Change would require sprinklers in new construction

Kathy McCarty, Special to The County
17 years ago

    PRESQUE ISLE, Maine – Presque Isle City Council held its first of two public hearings on a proposed change to Chapter 38B – Life Safety Ordinance to update the 2003 Edition of the NFPA 101 Life Safety Code to the 2006 Edition. The change would primarily affect new construction of one- and two-family dwellings requiring the installation sprinkler systems.
    Speaking to the Council, Code Enforcement Officer Jerry McAvaddy explained the reason for the requested change and the cost involved for installing such a system when building.
“We’re looking to update the codes the city operates under. The biggest change is the residential aspect pertaining to the new construction of one- and two-family dwellings,” said McAvaddy.
McAvaddy said he and Fire Chief Darrell White had been doing their research and determined the changes would reduce damage and buy more time for occupants to escape in the event of a fire.
“We’ve done a lot of research and seen several fires recently that sprinklers might have helped. The sprinklers would hook into domestic water systems, meaning if you have tap water you’d have a sprinkler system,” said McAvaddy.
City Councilor G. Melvin Hovey asked how much the added sprinkler would affect new construction costs. McAvaddy explained that since the piping required is made of plastic, material costs wouldn’t be that significant. He added that since a specialist isn’t required to install the system and that a plumber could do so, the final cost would range around 1 percent of the total construction cost of a new home.
Hovey also questioned if the change would make Presque Isle the only city in the state requiring sprinklers for new-home construction.
“Scarborough currently requires sprinkler systems,” said White.
“Eventually, as other communities adopt changes, the statute says all cities will follow,” said McAvaddy. “We can wait or we can adopt – keep up with the state. People are confused about who can put a system in. It doesn’t require a specialist from a fire extinguisher company, it can be a plumber. With a plumber able to do so and around 16 outfits in the area to go to for bids, this will bring competition and keep costs down.”
Councilor Don Gardner questioned the use of plastic piping and how it would hold up in the event of a fire.
“How does that work when fire melts the pipe?” asked Gardner.
“The sprinkler should put out most fires before it gets that hot,” McAvaddy responded.
Councilor Jennifer Trombley invited anyone with questions or concerns to attend the next hearing, scheduled for the next City Council meeting on July 9.
“The only way we can vote the way the community wants is to hear from those in the community,” said Trombley.
White said he’s talked extensively with McAvaddy and the two are in agreement on the change requiring sprinklers in new-home construction.
“It adds to the price of a home, but what it adds to the other end far outweighs the cost. You’re looking at anywhere from a 5 to 10 percent cut in insurance costs. It also increase the amount of time from the time an alarm goes off by 80 percent. For those with children, senior citizens, handicapped – gives us that much more time to get everyone out,” said White.
Sprinklers may eventually become mandatory in all construction, said White.
“I think eventually you’ll see it (sprinklers) mandatory. Lenders and insurers are in favor of them because they reduce replacement costs. (The difference in) fire damage and the cost of repair with and without a system is phenomenal,” said White, who acknowledged it was his department’s position to be very pro-active with fire education.
“Sometimes it takes a tragedy to come up with something different, better. Through the course of the summer and always, we’re doing everything in our power to educate the public,” said White.
Councilors will continue discussion on the matter, with the second public hearing scheduled for their July 9 meeting. The meeting will be held at City Hall, beginning at 6 p.m. The public is encouraged to attend. For information, contact City Hall at 764-4485, McAvaddy at 764-2506 or White at 769-0881.