A Little History

“People have a lot of misconceptions about sprinklers’ said John R. Waters, the Upper Merion Chief Fire Marshal … they picture a Three Stooges movie and the Stooges floating out the front door.”

“It’s overkill,” said … [the executive director of the Home Builders Association of Chester and Delaware Counties.] “I’m getting in touch with builders in East Whiteland, and we will vehemently protest any sprinkler ordinance. Mandatory sprinklers fly in the face of housing affordability. In commercial and public buildings are valuable because they might need crowd control; in homes you don’t have that. A study we’ve (the homebuilders) done shows death in existing housing is much higher than in new houses.”

“Before 1995, sprinklers will be as common as a light switch in new residential and commercial construction’ said architect Leon Clemmer of Elkin’s Park.”

Take a guess when these statements were made (obviously before 1995). The statements come directly out of an article entitled “Should home sprinklers be required” in the Real Estate Section of the Philadelphia Inquirer dated Sunday, May 14, 1989. And have far have we come?

Unfortunately, people still think that when sprinklers activate, they all activate at once. This is not helped by the movie industry.

Vehement opposition by the builders has not changed in 3 decades.

Sprinklers for “crowd control;” that was certainly pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

More fire deaths in existing housing? Since there are infinitely more “existing” houses than “new houses,” how could it not be so?

99% of our fires start with the contents, so the age of the house is irrelevant

Sprinklers to be as common as a light switch in 1995? In 2009, the IRC started requiring residential sprinklers, so the prediction came true 14 years late, BUT, at the behest of the home builders, 28 states have lessened the requirements of the minimum international code to preclude the requirements for sprinklers in single-family detached and semi-detached dwellings.

We’ve made progress, but not enough.