New Jersey's Department of Community Affairs (DCA) currently has a unique opportunity to approve proposed regulations that would mandate the installation of automatic fire sprinklers in all new homes beginning in 2012.
These regulations are the result of new lightweight construction and more flammable home contents which have created an alarming fire safety threat to our citizens, our fire professionals and our first responders.
The new code, the 2009 International Residential Code (IRC), is backed by the U.S. Fire Administration, the National Fire Protection Agency, as well as many other fire safety groups and officials, but even though almost 90% of all fire fatalities occur in the home, and at least 60,000 people are seriously injured in fires nationwide each year, home builders are aggressively fighting against these measures, knowing that their lightweight construction is putting their future home buyers at risk as well as the firefighters who bravely rush in to rescue people under collapsing roofs and floors.
In fact, the time to escape a fire has been reduced from 17 minutes to a terrifying 3 minutes over the past 20 years, fire deaths and injuries have increased, and the most vulnerable populations, infants, elderly and disabled citizens, are more at risk than ever.
These safety measures will not be adopted if the home builders have anything to say about it. Through the years, the home builders have refused to work with the State and fire protection advocates to understand the growing fire problem in New Jersey and to find solutions that effectively protect the lives and property of homeowners.
Instead, they continue to sell expensive upgrades, such as granite countertops, to home buyers, yet they claim automatic fire sprinklers, which wouldn't cost more than new carpeting to install, are too expensive for the home buyer. In fact, the cost is estimated at $1.61 per square foot, which is approximately 1% of the value of the home, according to the FEMA benefit-cost analysis on residential fire sprinklers. When the cost is spread over a 30-year mortgage, it comes down to less then the price of a cup of coffee per week. This is a small price to pay when it comes to saving lives.
David Kurasz is the Executive Director of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board