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Sprinklers on MP council agenda in January

Original post made on Dec 27, 2009

Menlo Park's City Council will take a three-week hiatus before its next meeting on Jan. 12. At that meeting, the council is tentatively scheduled to take up a revised ordinance governing lawn size and irrigation systems, and another ordinance that would set new requirements for fire sprinklers in homes.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, December 23, 2009, 12:00 AM

Comments (86)

Posted by Satire, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 27, 2009 at 8:06 am

I hope the Council considers that the payback proposition for sprinklers is absurd. $13 million per life saved. Is it worth it? Should you be compelled to spend on a system with a very low probability of payback and high maintenance cost? Time to let your representatives know!


Posted by UnionJack, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 28, 2009 at 12:19 pm

This is for union plumbers and steamfitters.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 28, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Much more than for creating work for plumbers and steamfitters, this is a proven way of saving the lives of residents and firefighters. Every other community in the area has a residential sprinkler ordinance, including economical depressed East Palo Alto. Why is Menlo Park somehow a safer place without residential sprinklers?


Posted by Satire, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 29, 2009 at 6:16 am

Union Jack hit the nail on the head. The real beneficiaries are the industry created around the installation and maintenance of these systems.

- Repair the PVC which will burst before the house's end of life.
- Annual inspection of the system.
- Increased revenue to Cal Water for the large main connection
- Additional fees for Menlo Fire (inspection and plan approval)
- Additional fees (and delays) from the building inspection departments

Additionally:

- Unsightly sprinkler heads (or caps) on your ceiling
- Delays to your project if any change requires the spinkler plans to be re-evaluated
- Risk of water damage from leaking heads or pipes
- Audible notification of water flow risking substantial water damage in the event the system activates in an unoccupied structure.

And even if you thought the costs and impacts were tolerable:

- The insurance reduction will require decades to "pay back", if ever
- The odds of your system being used are low and likely not worth the expense.
- Your smoke detectors (hardwired, battery backup, interconnected) will be what saves your life; the sprinklers are redundant.

And, finally, the cost per life saved for these systems in Menlo Park, CA is approximately $13 million dollars. Putting seatbelts on school buses is only $5-7 million per child's life saved and society doesn't see the cost-benefit in that expenditure.

So, why would Menlo Park blindly follow the lead of other communities who have reviewed the flawed financials provided by self-serving special interest groups?

Let's hope they see through the hype and spare their residents. Menlo Park will not be much safer for having sprinklers in single family residences. At best, they will be stimulating the economy and government through increased intrusion into the lives of its residents.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 29, 2009 at 7:27 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Satire claims the cost is $13 million per life saved. Shows us the exact calculations that yield that number - how many years of amortization, how many people per house, how many house fires per year. etc.


Posted by Experienced in the Field, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 29, 2009 at 5:57 pm

The cost of a typical fire sprinkler installation in a new home is about $30,000. More in a remodeled home. There are better ways to save lives for that kind of money. The reason this ordinace has to be considered at a local level at all is that the state does not require it. Why - because lives are not saved by sprinklers in single family residences.

Currently the fire district is blackmailing people into installing them by changeing the flow requirements of fire hydrants. If your hydrant doesn't meet the new requirements you can replace it (and its supply line) or install sprinklers. Sprinklers are cheaper.

This is just another burden being imposed on the public by our incredibly expensive fire fighters.


Posted by Brian Schar, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 29, 2009 at 6:35 pm

So is the city going to reimburse me, or at least cover my insurance deductible, when the sprinklers malfunction and douse everything I own with water? They malfunction more often than they save lives. If someone chooses to install them, good for them. But I shouldn't be forced to install them if I choose not to. And if I'm forced to, I'll install a shutoff valve after inspection so I can prevent malfunctions.


Posted by Brian Schar, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 29, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Peter, as a proponent of forcing residents to incur a costly burden in order to get a permit to remodel, the burden of proof is on you.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 29, 2009 at 7:17 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I have NO burden of proof - this is a decision which will be made by elected officials, not by me. I am not forcing anybody to do anything but I am a strong advocate of factual information.

For example, I think residential sprinklers are a sound investment and retrofitted my home with them four years ago for less than $15k - in new construction, as is proposed for Menlo Park, the cost per square foot would have been about $10k.

Many of the other figures tossed around in this thread (like $30k to sprinkle a new home) are simply without any basis in fact. If you have verified data then present it but don't just make up figures to 'prove' your point.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 29, 2009 at 7:32 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Correction:
For example, I think residential sprinklers are a sound investment and retrofitted my home with them four years ago for less than $15k - in new construction, as is proposed for Menlo Park, the cost for the same square footage would have been about $10k.


Posted by Satire, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 29, 2009 at 7:58 pm

Re-posting from an earlier thread on this board. Another contributor came up with the $13M / life saved number. His logic was quite credible.

Original content found at the bottom of this link:

Web Link

****

Posted by $13M / life saved, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Nov 26, 2009 at 1:20 am

[3 paragraphs omitted]

Ok, I looked around and found two government cost-benefit analysis papers. The earlier one in the 1980's concluded that sprinklers were clearly not cost effective. The 2007 report is, however, quite interesting. It concludes that sprinklers are cost effective, but you need to read the report to understand how they got there. They assume that in 2005, average sprinkler install will be around $1/square foot as a national average. Then they also assume that the economic value of a life saved is, drum roll, about $8M. They further assume that the average value of injury averted is about $175K. Under these circumstances, the conclude that sprinklers are indeed cost effective.

Well, that was on a national basis. We already know that California fire averages less fatalities (8.2 vs 13.2), so that $8M number is more like, what say $13M per life saved.

But then we also need to factor in the reality that sprinklers are not going to cost $1/sq ft in California. Even the NFPA numbers that Peter cites use 1-1.5% of building cost. On new home construction, in Menlo Park, I think we can safely say that we're talking about much more than $5K per house.

So, are you willing to spend $13M to save a life? Maybe, if that life was typically a young one. But then we look at the statistics of average age risk of mortality in house fire from the USFA, and we see that the cohort over 70-80 dominates the numbers. Are you willing to pay $13M so that somebody can live 3 or 5 years longer? It would be great if we could afford that, but in the health insurance world, they insist on using numbers more like $60K per year of life saved.

Ok, maybe I will have to come down and speak at a public meeting; the non-rational, non thoughtful process that I am hearing about is discouraging.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 29, 2009 at 8:12 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Again, I really do prefer facts to conjecture:

"Sometimes life-saving technologies seem beyond the reach of the average person. If you put residential fire sprinklers in that category, think again. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) economists ran the numbers. Their benefit-cost analysis found that for new home construction, a multipurpose network sprinkler system that connects to a house's regular water supply and piping makes good economic sense.

