Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Bamboozled: Why doesn't N.J. require fire sprinklers in new homes?

from nj.com

boozle-TollBrothers (5).JPG
Ed Ondayko holds up a part of a fire sprinkler system at his future home in Colts Run at Monroe on December 1, 2015. Ondayko is building new construction and before construction gets too far along, he wants to install a sprinkler system but Toll Brothers said no. (Alexandra Pais/for NJ Advance Media)

Karin Price Mueller | NJ Advance Media for NJ.comBy Karin Price Mueller | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter 
on December 28, 2015 at 8:22 AM, updated December 28, 2015 at 8:23 AM

Building a new home is a big endeavor.
You want to pick the right kitchen cabinets and countertops, the right lighting fixtures, the right flooring.
But one option isn't readily available: a fire suppression system.
Interior sprinklers.
Fire sprinklers can suppress and often extinguish a fire, reducing heat, smoke and toxic fumes before the fire department arrives. It gives a family more time to escape.
Yet if you want your new construction to have sprinklers, you're probably going to have to hire a custom builder rather than buy into a larger development. Or add them after construction is completed.  
Larger developers simply don't offer the option.
boozle-TollBrothers.JPGThe future home of Ed Ondayko at Colts Run at Monroe on Dec. 1, 2015. Ondayko bought into new construction at the Toll Brothers development. Before construction gets too far along, he wants to install a sprinkler system but Toll Brothers said no. 
The issue came to Bamboozled's attention from a homebuyer who works in the fire protection industry.
When Ed Ondayko decided to buy into new construction at Colts Run in Monroe, he asked his builder, Toll Brothers, about a fire system to protect his family: his wife, three children and a dog -- and potentially his wife's elderly mom.
But Toll Brothers doesn't offer a system as an option, just as it doesn't offer private in-ground pools or solar panels.
Because of his experience with home fires, Ondayko didn't want to take no for an answer. More on that in a moment.
Toll Brothers isn't the only developer that doesn't offer sprinklers. We were unable to find a large developer in New Jersey that does, and we couldn't find anyone willing to share why they're not offered.
A requirement for fire suppression systems came close to becoming law in New Jersey, but not just yet.
In 2009, the International Residential Code (IRC) guidelines added that fire sprinkler systems should be installed in all new construction of one- and two-family homes. (To see the code, search for R313 in the IRC code.
Maryland and California adopted the code in 2012, and some municipalities throughout the country have required the systems, said David Kurasz, executive director of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, an industry group.
Why don't more states have such a law?
Homebuilders don't want it, Kurasz said.
"The primary response from homebuilders is that fire sprinkler systems should be the consumer's choice and not mandated," Kurasz said. "Unfortunately, as seen in the case with Mr. Ondayko, many homebuilders simply do not want to install the systems as it is not a primary money-making option like carpets, granite countertops or crown molding."
In an attempt to bring the code to New Jersey, for two years running, the New Home Fire Safety Act was passed in the Assembly and Senate. The legislation would have required newly constructed one- and two-family homes and townhomes that were connected to a public water supply to have fire sprinkler systems installed.
Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the first version, and he conditionally vetoed the one passed this year. Christie said the additional cost would put homebuyers at a disadvantage. His decision is pending a Department of Community Affairs (DCA) cost-benefit review for townhomes, but single- and two-family homes were removed from consideration.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), one of the bill's sponsors, said the DCA review is still pending.
Back in May, Wisniewski told NJ.com the veto was a "step backwards for fire safety" and "a slap in the face to a community of public safety officials who have endorsed, supported and fought for this legislation." 
Of course, one could argue that this boils down to a fight between homebuilder lobbyists and those working for the fire safety industry.
But it's hard to argue with the fire safety industry's logic.
Kurasz said the suppression systems are more important than ever because of the increased use of lightweight wood construction rather than hardwoods, and because home furnishings, such as couches, often use lightweight composite woods, petroleum-based cloth and synthetic fibers.
"This causes a home fire to burn quicker and hotter than those of the past," Kurasz said. "When coupled with lightweight wood products used in building today, firefighters and residents are at a much greater risk due to increased heat, toxic fumes and the probability of catastrophic collapse."
Back to the story of Ed Ondayko, the fire protection guy who is buying a Toll Brothers home.
Ondayko said he asked Toll about installing a system now -- when the home is in the construction phase -- because that's the cheapest and easiest time to do it. 
boozle-TollBrothers (1).JPGEd Ondayko, on left, and David Kurasz of the NJ Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board stand in front of Ondayko's future home at the Colts Run at Monroe. 
"Installing sprinklers after construction or retrofitting an existing home can be very invasive," Ondayko said. "It would involve the opening of walls and ceilings which are already finished, installing the piping then repairing the wall and ceilings -- sheetrock installation, spackling and painting. This can be very disruptive and inconvenient to the home owner."
Hoping to avoid the mess of a retrofitted system, Ondayko offered to pay for the work and to supply installers, saying Toll Brothers could approve of the contractors before work began.  
Toll Brothers said no.
Ondayko started to network, and several fire safety industry groups reached out on his behalf.
None swayed Toll's position.
Kent Mezaros, vice chairman of the board of the National Fire Sprinkler Association and a board member of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, asked Toll to review the matter.
"...We do not have the subcontractors and qualified personnel in place at our single family detached home communities in order to grant this request and undertake a project such as this," said Scott Boehner, the Toll Brothers employee in charge of Colt's Neck at Monroe.
And, the letter noted, fire suppression systems are not required in New Jersey.
Mezaros responded, saying his company was qualified, and had already registered -- per Toll Brothers' suggestion -- as a sub-contractor to do the job at Ondayko's new home. Plus, he said, the firm was already being used by Toll to install a fire sprinkler system at an apartment complex in East Brunswick.
Mezaros' plea didn't change any minds at Toll Brothers.
Shane Ray, president of the National Fire Sprinkler Association, asked for reconsideration from Richard Hartman, Toll Brothers' president and COO.
In a written response, Hartman said Toll Brothers "currently lacks the resources and expertise to install fire sprinklers."  
He, too, said the state of New Jersey doesn't require such systems.
Ondayko wasn't ready to give up yet, so he contacted Bamboozled.
"The safety and well-being of my family mean everything to me," Ondayko said. "One can replace their personal possessions and valuables lost, but nothing can replace the loss or disfigurement of a loved one due to a fire."
We asked Toll Brothers to take another look.
After a few days, it said its on-site management team was setting up a meeting with Ondayko.
Spokeswoman Andrea Meck said Toll doesn't allow homebuyers to bring in their own contractors or friends to do work in homes before closing.
"Toll Brothers' goal is to ensure happy homeowners in our communities," Meck said. "If we cannot satisfy Mr. Ondayko, we are happy to explore options to release him from his contract and provide him with a full refund."
boozle-TollBrothers (2).JPGEd Ondayko, on left, and David Kurasz of the NJ Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board talk about installing a fire sprinkler system in Ondayko's future home at Colts Run at Monroe. 
Ondayko met with the Toll team earlier this month, and it seems the builder had something of a change of heart.
Toll presented Ondayko with several options, all using a Toll Brothers contractor to install a system. But the cost would be almost double the cost if Ondayko's company did the job.
As a compromise, Ondayko offered to supply the materials and have the Toll contractor do the work, but Toll said no.
"It's basically their guy or no guy," Ondayko said, saying the company made clear there was a profit margin to consider for both Toll and the contractor.
Another choice was to prepare the home so it would be easier for Ondayko to retrofit the job after the rest of the building was completed.
For all the choices, he'd have to pay cash for the job rather than have it be part of his mortgage.
And finally, if Ondayko was unhappy, Toll said it would refund all his deposits on the home and he could back out of the deal.
"It bugs me to know what it really costs and you have to pay someone else to do it for more. You feel like somehow you got ripped off," he said. "It's like if I was a painter and I hired someone to paint my house for $1,000, but I know I could do it for $500."
He's reviewing his options, and we'll let you know what he decides.
If you want to learn more about fire safety for your home, check out the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the National Fire Prevention Association
Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller at Bamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. Find Bamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Stay informed and sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com's weekly e-newsletter.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Historic Downtown Prescott Hotel Fire Controlled by Fire Sprinklers

