By Laura King
June 6, 2013, Toronto - I’m not a numbers person – most writers aren’t – but I’m pretty good at putting two and two together. So the press release yesterday from the Canadian Automatic Sprinkler Association about a controlled burn, a local developer, and a “special public safety announcement” happening this morning in Vaughan, Ont., would lead a trained observer to conclude that something’s up. Something about sprinklers.
June 6, 2013, Toronto – I’m not a numbers person – most writers aren’t –
but I’m pretty good at putting two and two together. So the press
release yesterday from the Canadian Automatic Sprinkler Association
about a controlled burn, a local developer, and a “special public safety
announcement” happening this morning in Vaughan, Ont., would lead a
trained observer to conclude that something’s up. Something about
Given that the City of Vaughan also put out a press release, and that the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs emailed the announcement to its members, a trained observer would surmise that the developer – Townwood Homes – is likely to be the first homebuilder in Ontario to voluntarily include automatic sprinklers in the new homes it’s building. (Other developers have installed sprinklers due to distance or difficult fire-apparatus access to their subdivisions, but none has done so otherwise.)
None of the parties was talking on the record yesterday, wanting this morning’s press conference and sprinklers demo to be a big deal, and rightly so.
Residential sprinkler are a pretty significant step in a province where fire-service advocates fought for years to have older retirement homes retrofitted with sprinklers, and where the fire marshal is preaching loudly and clearly about the first two lines of defence – fire prevention and public education, and inspections and code enforcement – as the weak links in reducing the numbers of fire fatalities.
As Fire Marshal Ted Wieclawek told delegates to the OAFC’s annual conference in May, just after the Ontario government announced that it would legislate the retrofitting of older retirement homes with sprinklers, “If people are going to survive a fire it’s the result of what they’ve done themselves.” That would include buying homes with automatic sprinklers.
While the developer deserves kudos for its initiative, it will be interesting to see what happens next. Sprinklers in retrofitted retirement homes will be monitored and included in the Ontario Fire Code; they provide both detection and suppression. The code does not include sprinklers for private homes, so it’s unclear at this point (at least to me) whether the sprinklers in Townwood’s new homes would be monitored by an alarm company – although that detail may be available today – and therefore whether this type of residential sprinkler would be considered a first line of defence (detection), a second line (life-safety equipment and code enforcement) or a third line (suppression).
Not that it really matters, it’s just that here in Ontario we hear a lot about the three lines of defence and some of us are particular about understanding where this initiative fit into the grand scheme of things.
Regardless, this morning’s announcement, which is clearly the result of a healthy relationship between the developer and Vaughan Fire and Rescue’s public education and fire prevention people, is a step forward for a forward-thinking fire service and the building industry, which has so far balked at sprinklers as an unnecessary added cost to be passed on to home buyers.
What’s even more impressive is that a single fire department, working with a local business, will accomplish that which others – including provincial lawmakers – have been unwilling to tackle because of pressure from homebuilders over cost and the argument that sprinklers are but one fire-safety option that don’t replace a quick and thorough response. Fair enough, but, as we will hear today, like seatbelts and airbags, why not provide the best possible protection?