NIST's Benefit-Cost Analysis of Residential Fire Sprinkler Systems report, released last month, examines data from 2002 to 2005 to value the economic performance of a residential wet-pipe fire sprinkler system. The additional economic benefits from installation of a multipurpose network sprinkler system (the least costly wet-pipe system available) are estimated for three types of newly constructed single-family houses that are also equipped with smoke detectors. The study builds on a prior cost analysis developed by NIST's Building and Fire Research Laboratory and offers a current analysis of the economics of residential fire sprinkler technology.

According to NIST, the cost in 2005 dollars for adding a multipurpose network sprinkler system to a house under construction was approximately $2,075 for a 3,338-square-foot colonial-style house, $1,895 for a 2,257-square-foot townhouse and $829 for a 1,171-square-foot ranch house. However when a house fire occurs, the estimated benefits of a residential fire sprinkler system include a 100 percent reduction in civilian fatalities and a 57 percent reduction in civilian injuries, a 32 percent reduction of both direct property damage (property losses that would not be covered by insurance) and indirect property costs (fire-related expenses such as temporary shelter, missed work, extra food costs, legal expenses, transportation, emotional counseling and childcare). Houses with sprinklers, in addition to smoke alarms, also received an 8 percent reduction in homeowner insurance premiums, over houses only equipped with smoke alarms.

After subtracting installation costs and weighting the benefits by the odds that a house would catch on fire, NIST economists concluded that, depending on assumptions, the net gain from installing a sprinkler system (in 2005 dollars) would vary between $704 and $4,801 for the colonial-style house, between $884 and $4,981 for the townhouse, and between $1,950 and $6,048 for the ranch-style house, over the 30-year study period. In all cases examined, the researchers found that the data supported the finding that multipurpose network residential fire sprinkler systems are cost-effective.

The United States Fire Administration (USFA), part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), funded the research.

To download the full report, "Benefit-Cost Analysis of Residential Fire Sprinkler Systems (NISTIR 7451)," by David T. Butry, M. Hayden Brown and Sieglinde K. Fuller "


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 29, 2009 at 8:14 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

And some more facts:

"Cost of installing residential fire sprinklers averages $1.61 per square foot
New Fire Protection Research Foundation report assesses costs

September 11, 2008 – A national perspective on the cost of installing residential fire sprinklers is examined in a new report Home Fire Sprinkler Cost Assessment (PDF, 634 KB), released today by the Fire Protection Research Foundation, an affiliate of the National Fire Protection Association. According to the report, the cost of installing sprinkler systems to the home builder averaged $1.61 per sprinklered square foot. Sprinklered square feet is the total area of spaces with sprinklers

The cost of sprinkler systems to the home builder, in dollars per sprinklered square foot, rangedfrom $0.38 to $3.66. This cost includes all costs to the builder associated with the system including design, installation, and other costs such as permits, additional equipment, increased tap and water meter fees – to the extent that they apply.

"There's no question that an investment in a residential fire sprinkler system can prove to be a life-saving decision, but when seeking cost information to make that decision, people are often hard pressed to find true costs." said Kathleen Almand, executive director of the Fire Protection Research Foundation. "We found that professionals in the field and the average person were in great need of reliable information in this area – the findings from our latest research project provide costs based on actual data."

Case studies that examined installation costs and insurance premium discounts associated with the installation of home fire sprinkler systems were conducted for 10 communities, nine distributed throughout the United States and one in Canada. They are: Pitt Meadows, BC (Canada); San Clemente, CA; Fort Collins, CO; Huntley, IL; Matteson, IL; North Andover, MA; Carroll County, MD; Prince George's County, MD; Wilsonville, OR; and Pleasant View, TN.

Communities were selected based on diversity in terms of sprinkler ordinance longevity, geographic location, housing style, and sprinkler system variables such as the type of piping material and the water supply source (municipal or on-site). Three building plans were collected from builders and sprinkler installers within each of these communities, along with sprinkler system cost data and other related cost and system information.

"More than 8 in 10 fire deaths occur in homes, yet the likelihood of someone dying in a home fire is cut in half when sprinklers are present," said Gary Keith, NFPA's vice president of field operations. "Installing a home fire sprinkler system is a huge step in the right direction when protecting people and property. This national cost assessment will help jurisdictions, building professionals, insurance companies, the fire service, and members of the general public interested in making informed decisions about home fire sprinklers."

The Fire Protection Research Foundation Project Technical Panel included: David Butry, National Institute of Standards & Technology; Mike Chapman, Chapman Homes; Keith Covington, Third Coast Design Studio, LLC; Paul Emrath, National Association of Home Builders; Jeff Feid, State Farm Insurance; Tony Fleming, Metropolitan Fire Protection; J. Dennis Gentzel, Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal; Michael Kebles, Las Vegas Valley Water District; Gary Keith, National Fire Protection Association; Ron Murray, UA Local 290, Portland, OR; James Tidwell, International Code Council; Paul Valentine, Mt. Prospect Fire Department; and Kenneth Zaccard, Hanover Park Fire Department, representing IAFC."


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 29, 2009 at 8:19 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

And this is what the experts have already decided:

"In September 2008, the International Code Council (ICC) published the 2009 International Residential Code, which includes a requirement for fire sprinklers in all new one- and two-family homes beginning Jan. 1, 2011, as well as in all new townhomes when the code is adopted.

The approval of the residential fire sprinkler code came after much debate and work to form a consensus among stakeholders."


Posted by something smells, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2009 at 8:34 am

I have been following the Woodside Town discussion on this same subject in the story of a Woodside fire involving sprinklers. Aside from the well thought out exchange between Peter, Satire and others I am convinced that Peter arguments and supporting articles are reflective of a technocratic personality in the support of government involvment into our personal affairs. Satire and others in their postings clearly win this argument if you do not like government mandates that make no ecomonic sense. If you need to have government help you save your life then sign on to the "facts" and endorsements of various government organizations Peter cites. No question some laws and oversight are required in our human activites which he points out but residential sprinklers are too much of an intrusion and is mandate that makes no economic or life safety sense.
I have read some of the other postings by Peter on various subjects and I hope he does not have any political ambitions in the Town of Atherton for he would exactly the type of bureaucrat we do not need. I am struck by a posting by another in the above mentioned Woodside exhange.
"Posted by Interested, a resident of another community, on Nov 21, 2009 at 3:43 pm

What a fascinating debate. Apparently Mr. Carpenter believes the necessity to regulate sprinklers in private residences equates to the need for, and the powers of, the Federal Aviation Authority, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Medical Board of the State of California.
I wonder if perhaps "Satire" is just fed up to the teeth with trumped up little government officials who have concluded that as the result of election to a very minor governmental agency, they now get to tell the rest of us how we should conduct our lives and what's good for us all.




It's quite ironic when you think about it, that so many of these Quislings who decry the involvement of the Federal Government in our lives, are so very willing to impose their views when their little fiefdoms are the one trying to legislate what's good for the rest of us.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 30, 2009 at 9:18 am

You should also notice that many of the sponsors of these studies have a financial stake in their outcome (such as the National Fire Protection Association). This will create a lot of jobs for installers, annual testing and certifications, etc.