from prescottenews.com

24 December 2015
  Don Devendorf

Historic Downtown Prescott Hotel Fire Controlled by Fire Sprinklers

A fire in a 56-room hotel could have been much worse.

On Wednesday December 23, 2015, at approximately 11:50 AM, the Prescott Regional Communications Center received multiple notifications of smoke coming from a third story room at the Downtown Prescott Inn, a 56 room extended stay hotel sharing space with two other businesses in the same building. The building, originally the A.J. Head Hotel, dates back to 1896.
Prescott Fire Department and the Central Yavapai Fire District personnel responded to the scene with 3 Engine companies, a Truck Company, a Battalion Chief, a Division Chief, a Utility truck, as well as the Prescott Police Department, Life Line Ambulance, and Fire Investigators. The first arriving fire engine, who was staged less than half a block away, in the rear of the structure, for a medical call, found smoke coming from the rear of the structure on the third floor. Prescott Police Department officers were also in the area for the same medical call and immediately began evacuating the three story structure. Fire personnel made access to the third floor by way of rear stairs in the alley to find heavy smoke on the upper floor. Upon entering the involved apartment, they found the fire under control because an automatic fire sprinkler head was flowing water directly over the fire. Crews assured that the fire was fully extinguished and remained on the scene for 3 hours evacuating water and assisting with getting the building back into working order, as much as possible, so that the least amount of tenants would have to be relocated. The investigation into the cause of the fire continues. There were no injuries from the fire but there were two medical calls that were handled at the scene during the fire. While only one apartment was affected by the fire itself, 10 living rooms were deemed unsafe to inhabit due to not being able to provide electricity to them while cutting power to the areas that water effected. There is no damage estimate as it is currently being evaluated.
There was a significant fire in the same structure in the late 70’s that caused a large section of the building to be damaged. An extensive remodel was undertaken in the early 80’s and subsequent improvements included the installation of fire alarm and fire sprinkler system. It was those systems that kept fire damage to a minimum and allowed the occupants to safely exit the building from this fire. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

