Saving Your Life
California makes Residential Fire Sprinkler Systems Mandatory 1 January
Every fire marshal, every building director, pretty much every anyone who has anything to do with inspecting for fire safety, nearly all of them decent folk, are in favor of sprinkler systems because, for the cost of only $6,000 to $10,000 you can have a sprinkler system installed in a new house, and they would (might) save thousand of lives a year in California.
What’s not to love? We’ve had tragic deaths from house fires right in this county; some are still haunted by these deaths, and we could be reassured that at least some of them could have been prevented if there had been a residential sprinkler system. Maybe.
But, maybe some of them would have been saved by smoke alarms, too, at $6.00 each. Maybe some of them needed a chain ladder at $20.00.
Do residential sprinkler systems save lives, and if so, how many?
There are usually less than 3,000 fire deaths a year in the United States, a nation of 310,500,000 people. Almost certainly more die from falls, let’s remove anything taller than 3 feet and outlaw bathtubs.
Though FEMA has conducted “tests” the results aren’t available. It is possible that putting a sprinkler system in every house in America would save only a few lives.
Sprinkler systems save houses, too, kind of. There’s still smoke damage, and a lot of water damage, but the frame would probably still be there.
In the ideal world sprinkler systems would be a relatively inexpensive way to save lives.
Maybe decent folk live in an ideal world, but folk I hang with have stuff that goes wrong. Sprinkler systems go wrong. They corrode or stuff grows in them. They freeze. They sometimes go off when they shouldn’t. Maintaining a system can be problematic. Some systems require larger storage tanks and larger pumps or even a separate, dedicated water hookup.
The problem is cost. They asked the wrong people before implementing the International Building Code in California. They should have asked homeless people. They should have asked families suddenly trying to live on one income.
Building codes contribute to homelessness. They aren’t solely responsible; after all at a time when the number of homeless families is high, the number of vacant houses is also high. In a capitalist society, people don’t get things for free just because there is a surplus.
But one of the reasons the houses are empty is because houses cost too much. It costs too much to rent a house, with insurance and the risk of damage and so on. It’s more prudent to let it stand empty, to leave it to the rats and copper thieves, than to let a poor person live there.
How many of the mucky-mucks who voted for the adoption of this ordinance make under $30,000 a year? Almost certainly, none. Under $50,000? Under $75,000? Likely few to none make under $100,000. When they pass laws like this, they don’t think of families who live on $25,000 a year, or less. They imagine people like themselves, decent, that is, well off, people.
Don’t poor people deserve to be protected from a fiery death just like rich people? Sure, they deserve everything rich people have, but they won’t get it. If you really care about it, then let your tax dollars pay for systems free in houses under a certain value. Ah, don’t care quite that much, just care enough to deny other people the option not to do it. Well, that’s how decent people generally are.
How “international” is the International Building Code? Not at all! It was conceived of mostly by Americans in the “business” and only a very tiny percent of the world’s houses are built to it. I guess if you’re going to BS people, BS big.
What can we do? Nothing! The “International Building Code” is a done deal, encouraged to the states by the Feds and demanded of the counties by the state. If our board of supervisors refuses the implement the code, we’ll have misery from the state and from insurance companies. As is often the case when decent folk help you, there’s simply no way out.
Read more HERE