Say, why not just build homes out of non-flammable materials? That would solve problems too... but it would be expensive.

We're not stupid and I think we are perfectly capable of deciding this issue for ourselves. If people want sprinklers and are willing to pay for them, that's terrific. But imposing this very large cost (and, Peter, spending an extra $10k or $20k represents a HUGE expense for many families) on every homeowner for such a marginal benefit is ridiculous.

Think about the number of SINGLE FAMILY homes in your neighborhood that burn down and end up in fatalities. It's exceedingly rare and usually occurs to an invalid who is bedridden. Perhaps we would be better off focusing on that problem, instead of imposing such an expensive solution on everyone else!


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2009 at 9:26 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I do not have a fiefdom to protect - I am just trying to save the lives of citizens, particularly the very young, the very old and fire fighters. The very old, the very young and firefighters are the most frequent victims in residential fires.

Society regulates airplanes, pilots, drugs, doctors, seat belts and cell phone usage in order to protect all of us and in particular to protect us from the perhaps harmful actions of others. Very few people live in a home alone and never have visitors - you may well decide to risk your own life but on what moral grounds can you make a decision to risk the lives of others?

Every group of experts that has looked at residential fire sprinklers has endorsed their use. And the expert groups who have endorsed residential sprinklers are broadly representative - for example the National Fire Protection Association report was written by:

David Butry, National Institute of Standards & Technology
Mike Chapman, Chapman Homes
Keith Covington, Third Coast Design Studio, LLC
Paul Emrath, National Association of Home Builders
Jeff Feid, State Farm Insurance
Tony Fleming, Metropolitan Fire Protection
J. Dennis Gentzel, Office of the State Fire Marshal (MD)
Michael Kebles, Las Vegas Valley Water District
Ron Murray, UA Local 290, Portland, OR
Peg Paul, Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition
James Tidwell, International Code Council
Paul Valentine, Mt. Prospect (IL) Fire Department
Keith Zaccard, Hanover Park (IL) Fire Department
Gary Keith, NFPA liaison


None of the posters in this thread who are opposed to residential sprinklers appear to have any personal expertise in the matter.

So, I am very comfortable accepting and supporting the advice of experts in this field, just as I am glad that we have an FAA certifying airplanes and pilots, a FDA approving drugs and a state legislature requiring the use of seat belts and prohibiting drivers from using cell phones. Others may have different personal preferences but please don't use your personal preferences to place others at involuntary risk because of your choices.




Posted by something smells, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2009 at 10:32 am

Peter, thanks your your list of "experts". I am comforted by their
impartial bias as described in their names.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2009 at 11:31 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I agree - the experts included an architect, a labor union representative, an insurance company representative, international building code experts, a National Institute of Standards & Technology representative, numerous fire agency representatives, a water district representative and a representative of the national home builders. A very diverse and comprehensive collection of experts.

There were clearly lots of individual biases but that it inevitable and essential if you convene a truly talented group of experts. It is hard to imagine that such a diverse group was uninformed or had any collective bias.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 30, 2009 at 1:12 pm

Now that you two are done log rolling, you may want to notice that seven of the fourteen references have financial stakes in this matter - in fact all will make or save money from this considerable expense. If I were an insurance company and all of my insureds had to spend $30,000 to save me from an occasional claim, I'd like it too. And if I were a builder, I'd probably enjoy the extra profit margin I'd make on this additional feature.

We make risk calculations every day and for this one, the run isn't worth the jump. We do regulate all of the things that Peter noted, but our society makes cost-benefit calculations and I still haven't read a serious dispute to Satire's citation of that $13 million spend per life saved.

Peter, you said you only wanted to "save lives" which is wonderful, of course, but the fact is that the number of fatalities in SINGLE FAMILY home fires each year is stunningly small. According the our government's own fire statistics, there are about 400,000 residential fires each year and only about one-half of one percent of them result in a civilian fatality. Here's the link: Web Link

We wear seat belts that cost a few hundred dollars because there are almost 7 million car accidents each year that result in 45,000 deaths. That's a pretty big difference in prevalence and cost, which is why the cost-benefit analysis is so different.

So I'm glad you are "comfortable" with the recommendations of your experts. You should definitely use sprinklers.

Finally, I'd be interested to know the number of SINGLE FAMILY fires and the number of civilian fatalities in those fires in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties last year. This might be useful information.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2009 at 1:25 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Pogo states "you may want to notice that seven of the fourteen references have financial stakes in this matter -"

That means that the other seven did NOT have a financial interest which sounds a lot like a perfect balance. It is hard to get truly informed people who do not have either a financial interest or a bias but if you get balance of interests and biases then the outcome will be balanced.

As for Satire's claim of $13 million per life saved, I am still waiting for the calculations:- how many years of amortization, how many people per house, how many house fires per year. etc.

Anyone can make a claim, where are the data and the calculations that support that claim? What is the cost per life saved of code compliant construction, of code compliant electrical wiring, of code compliant plumbing? Why not just let people build anything they want in any way they want - it wouldn't be very pretty and it certainly wouldn't be very safe.



Posted by something smells, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2009 at 1:46 pm

I guess my sarcasism in feeling "comfortable" with Peter's list was not evident. Obviously most of these names are foxes in the hen house and only "experts" in championing their own interests.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The sarcasm was evident but it was also a perfect opening for a discussion of the the facts.
Which interest group/shareholder was NOT represented in this group of experts? What perspective is missing?
If you don't like the outcome then say so, but don't suggest that the process was flawed unless you can demonstrate the flaw.


Posted by something smells, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2009 at 2:49 pm

I would say that all these groups are contaminated with bias. To ask one to take their recommendation because they are in the business is absurb. The perspective missing is from the homeowner who has to pay for and maintain this system. It has no particular financial benefit very marginal life safety benefit. If there is a pent up demand for mandates around here how about serious attention to earthquake retrofits. Or maybe if you are worried about saving lives how about dealing with the fact that you can get 25 unlicenced drivers on Marsh Road a couple of days ago in a few short hours plus 5 DUI's. These things worry me a heck of alot more than this sprinkler program sponsered by your local contractor, water district and plumber and other "experts".


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

That national home builders association and an individual home builder were in the group of experts- do you think that they are not sensitive to the needs and desires of homeowners?


Posted by something smells, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2009 at 3:16 pm

nope


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Then who would you suggest that would represent fairly and completely the perspective of ALL homeowners?


Posted by something smells, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Just to follow up on "nope" here is the Mission and Vision of the
NAHB, I find no mention of home owner representation:
Mission and Vision

Mission
NAHB exists to represent the building industry by serving its members and affiliated state and local builders associations. To achieve an overall mission of member satisfaction, NAHB concentrates on the following goals:

Balanced national legislative, regulatory, and judicial public policy.
Public appreciation for the importance of housing and those who provide it.
The premier resource for industry information, education, research, and technical expertise.
Improved business performance of its members and affiliates.
Effective management of staff, financial, and physical resources to satisfy the association's needs.
Vision
NAHB strives to create an environment in which:

All Americans have access to the housing of their choice and the opportunity to realize the American dream of homeownership.
Builders have the freedom to operate as entrepreneurs in an open and competitive environment.
Housing and those who provide it are recognized as the strength of the nation.

