Taking Action For You: Fire Sprinklers

Get ready would-be home builders.

Come the first of the year, along with all the other costs associated with building a home, you are going to have to install a sprinkler system inside your home. Its becoming the law because Pennsylvania has adopted all addition to the Uniform Construction Code. In 2009, that included making fire sprinklers mandatory.

It will finally become the law of the Commonwealth in 2011.

As you might imagine, it’s the result of a battle between two opposing forces, There’s the building industry which does not want this to be mandated, lest the industry slows down as it tries to recover from a crippling recession. Then, there are the fire safety experts, like Pittsburgh Deputy Chief Colleen Walz, who believes you cannot put a price on safety and saving the lives of  residents and firefighters.

Well, actually you can put a price on it. The Pittsburgh Home Builders association estimates these things can run around $8000. The Fire Sprinkler industry says the builders could do it for a whole lot less, like $3000 for a 2000 square-foot home. Regardless of who’s right or who’s wrong, you have to foot the bill.

That’s the dilemma facing Steven Frye and Rebecca Nicol of Blairsville. They were in my story about this issue. They are about to be married and plan to build a modest home on the family farm. The house is under $100K but since they live in a rural area, the additional equipment to make this work would cost them, by the estimates they have received, close to $30K.

I doubt anybody would argue fire sprinklers do make a difference and make a home not only safer, but give you a better chance of escaping in the event of a fire. The issue here is whether they should be mandated. Deputy chief Walz says yes, like a beam that’s used to give support to the roof. The builders say consumers should not have to pay for anything they don’t want.

The issue will likely be brought up again in the legislature next year when two state senators propose a bill to either delay and outright drop the provision. House majority leader Mike Turzai assures me the matter will also be brought up next year. As for Rebecca and Steve, we have put them in touch with a regional building contractor who plans to help them construct their sprinkler system …. for less than the $30K they have been quoted. We’ll keep you posted.

We invite you to contact us if there are stories, issues that in which we can take action for you, let us know. E-mail me at astockey@ hearst.com. You will also find me on twitter at astockey.

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