LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Costs of installing fire sprinklers under review

Thank you for publishing my recent letter with regards to residential fire sprinkler systems. (“Fire sprinklers save lives”) I must respond to the Sept. 16 letter (“On kitchen fires, Maryland and West Dover Connector”) from Carol Hotte to clarify several items.

I am not currently, nor have I ever been affiliated with or employed by a sprinkler contractor, installer or designer. I have been employed for over 26 years by a municipal combination fire department. I am still employed by this organization. I am also contracted on a part-time basis as an instructor for the Delaware State Fire School. I have volunteered as a firefighter for several volunteer fire departments in our region, and have recently completed 30 years with the Dover Fire Department.

I do not own stock in any publicly traded or privately held sprinkler company. I do not derive any income from my efforts with the Delaware Fire Sprinkler Coalition. Any affiliation with this group is 100 percent voluntary. The Delaware Fire Sprinkler Coalition has no income sources. Any expenses incurred for the benefit of the coalition have come out my pocket.

I must inform your readers that one of the reasons’ why the Delaware Fire Sprinkler Coalition was founded was because of the fatal dormitory fire at Wesley College in 1987. Also, the Seton Hall University fire that killed three students has been a huge influence.

As for fire departments that refill fire extinguishers, I would appreciate more information because I have never encountered a department, career, volunteer, combination or otherwise, who provides this service.

Carol Hotte’s concern about the costs of installation is an area that the coalition is also concerned about and is addressing.

Fortunately here in Delaware, two avenues to address these costs indirectly are developing. As we have seen in Millsboro, impact fees for development and construction have been reduced, thus making new construction purchases more affordable. Also, the coalition was kindly hosted recently by representatives of the Delaware Department of Insurance to discuss the availability of discounts to home purchasers on their home owners’ policy if sprinklers are present. In fact, State Farm Insurance is one of the leading supporters in the residential fire sprinkler advocacy world.

Please note that all these efforts are directed to new construction. While there are opportunities available to retrofit existing homes with sprinkler systems, they currently are not economically advantageous and not the focus of the coalition.

Finally, if the efforts for required sprinkler installation in California and Maryland cause concern, we can also look to the successes that Scottsdale, Arizona and Bucks County, Pennsylvania have had. Both areas have recently released reports detailing their work with residential fire sprinkler installations. These reports are available through the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

If more information is needed, please refer to the following organizations for their perspectives on residential fire sprinklers: the National Fire Protection Association, the Fire Sprinkler Initiative, the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, Common Voices, and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

Paul Eichler
Delaware Fire Sprinkler Coalition

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