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OAFC calls for residential sprinkler systems

Dec. 24, 2007 - TORONTO - The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs said Monday that the weekend deaths of three people as a result of a house fire in Toronto may have been prevented if the home had had residential sprinkler systems installed.

December 24, 2007 
By Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs

OAFC President Richard Boyes, who is the fire chief in Oakville, Ont., is urging the provincial government to make residential sprinkler systems mandatory in all new residential buildings. “This was a tragedy that may have been prevented if residential sprinklers were present” Boyes said.
Sprinkler systems save lives and are very inexpensive. The Ontario Building Code provides uniform minimum standards for the construction of buildings and is enforced by municipalities. Provisions to make sprinklers mandatory in residential construction are not included in the Code. The OBC needs to be revised to make them mandatory in all new residential construction, including town homes and high rise buildings.
Smoke alarms alone cannot get the job done. The logical next step is to introduce residential fire sprinklers in order to create safe homes. Residential fire sprinklers will extinguish smoke and fire in homes before it spreads to deadly proportions. Without containment there can be extensive damage to life, property, and the environment as well as the risk of the spread of fire in built up cities and towns.
“Residential fire sprinklers are a logical response to fire risk. Because the large majority of fire deaths and injuries occur in residential fires, fire protection measures which target residential properties have the potential to prevent injuries and save lives.” Boyes said. “People are supposed to feel safe in their homes, yet people are still dying in homes that are built to code. The code doesn’t go far enough. People are dying by code.”
Fire service leaders suggest that the range of cost to install residential fire sprinklers is $1.50 to $3 per square foot, depending on the size of the unit. It is estimated that savings on property insurance for units with sprinklers can range from 10 per cent to 15 per cent.
There have been reviews of the effectiveness of residential fire sprinklers in two large North American jurisdictions, one in the United States and the other in Canada. Scottsdale, Ariz., has had a sprinkler ordinance in place since 1986 and Vancouver, B.C., has had a by-law since 1990. Both require all new residential developments to be sprinklered. Since the regulations in each jurisdiction came into effect, there have been no fire deaths in sprinklered homes, and more than 90 per cent of all fires in these homes were contained by the operation of a single sprinkler. The cost of fire damage or loss has also been significantly reduced. In Scottsdale, the damage in the average sprinklered incident was $2,166 compared with $45,019 in homes without sprinklers. The Vancouver experience has been similar. The average fire loss in a home with sprinklers was $1,065 compared with $13,937 in a home without sprinklers.

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