Viewpoint - January 6, 2010

Editorial: Fire sprinklers still a vexing question

Back in 2004, the Menlo Park City Council turned down a push by the fire district to adopt an ordinance mandating installation of fire sprinklers in new homes and remodels of 50 percent or more of an existing home.

The council majority at the time, Lee Duboc, Mickie Winkler and Nicholas Jellins, decided that the cost wasn't worth the benefit for home sprinklers, due to the city's low number of fires and fire-related injuries.

Firefighters were unhappy the council did not go along with the proposed sprinkler ordinance, which had passed and is on the books in Atherton and East Palo Alto. Peter Carpenter, then a fire board member, told The Almanac: "I wonder how many people will have to be seriously injured or killed before the Menlo Park City Council reconsiders this ill-advised decision."

Now the council is ready to again consider fire sprinklers. And the cost-benefit ratio will continue to be a focus of the debate. We look forward to hearing the arguments on both sides, including the number of fires and fire-related injuries per year in Menlo Park and an accurate cost estimate of how much sprinklers would add to the cost of new homes and substantial remodels of existing homes.


Posted by Tim Dugan, a resident of another community
on Jan 7, 2010 at 6:40 am

While life safety for both occupants and responding fire service personnel are obviously very important considerations, it is equally important that the decision makers not lose sight of the overall cost of providing/maintaining a level of fire protection to the community. As we proceed into the future, does the community want to continue to attempt to fund escalating costs for additional facilities, equipment and personnel or do they want to essentially limit the majority of the cost through the widespread application of properly designed, installed and maintained fire sprinkler systems?

As we continue to increase the responsibilities of the fire service to include homeland security, hazmat, EMT, etc, how do we expect to adequately fund these efforts and still keep taxes under control?

The decision makers need to consider a new approach to community protection that is probably more cost effective.

Posted by vote?, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 7, 2010 at 9:50 am

Should the voters decide through an advisory measure on the ballot?

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