I really don't think I need "expert" representation and sort of think the word is so overused it means nothing as the oft quoted "informed sources" or "experts". In this case, I think one can rely on common sense and individual choice to decide if you want to install sprinklers in your own house. I do feel sprinklers are needed and should be required in high density occupancy buildings (hotels, apartment building,offices etc.) where many people are in close quarters and costs spread out. Surely single family sprinklers installaton can be and should be decided by local government and local citizens as is economically appropiate and warranted. I so not need a home builders association to tell me I need it anymore than I need to be told to use a certain type of light bulb or TV set.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

something smells states :
"Surely single family sprinklers installaton can be and should be decided by local government and local citizens as is economically appropiate and warranted."

That is EXACTLY how this decision is made and EVERY local jurisdiction except Menlo Park has followed the advice of the experts. And I predict that Menlo Park will do exactly the same.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 30, 2009 at 3:45 pm

I think "something smells" got it exactly right (and sorry I missed your sarcasm!).

Hey Peter, how about the opinions of homeowners who have to pay for this stuff! Ask them.

Do homebuilders, people who sell or fit pipes, and insurance companies have a huge financial stake in this? You bet. I find it hard to believe that someone who raged about the undue influence of $20,000 in campaign contributions can ignore the millions of dollars (perhaps even billions of dollars) of financial conflict these experts had! C'mon, you know better.

So how many single family home fires and how many civilians have died? Still waiting...


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Pogo states: "Hey Peter, how about the opinions of homeowners who have to pay for this stuff! Ask them."

That why City Council meetings, of YOUR elected representatives, are open meetings - get in there and make your case.

But remember that facts count and the overwhelming majority of local governments have acted on those facts to require residential sprinklers. Emotional arguments are interesting but seldom persuasive.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 30, 2009 at 4:09 pm

Peter, with all due respect, the emotional argument is "I just want to save lives!" which YOU have made repeatedly. We get it.

My argument is far colder - it's financial. I don't want to pay tens of thousands of dollars for something that has such a minimal chance of occuring.

Why not build our homes to withstand Category 5 hurricanes or an F5 tornado? They happen too.

PS - Still waiting for that number, Peter. It can't be very big if it's taking so long to find it.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2009 at 4:17 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This is why we have elected officials - get out there and make your case.

I am comfortable with my decisions to install sprinklers, and to buy insurance and to wear seat belts.

You have your own preferences - argue for them but remember that facts help support your argument. And do your own homework, don't expect me or someone else to do it for you. Democracy is HARD work - start working.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2009 at 4:27 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Number of deaths - in the Menlo Park Fire Protection District there has been an average of one death a year in residential fires.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 30, 2009 at 5:01 pm

I didn't ask for the average.

I asked for number of civilian deaths in residential fires last year.

Must be pretty small if you can't find one...


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2009 at 5:06 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Pogo - why are you so lazy and why do you expect someone else to do all your homework?

Year Fires Deaths Injuries Direct Dollar Loss In Millions
1999 383,000 2,920 16,425 $5,092
2000 379,500 3,445 17,400 $5,674
2001 396,500 3,140 15,575 $5,643
2002 401,000 2,695 14,050 $6,055
2003 402,000 3,165 14,075 $6,074
2004 410,500 3,225 14,175 $5,948
2005 396,000 3,055 13,825 $6,875
2006 412,500 2,620 12,925 $6,990
2007 414,000 2,895 14,000 $7,546
2008 403,000 2,780 13,560 $8,550

Source: National Fire Protection Association Fire Loss in the U.S. 2008.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 30, 2009 at 5:29 pm

Who's lazy? You just copied data from the web site that I posted, Peter. I was interested in our local numbers.

But just for kicks, let's run a national (because we have those numbers) projection just to derive a cost-benefit.

There are about 120 million single family homes in the United States. Let's use some incredibly conservative assumptions just to put sprinklers in the very best possible light. Assuming 20 million of those home already have sprinklers, that leaves 100 million that need sprinklers. At a cost of $5,000 per home (which is a seriously low estimate), that would add up to a cost of 500 billion dollars. Assuming those newly installed sprinklers were able to save every one of last year's 3,000 fire fatalities, that represents a cost of just $165 million per life.

Want to run it at a cost of just $500 per retrofit? That would only represent a cost of $16.5 million per life.

Those are projections based on the government's data. Is that worth it?

Do you have better numbers?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2009 at 6:03 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Pogo states: "Assuming those newly installed sprinklers were able to save every one of last year's 3,000 fire fatalities, that represents a cost of just $165 million per life."

The fallacy of your logic is that the sprinkler cost is not an annual cost but a lifetime cost. Using your figures just divide your $165 million by the 30 years of useful life for a sprinkler system and the cost per life saved is now about $5 million.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2009 at 6:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Pogo states: "Who's lazy? You just copied data from the web site that I posted, Peter. I was interested in our local numbers."

Sorry Pogo, but I posted that information months ago on another discussion thread on this same subject and my numbers came from my previous download. Anyway, if you had the data why did you ask me for it?

I suspect that you are not interested in providing facts but rather with provoking an argument. I prefer to deal in facts rather than rhetoric.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Some more facts:


In 1998 the U.S. had one of the highest fire death rates in the industrialized world, with a death rate of 14.9 deaths per million of population.

The average annual death rate in the U.S. is 5,000 and another 25,100 people are injured annually as the result of fires.

About 100 firefighters are killed every year in duty related accidents.(2001 will be unfortunately high with the attack on the World Trade Center.)

Fire kills more people than all natural disasters combined every year.

80% of fire deaths occur at home.

Fire is the 3rd leading cause of accidental death at home.

Approximately 2 million fires a reported each year with many fires going unreported, causing additional injury and property loss.

Direct property loss is estimated a 8.6 billion annually due to fire.
Where do fires occur

There were 1,775,000 fire in the U.S. during 1998.

41% were outside fires.

29% were structure fires.

22% were vehicle fires.

8% were fires of other types.

Residential fires account for 22% of all fires and 74% of all structure fires.

Point of origin in 1-2 family dwellings for fires

Kitchen 23.5%

Bedroom 12.7%

Living room 7.9%

Chimney 7.1%

Laundry area 4.7%

Points of origin in apartment fires

Kitchen 46.1%

Bedroom 12.3%

Living room 6.2%

Laundry area 3.3%

Bathroom 2.4%

The southern U.S. has the highest death rate at 18.4 per million population.

85% of the fatalities that occur at home happen in single family homes and duplexes.
What are the causes of fire and fire deaths

Cooking is the #1 cause of fires in the home, it is also the leading cause of fire related injury. Human error is the greatest factor of cooking related fires.

