Maine’s fourth-largest city is debating whether sprinkler systems should be installed inside new residences.  The controversial issue will be reviewed soon by the South Portland City Council. And it comes as no surprise that local home builders and real estate agents are adamantly opposing legislation.

They argue that sprinkler systems will prove too costly for families to afford and that installation should be a decision left up to home owners and not the government.

IAFF member and fire chief Kevin Guimond of South Portland Local 1476 is quoted in this story about the benefits of sprinkler systems saving lives.

The city of Portland, which is located across the river from South Portland, just recently passed an ordinance now requiring residential sprinklers in new homes.

It is the position and policy of the International Association of Fire Fighters to encourage our members to unanimously support requirements for residential sprinklers. The US Fire Administration also supports mandatory residential sprinklers.

We must seriously consider greater support for the requirement of residential sprinklers, as well as enhanced smoke alarm technology and stronger requirements for fire-rated lightweight structural components, as our IAFF members are battling more aggressive fires with fewer resources.  And we must fight these developers, home builders and realtors who continuously fight us on this important life and fire safety issue.

Residential sprinkler systems are Life Safety Systems designed, not to complete extinguishment but, to allow a greater period of time for the occupants to effect self rescue or at least provide an area of refuge until we can arrive.

Our number one goal in the fire service is to protect the citizens from harm; we should utilize all the tools available to us to accomplish this goal.While we understand the resistance to the intrusion of government control into a person’s home, we can advocate for home buyers to seriously consider adding the protection features of a residential sprinkler system as an upgrade to provide the added level of protection to their families. While people never expect a fire to occur in their home, national statistics indicate, fire departments respond to a structure fire every sixty-six seconds of the day on average. Every one hundred and seventy-five minutes a civilian died as a result of a fire and every thirty-one minutes a civilian was injured.

Fires can and do happen, therefore we must remain proactive in our efforts to provide the best protection possible.