WILDOMAR: Hospital fire doused by sprinklers

from pe.com

image0-WILDOMAR: Hospital fire doused by sprinklers
Fire sprinklers doused a small blaze in a storage room at a Wildomar hospital, say Riverside County Fire Department officials.
The fire was reported at 5:13 p.m. Monday, Dec. 14, at Inland Valley Medical Center, 36485 Inland Valley Drive.
The first firefighters to arrive saw no smoke or flames. But a closer investigation led them to the storage room fire.
Although sprinklers halted the flames, they caused some water damage, fire officials said in a written statement.
Fire crews planned to stay for about an hour to help clean up the mess.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Residential fire sprinklers in Elko homes

from elcodaily.com

ELKO — Just in time for the holiday season, the City of Elko Fire Department and Braemar Construction have announced the installation of the first fire sprinkler systems within a single-family dwelling in Elko.
“The inclusion of residential fire sprinklers in single-family dwellings is a reliable life safety and property protection tool to combat and reduce the fire threat and the risk of mortality,” said Fire Marshal Josh Carson, explaining 80 percent of all fire deaths occur at home.
Braemar built luxury townhomes in what is known as a “cluster home development.” This type of development has narrow streets and does not allow for ease of access with firetrucks. Therefore, as Carson explained, in order to maintain fire safety these dwellings have fire sprinkler systems.
Tuscany Townhomes is located at the intersection of Khoury Lane and East Jennings Way.
These residential sprinklers are the first of their kind in Elko. At this time, only commercial buildings in the city require these systems. Residential systems require them when there are special situations related to fire flow and fire department access.
The systems were installed by the licensed fire protection contractor Extreme Fire Protection from Reno, said Carson.
He explained fire sprinkler contractors are required to be licensed by the Nevada State Contractors Board and the Nevada State Fire Marshal’s Office, and are required to follow local and state fire codes and installation standards.
“This is our first venture with fire sprinklers, as far as the Elko area, so it was kind of a learning process but I have to say it was fairly simple. They’re not complicated at all as far as putting into a home,” said Dusty Shipp, owner of Braemar Construction, explaining the cost was not dramatic, but fairly minimal.
Braemar also received a break on insurance costs by installing these protectants, said Shipp.
These systems are going to continue to be in the building industry by either customer choice or become a standard, he said. In the home the Free Press was able to tour, the sprinklers installed were fairly minimalist and maintained the white color of the ceilings.
Shipp discussed one of the common myths of sprinkler systems — that they cause more harm than fire damage. Shipp said the sprinklers are only activated where the fire is, with the water being distributing from head to head from the piping — so the water damage is contained to the source of the fire.
Carson explained that single-family homes draw water from the initial plumbing system of the house. However, apartments have a dedicated waterline for the sprinklers.
The construction company would like to offer these systems as an option to customers, especially on more custom-built single family homes, said Shipp and Andrew Smith, superintendent for Braemar.
“The system went in as beautiful as the houses that they build,” said Carson.
Fire sprinkler systems help keep fires small to allow residents time to escape and for emergency personnel to arrive.
“The risk of injury or death decreases by approximately 80 percent when the home is equipped with a residential fire sprinkler system. When coupled with a working smoke alarm, residents have a drastic increase of survivability in a fire event,” said Carson.
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More than 2,500 people die in home fires each year, according to the NFPA.
Common myths about residential fire sprinklers often deter the public, stakeholders and policy makers from installing or making residential fire sprinklers a requirement of single and two-family dwellings, Carson explained.
These misconceptions include: fire sprinklers are too expensive to install; fire sprinklers go off accidentally; if one sprinkler goes off, they all go off; fire sprinklers cause extensive water damage, worse than fire damage; new homes don’t burn; smoke alarms provide adequate fire safety.
With the inclusion of these systems, many times residents can continue to live in their homes after a fire. Fire sprinklers are even environmentally friendly.
During the construction of the townhomes discussed here, there was an average cost of $2.75 per square foot or $6,875 per unit.
Aside from saving lives, these systems can reduce insurance premiums.
“According the Insurance Services Office Inc. protecting all areas of your home excluding attics, bathrooms, closets, and other areas allowed by code, an 8 percent reduction in premiums can be achieved,” said Carson.
There is a 13 percent reduction for full sprinkler system protection that includes attics, bathrooms, closets and attached structures, according to ISO.
“Home Fire Sprinklers are a valid way to reduce civilian and firefighter injury and fatalities, homeowner insurance premiums and uninsured property loss. Even still, 99.9 percent of homes in the Elko area are not equipped with the same protection as found within our apartments, hotels, and businesses,” concluded Carson, reminding the community that fire safety is a community effort and injury and death can be reduced by taking a “proactive approach.”