Smoking is the #1 cause of fire related deaths in the U.S.

Heating is the # 2 cause of residential fires and fire related deaths. Heating related deaths are a larger problem in 1 and 2 family homes than in apartments due to the regular servicing that apartment heating systems receive.

Arson is #3 cause of residential fires and fire related deaths in the U.S. Arson is the major cause of deaths in commercial properties.
Who is at the greatest risk

People under the age of 5 and people over the age of 70 are twice as likely to die in a fire.

In 1996 children under the age of 10 accounted for 17% of all fire deaths.

Most residential fires occur between 10pm and 6am.

51.6% of residential fire victims die in their sleep as a result of smoke inhalation.

In the year 2006, 19% of all reported fires occurred in one- and two-family structures; however, these fires caused 66% (2,155) of the fire deaths in the US. In addition, more than 25% of firefighter on-duty deaths are associated with residential fires. This means that approximately 25 firefighter deaths occur during responses to residential fires each year, since on average, there are about 100 on-duty firefighter deaths annually.

Over the 2002 to 2005 period, houses equipped with
smoke alarms and a fire sprinkler system experienced 100 % fewer civilian fatalities, 57 % fewer civilian injuries, and 32 % less direct property losses and indirect costs resulting from fire than houses equipped only with smoke alarms. In addition, homeowners of dwellings with fire sprinkler systems received an added bonus of an 8 % reduction in their homeowner insurance premium per year, according ISO. This report finds the monetized value of a residential fire sprinkler system, over a 30-year analysis period, to yield homeowners $4994 in present value benefits.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2009 at 7:04 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

more facts:
* When fire sprinklers alone are installed in a residence, the chances of dying in a fire are reduced by 69%.
* When smoke alarms alone are installed in a residence, a reduction in the death rate of 63% can be expected.
* When both smoke alarms and fire sprinklers are present in a home, the risk of dying in a fire is reduced by 82%, when compared to a residence without either.

Much has been written about the reduction of residential fire deaths due to improvements in building codes and the installation of smoke alarms. Without a doubt, these have had a substantial impact on the home fire problem. The annual number of fire deaths in residential occupancies continues to decline. The trend in fire death data, however, shows that the number of residential fire deaths is declining at a slower rate over the past 10 years than it did in the period 1977 through 1995.

Full-scale fire tests in residential settings suggest one explanation for this slowing in the rate of decline in residential fire deaths. The research shows that the available time to escape a flaming fire in a home has decreased significantly from 17 minutes in 1975 to only 3 minutes in 2003. This decrease in time to escape has been attributed to the difference in fire growth rates of home furnishings. In short, a fire involving modern furnishings grows faster than a fire involving older furnishings. The practical impact of this finding is clear — smoke alarms alone may not provide a warning in time for occupants to escape a home fire.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 30, 2009 at 8:15 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

more facts:
About 400 communities across the country, including Scottsdale, Arizona, currently have some kind of sprinkler ordinance, and major home insurers offer up to a 20 percent discount on policies for homes that are sprinklered. Jim Ford, assistant fire chief and fire marshal with the fire department in Scottsdale, is in an ideal position to judge the potential role sprinklers can play in minimizing the fire hazard of lightweight construction. "Here it's pretty simple. We haven't had any room-and-contents fires that extended into the attic, and no collapses, over the past 20 years," he says.

That's thanks to a pioneering sprinkler ordinance in Scottsdale that went into effect in the mid-1980s and has since protected a total of some 45,000 structures in the city. At the same time, says Ford, his department has encountered fires that began outside a home and, after entering attics and crawl spaces in lightweight structures—that is, bypassing the sprinkler system—quickly precipitated a collapse. "In two of the last three fires of that type, we were seeing collapses as we arrived," he says.

Sprinkler advocates say that the increased presence of home fire sprinklers in NFPA codes and in other codes such as the Internal Residential Code, the code most states rely on for guidance in the residential construction, indicates that home fire sprinkler protection is becoming the national model. At the same time, though, they caution that widespread adoption will take time. Solomon says the code committees "know what people in the fire service are looking for." At the same time, he says, patience is necessary. "With so much construction like this having taken place over the last 25 years," he says, "there are no easy fixes."


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 30, 2009 at 10:02 pm

Sorry, Peter. I don't (and couldn't possibly) read all of your posts.

First, I agree with you that I used an annual death rate to measure a "lifetime" (as you put it) investment. But you also assume there are will be no additional costs to maintain sprinklers. At my office, it cost me almost $25,000 to replace some plumbing, sensors and heads on our sprinklers this past summer - and the building is only 12 years old. And you have conveniently ignored my assumption that installing a sprinkler system will only cost $5,000 - which you know is way under market for an average US home. It would cost more than that to sprinkle a 2,000 square foot tract home in Poughkeepsie.

But you just revealed remarkable data that sprinklers reduce fatalities by 69% while smoke detectors reduce fatalities by only 63% Holy smokes (pun intended), Peter! That's not a very big difference, is it!

So you're telling me that spending tens of thousands of dollars on a sprinkler system is only going to save 180 more people each year (6% of those 3,000 annual fatalities) than a $25 smoke detectors? This must be a joke.

Using your "facts," my numbers understated the cost-benefit by a factor of 16. Even using my low sprinkler installation number of $5,000, assuming no additional maintenance costs and your 30 year projected life, that would mean those 180 lives cost $80 million each PER YEAR. The rest of the lives can easily be saved by $100 worth of smoke detectors!

Thank you for the data. You made my point far better than I could have.

And, no, I don't post to provoke an argument. You seem to be quite capable of that all by yourself. I honestly believe sprinklers are not cost effective in single family homes and home owners should be allowed to decide to make that investment on their own.

As for that $500 billion investment that will save so few lives in America from residential fires, with just one-fiftieth of that investment - just $10 billion - we could save almost 4 million people ANNUALLY from dysentary and malaria. That's 2500 dollars per saved life. Now that's what I call a cost-benefit.


Posted by perspective, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 30, 2009 at 11:56 pm

I have to agree with POGO here... What is missing from this discussion is some balance as to cost effective ways to extend life. If the goal is to save lives through government regulation rather than personal responsibility, wouldn't mandating a vegetable garden with new construction be more prudent? Maybe mandate defibrillators as well? seems these two would address the much more common cause of death (cardiovascular disease) than sprinklers. As for proponents of the measure? I find it disheartening that anyone would consider a group having 50% vested interest as "balanced" (hint... that number should be more than a smidge lower ;)


Posted by Satire, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 31, 2009 at 5:49 am

Here are some "facts" about the sprinklers at my home:

Fire detection / suppression cost about $30,000. Of that, conservatively $20,000 went into the sprinkler system. Taken over Peter's 360 month life expectancy, that's $56 / month.

I pay an increased monthly charge to Cal Water for the 2" connection to the main. I used to have a 1" connection, but the sprinkler system needs a 2". I will never use that extra capacity, but it has to be there. $50.00 / month approximate additional fee.

