with a very tragic event in Perry County with the death of 7 children in a fatal house fire outside of Blain, PA. As a firefighter and EMT, I can’t even imagine the feeling that these emergency providers had to feel while battling this blaze and continue to have after leaving this event. My thoughts and prayers go out to not only the family and friends of the 7 children but also to my extended family – the many emergency responders who were on the scene on involved in some way at the scene of this tragic event.
As many of you have been reading on my recent post I have been a very strong supporter of the state building code that requires sprinklers in all new construction homes. Its events like this that keeps me pushing hard to keep the residential sprinkler provision from being removed from the new codes. This past week, our state house of representatives had the opportunity to help prevent incidents like this from occurring, but they chose to ignore the risks of non-sprinklered homes and voted to repeal the sprinkler mandate from the building code. By doing so, our elected officials opened up the door for more incidents like this to occur.
When you look at an incident like this it amazes me when I watch the news coverage and you never hear whether or not the home was sprinklered. Every time a serious or fatal traffic accident happens, the press is quick to note if seat belts were used. With fatal fires in homes, they are often quick to report if smoke detectors were installed and operating properly, but they don’t report if the property had sprinklers. Why? Could it be because we don’t want the facts to be brought out on that sprinklers prevent major fire damage and save lives?
Since October 2010 the Harrisburg area has had 3 major fires that have taken a total of 13 lives. If this many people died as a result of an accident, elected officials would be calling for a major study and putting regulations into effect to help prevent needless deaths. Unfortunately we are not seeing this when it involves a fire. Could it be due to the disregard for the fire service and the community or could it be due to the fact that special interest groups have bought our elected officials?
Last week our State House of Representatives (Monday March 7) voted to remove the sprinkler mandate via House Bill 377. Several amendments were brought forward but unfortunately the majority of our elected officials didn’t want to even hear any of the amendments as they just wanted to remove the sprinklers from the code all together.
I have been very passionate over the last year on this issue and continue to be today. As a fire service provider I know firsthand how important it is to have sprinklers in these homes, especially when you look at the new lightweight construction that is in place now days. Studies have shown that it only takes approximately 7-10 minutes for the structure to be compromised once a fire is started. Considering the fact that most of the fire departments in PennsylvaniA are staffed by dedicated volunteers, this 7-10 minutes of safety has already dissolved by the time the first firefighters arrive.
Residential fire sprinklers do save lives. When you look at states that have sprinkler mandates, it’s clear that lives both to civilians and firefighters have been saved. I would ask that you please contact your local senators and ask them to please vote NO on SB 377 and to keep the sprinkler code in place. Do you want to take the risk of your children being the next to have this happen to them? As a parent, I know I wouldn’t want to take this chance and if I were to purchase a new home, I would definitely have sprinklers installed. It could save the lives of my family and the lives of our dedicated firefighters if fire struck. Please consider the 13 lives that have been lost over the past 5 months and contact your senators and ask them to help prevent further fire deaths but voting NO to SB 377 and keeping the Sprinkler Code in place on new home construction.