I get to pay 1% property tax on the increased value to my home for the sprinkler system I didn't want. Applying that rate to $20k ... $17 / month.

Let's assume my mortgage will stay at 4.5% over the 30 year life of the sprinklers. $75 / month.

So, put aside the life saved measurement. Let's look at the cost to the homeowner. $200 / month!

That number doesn't capture any of the maintenance expenses, such as the annual testing or inspection. And, of course, there's no way to estimate the cost of the ruptured pipe, damage, or system replacement which could surface after the 30 year life expectancy.

At $200 / month, I assert that sprinklers in single family residences are a poor choice. Government (with the help of the Menlo Park Fire Board) has imposed a bad policy and the cost is not inconsequential.


Posted by something smells, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 31, 2009 at 6:17 am

A very good analysis, Satire, and I hope some members of the Town Council in Menlo Park read it and understand what they would be doing to the average homeowner financially. It is very easy for government to spend others money under the guise of helping them and others for the greater good.

When government accepts responsibility for people, then people no longer take responsibility for themselves. ~George Pataki


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 31, 2009 at 6:59 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Something Smells states:"When government accepts responsibility for people, then people no longer take responsibility for themselves. ~George Pataki"

If that is your credo, then the next time you smell smoke grab a garden hose and don't dial 911 - particularly if you live in a structure which will expose any firefighters who might have responded to any unavoidable risks.

Good luck.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 31, 2009 at 7:09 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Satire states: "Fire detection / suppression cost about $30,000. Of that, conservatively $20,000 went into the sprinkler system"

If you begin with a bad assumption then the rest of your argument is fatally flawed - a sprinkler installation as part of new construction costs approximately $2 sq/ft or about $6000 for a typical home. Smoke alarms would cost less than $0.20 sq/ft.

If Satire lives in a 14,000 sq/ft home then I suspect that cost is not an issue.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 31, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Give it a rest, Peter. When you make so many consecutive posts, it's difficult to take you seriously.

First, just because some of us don't want the government to take care of or control every single one of our needs from cradle to grave doesn't mean we don't want fire and police departments. You don't have to leap to such outrageous conclusions. "Perspective" is exactly on target - what's next, making everyone purchase $3,000 portable defibrillators for their home? Cardiac arrests are 500 times more lethal than residential fires!

You pompously demand "facts" yet when confronted with them, you conveniently change the argument. Satire's argument is hardly "fatally flawed" as you say, but perhaps your guestimate of just $2.00 per foot for installation of a sprinkler system is. My neighbors installed sprinklers in their home earlier this year - it's about 5,000 square feet - and it was more like $30,000. And like Satire suggested, the savings from a slightly lower insurance premium hardly makes up for their new annual maintenance costs.

And one of those facts (that YOU cited) that you have still conveniently ignored, is that the improvement in residential fire fatalities between sprinklers and smoke detectors IS JUST 6% (69% versus 63%). You don't have a problem demanding our citizenry spend $20 or $30 THOUSAND dollars for a meager 6% improvement over spending $200 for five or six smoke detectors?

But I'm sure you'll ignore this inconvenient fact again and attack me for something else. Try to stay on point.


Posted by Experienced in the Field, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 31, 2009 at 1:12 pm

Part of this debate should be the ability of the fire district to force a homeowner to upgrade a fire hydrant. As I mentioned above, that is how they are currently forcing people to install sprinklers without the new law. The fire district should not have the power to change the flow standards for hydrants and then force people to either replace the hydrant and its supply or sprinkler the house. Let's get the council to take this power away from the fire district.

A costly part of a sprinkler installation is replacing the underground water supply line and meter to the house. This is often conveniently omitted from the industry estimate of the cost to install sprinklers. They also conveniently assume most people don't mind looking at exposed pipes in their living room on a remodel installation. Concealing those pipes is expensive. The $30,000 I estimated is based on these real life cosiderations and actual job estimates.


Posted by something smells, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 31, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Very difficult to have an intelligent discussion when Peter takes a point to an illogical conclusion. Of course I want fire protection but I do not think I need sprinklers mandated to save my life at that cost. He in a way helps make the case by his illogical argument. Basically he indicates Satire's representation of his own costs are not true or in other words calls him a liar. So where does it go? Peter will have to have the last word so I hope it does not provoke a giant data dump of "facts" again. There is no point in my posting any more and for others who read these posts maybe they will get an idea of the nature of the do-gooders arguments involved in this process.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 31, 2009 at 3:38 pm

For what it's worth (and I hope this is not misplaced):

"In things which are not immediately subject to religious or moral consideration, it is dangerous to be too long or too rigidly in the right."

Samuel Johnson: Rambler #112 (April 13, 1751)

From "Conversation: A History of a Declining Art," by Stephen Miller:

"One cannot be a good conversationalist if one lacks a sense of humor. Equally important is being a good listener."

Later, talking about Jonathan Swift, Miller goes on:

"Conversation, Swift also says, suffers from a decline in raillery -- good humored, intelligent wit and banter. Raillery, which Swift calls "the finest part of Conversation," has been adulterated; it has become "what is generally called Repartee, or being smart."

... Raillery, La Rochefoucald says, "is an agreeable gaiety of spirit, which makes conversation cheerful, and which binds the company when it is good-natured but which disturbs it when it is not."


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 31, 2009 at 3:57 pm

I think both something smells and Joe have it about right.


Posted by Satire, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 31, 2009 at 4:39 pm

I wish I was able to sprinkler my house for $2 / sq ft! I would have taken that bid in a heartbeat. The $20,000 was very real. And, so is the $200 / month I continue to shell out.

I am not surprised my facts were summarily dismissed. The $13 million per life saved likely understates the costs.

Here's what really grabs my attention: Peter shows in this conversation that he is unable to see both sides of an issue. There is no gray area. It's black or white. It's right or wrong.

This character trait gives me some insight to the breakdown in negotiations with the MPFPD Fire Fighter's Union which surfaced during this most recent election. I can only guess that the same inability to see the other side's issue led to the breakdown.

I hope that the MP Council sees through the specious justifications produced by the "fire industrial complex". And, I also hope that new personalities on the Fire Board lead toward an equitable solution for those that serve our community.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 31, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

To Pogo, Satire and Something Smells (whoever you are),

If I have offended you in this discussion, then I apologize.

You argued your side of the issue and I argued mine. I never saw any of you taking my side and, given the unequal numbers, I saw no reason to take your side. Every time one of you raised a question I attempted to answer it to the best of my ability. At no time did I accuse anyone of lying but rather I challenged others to provide facts to support their positions.

In the end it is clear that we disagree on the value of residential fire sprinklers and that is fine. However, it is unfortunate and sad that some have chosen to conclude this discourse by attacking me personally rather than by attacking my facts or my logic - that is not the way to conduct a civil discourse.

Happy New Year !!



Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 31, 2009 at 8:01 pm

As I recall, Peter, it was you who said "...then the next time you smell smoke grab a garden hose and don't dial 911..." Based on your "fatally flawed assumption" that it costs just $2.00 per square foot to install sprinklers, you also erroneously accused Satire of living in a 14,000 square foot house so he could certainly afford it (he doesn't).

You also accused me of being "lazy" because I asked you for a fact to support YOUR argument (which, by the way, I'm in the process of getting directly from our Fire Chief. I'm not lazy). You also accused of me of being disingenuous and only trying to "provoke an argument." You also accused me of making emotional arguments (when I have consistently made a ruthlessly cold hearted financial cost-benefit argument) - and it is you who said you were only interested in "saving lives."

All of your retorts, Peter, conveniently ignored our point that civilian fatalities in single family home fires are exceedingly rare events and asking homeowners to fork over $30 or $40 thousand to prevent that rare occurence is an oppressive requirement. There are far more cost efficient ways to prevent fatalities and your own facts demonstrate the point that $15 smoke detectors are nearly as effective as $30,000 sprinklers.

But your apology is accepted. I suspect if we didn't enjoy the reparte, we wouldn't engage in this, would we?

I only hope that 3 to 1 ratio of opposition is reflected at the public meeting. But given the political bent of Menlo Park, I doubt it will.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 31, 2009 at 8:53 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Dear sweet Pogo,
Please relax and enjoy the New Year.
Life is too short for a continuing discourteous exchange.

Hugs those you love and lots move on.

Peter


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 31, 2009 at 9:58 pm

Smartest thing you've said yet.

Happy new year, Peter.


Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 1, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Pray tell POGO, outsider and resident of the mansion makers and horse owners, what is our political bent?


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 2, 2010 at 9:32 am

Sorry, for the delayed reply - I was riding my horses and ended up on the other side of my extensive estate.

By political bent, I meant our local propensity for supporting measures that make people feel good instead of insisting our elected officials control our city finances, maintain our infrastructure, manage our police and fire departments efficiently and adopt policies that support our local business community. Unfortunately, this syndrome isn't limited to Menlo Park.

And I don't consider myself an outsider. I prefer to think we live in a community and what happens in my neighborhood probably impacts yours.


Posted by Thanks POGO, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jan 2, 2010 at 11:02 am

Putting aside the sniping and griping, this was a very informative thread, I learned something. Thank you POGO, you certainly woke me up! I can't believe some of the things that are even considered at the town council level. You are absolutely correct, this should be OUR decision, not someone sitting on a town council, unless of course they want to pay for my sprinklers. Absolutely, positively unnecessary, we don't need expensive sprinklers! And YES, I WILL use my garden hose! Thanks again for the education.


Posted by something smells, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 2, 2010 at 11:25 am

Pogo, I hope you enjoyed your morning ride across your vast acreages of manicured lawn with sprinklers gushing water. Unfortunatey, this evokes images which might be disturbing to denizens of the Peoples Republic of Menlo Park whose politburo is considering limiting the size of lawns to 500 square feet and mandating watering during night time hours only in order to reduce water usage. I hope you might be more sensitive in the future! I do have some suggestions (having stated I would post no more on the sprinkler issue) but, of course, I am an outsider like you and enjoy this game of government intrusion wack-a-mole. How about in the effort to save water to restrict the use of residential fire sprinklers to night time use as well and even put flow restricters on them? This would certainly help save water.
Also, POGO I think the inquiry by "truth" had a juxtaposition of words. Instead of asking your "political bent" I think he meant to ask if you were "politically bent".


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 2, 2010 at 11:52 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I fully endorse Pogo's philosophy of "insisting our elected officials control our city finances, maintain our infrastructure, manage our police and fire departments efficiently and adopt policies that support our local business community."

During my 25 years of public service, eight of them in elected office, I have attempted to pursue exactly that course. The difficulty comes in deciding what is the appropriate boundary between collective need and individual freedom on any particular issue.
And then finding a majority of your elected colleagues to agree on that boundary - not an easy task.

But it has been much better to have tried to make a difference rather than just sitting and watching others struggle.


Posted by Interested, a resident of another community
on Jan 2, 2010 at 2:16 pm

"The difficulty comes in deciding what is the appropriate boundary between collective need and individual freedom on any particular issue."


No Peter...If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck..It's probably a Duck.....

One has to say that it is comforting to see so many people oppose the desire of local officials to impose their socialistic "welfare" upon us all. The truth is that they could care less about our welfare. This proposal is nothing more than an attempt to impose upon us their belief that we are too stupid to decide for ourselves.

Of course there is always the possibility that we will remember how this nation came to be created. The imposition of regulation without consideration of the citizenry must always result in revolt and revulsion.

The belief that Government "knows best" could well be quoted by good King George.

Oh wait, didn't we get rid of that bum.



Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 2, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Hopefully Interested realizes that these decisions are made by democratically elected public officials - not by good ole King George.

And it is hardly an impressive display of opposition that a grand total of FIVE people have spoken out against residential fire sprinklers in this thread.


Posted by Satire, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 2, 2010 at 5:15 pm

The ratio of 5:1 is impressive. Though, the "1" has certainly produced a greater volume of questionable "facts".

As I recall, nobody ran for the democratically elected Fire Board seat several years ago. Though, you weren't the one who managed to "win" that vacancy, the election hardly suggested a mandate to equip us all with single family residence wet pipe fire suppression facilities ... for $13 million per life saved.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 2, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I look forward to seeing Satire's name on the ballot for public office and to see how she/he responds to the many varied views of the electorate - IF Satire first manages to get elected by his/her fellow citizens.


Posted by something smells, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 2, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Peter, thank you very much for your public service and contribution to elective office. I hope you really enjoy your retirement and much deserved rest.


Posted by Richard Li, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 5, 2010 at 9:33 am

This is an interesting and informative study done by a
Canadian housing authority. There are a number of reasons why
this type of study is possible in Canada but not here in the US.

"Costs and Benefits of Installing Fire Sprinklers in Houses"
Web Link

I have abstracted the conclusion below -

Conclusions
The study concluded that the cost of saving one life would
be at least $38 million. Higher installation costs would
increase that cost. The study also concluded that:
•The risk of fire is greater in older housesthan in newer
ones, although the rates of fatalities, injuries and
property loss for all houses are steadily declining.
• Two categories of the population appear to be at
particular risk to fire--the very young and the elderly.
• Factors unique to different socioeconomic groups may
influence fire risk factors between different groupings.
• Smoking andchildren playing with matches are the
major causes of fires that have fatalities.
•Canadian statistics on fires in all types of buildings are
significantly lacking.
• In new housing, sprinklers might save approximately
7.7 occupant lives per millionhousesper year, and 0.09
fireman lives per year.
• It is doubtful that the installation of sprinklers in
houses will create a significant reduction in municipal
firefighting services.
• The use of sprinklers in high-hazard areas only (such
as bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens) is not more cost-effectivethat installing a full system.
• The development of afull or partial sprinkler system
that uses lower residential water pressures and needs no
special service piping shouldbe examined as apotentially
promising measure for existing high-risk housing.
• Targeting safety measures to high-risk housing and
usage may be fruitful (such as houses occupied by
persons 75 years andolder or lower-income groups).
•The remarkably high incidence offires associated with
children playing with matches suggests that the
developmentof childproof match dispensers should be
investigated. This approach would be similar to that
taken with medicine dispensers.
• Fires associated with cigarette smokingappear to be
the most deadly andare the largest single cause of fatal
fires. This circumstance greatly relates to the ignition
of fabrics. Therefore, further steps toward increasing
fire safety characteristics of upholstery, drapery and
bedding fabrics may be cost-effective.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 5, 2010 at 11:53 am

According the California Fire Marshall's All Incident Reporting System, there have been 3 fire service deaths in residential fires in the nine years since 2000. All are tragic, of course, but it is a relatively small number (especially compared to what can happen in a single day in a single forest fire).

According to that same data base, during those nine years, we averaged 34 civilian deaths in 5,250 residential fires each year.

We have about 10 million homes in California and it would cost about $200 billion to put sprinklers in all of them ($10 million x $20,000 per installation).

You can do the rest of the math to see if sprinklers are worth it.

I still like smoke detectors which are nearly as effective (sprinklers = 69% versus smoke detectors = 63%) in preventing deaths, are far more cost effective and provide an even earlier warning for inhabitants. And they don't require much maintenance or destroy the home's contents when they go off!


Posted by common sense, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 5, 2010 at 1:41 pm

I hope the Council uses some common sense and looks at cost/benefit. Unless and until insurance companies provide a premium discount for including sprinklers, I think they aren't worth it.
Alternatives to reduce fire risk and save lives include a program inspecting older homes for smoke alarms, reminding people to check the batteries twice a year, requiring fire resistant roofing materials, charging larger buildings (including homes) for upgrades required to the water system, subsidizing fire extinguishers. There must be more and better ones.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 5, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Residential fire sprinklers are only activated in the room where there is a fire, not in the whole house.

Residential fire sprinklers extinguish a fire with about 10% of the water that would otherwise be used by a fire hose to extinguish the same fire.

Fire insurance companies DO give discounts for having residential sprinklers.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 5, 2010 at 4:35 pm

But, Peter, those insurance discounts - usually 20% on the fire-portion of the policy only - hardly make up for the annual maintenance of a sprinkler system and don't even begin to make a dent in the tens of thousands of dollars it costs to install one.

Saving water is hardly the objective here...


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 5, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Fact:
There ARE insurance discounts for having residential fore sprinklers.

Fact:
Residential fire sprinklers do not cause MORE water damage than conventional fire suppression.

Fact:
Residential fire sprinklers ONLY activate in the room where there is a fire, not in the entire structure.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 6, 2010 at 8:34 am

SAVINGS

Fact: The discount you receive from your insurance company is between 5% and 20% of the FIRE PORTION PREMIUM ONLY of your insurance policy. For the most expensive policies, this adds up to a few hundred dollars a year.

COSTS

Fact: The cost to install a fire sprinkler system is in the tens of thousands of dollars. Most installations in our area cost between $15,000 and $40,000 and that price does not include the special two inch water line that is required, new metering and valves, or concealing pipes if you have one of those beautiful vaulted or coffered ceilings.

Fact: The annual cost cost of testing and certification of your system is about $350 per year.

Fact: I have not included any maintenance costs for the fire sprinkler systems which can be considerable. Plumbing repairs are not cheap! You may have to intermittently replace valves, heads and pipes.

AN ALTERNATIVE

Fact: Five or six smoke detectors will (a) alert you earlier than a sprinkler system; (b) reduce residential fire fatalities by 63% (as opposed to the 69% reduction offered by sprinkler systems); and (c) cost you about $200. And most insurance companies offer discounts for having smoke detectors, too!


Let's get real - this is a huge cost! The chances of even having a fire in your home in any given year are only about 1 in 2,500. The chances that you will die in that residential fire are nearly zero. Think about it, if there were a fire in your home, do you think you could you get out by a door or window before it got to you? Do you need a $25,000 sprinkler system to save you or would a smoke detector do the job?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 6, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

About 400 communities across the country, including Scottsdale, Arizona, currently have some kind of sprinkler ordinance, and major home insurers offer up to a 20 percent discount on policies for homes that are sprinklered. Jim Ford, assistant fire chief and fire marshal with the fire department in Scottsdale, is in an ideal position to judge the potential role sprinklers can play in minimizing the fire hazard of lightweight construction. "Here it's pretty simple. We haven't had any room-and-contents fires that extended into the attic, and no collapses, over the past 20 years," he says.

That's thanks to a pioneering sprinkler ordinance in Scottsdale that went into effect in the mid-1980s and has since protected a total of some 45,000 structures in the city. At the same time, says Ford, his department has encountered fires that began outside a home and, after entering attics and crawl spaces in lightweight structures—that is, bypassing the sprinkler system—quickly precipitated a collapse. "In two of the last three fires of that type, we were seeing collapses as we arrived," he says.

*********
Simply put, smoke detectors will not prevent these rapid collapses in the increasingly common lightweight structures which could easily entrap both residents and firefighters - residential fire sprinklers will stop a fire before such a structural collapse can occur.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 6, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Well, Peter, I thought you said this was all about "saving lives." Unfortunately, it turns out that there are a stunningly small number of fatalities in residential fires and smoke detectors appear to do just as good a job preventing those fatalities.

Now, I guess it's about structural collapses that originate from outside sources, such as from a fire at a neighboring house, I presume. If our elected officials think it's prudent to require our citizens to pay $25,000 or more to protect themselves from this incredibly infrequent event, then they should approve this requirement.

On the other hand, if those citizens who elected those Council Members object to this new and expensive requirement - and they will incur this considerable expense whenever they decide to remodel a bathroom or add-on to a family room - then they should let their Council Members know that too.

If citizens don't voice their opinions, then they deserve the regulations they get. I think you'd agree with me on that one.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 8:20 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

What happens when a fire is not stopped before it can spread:

Modesto, CA—A three-alarm fire sparked by a gas-powered generator in a home's garage injured two Modesto firefighters, when the roof of the burning home collapsed. The blaze ignited on Friday night, January 1, 2010


Posted by something smells, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 8:36 am

10 Reasons Why Mandating Fire Sprinklers
Makes No Sense For Virginia
The International Code Commission (ICC), at its September 2008 meeting, voted to
mandate the installation of fire sprinklers in all newly-constructed one and two-family
homes. Because states have the option of removing some or all of the ICC codes when
they adopt their building codes, Virginia may choose not to mandate installation of fire
sprinklers.
The home building industry believes that mandating fire sprinklers is not a good idea.
Sprinklers should be an option that potential home buyers may request should they
choose to install a system. There are 10 persuasive reasons that back up our conclusion.
Statistics show today's better built homes are saving lives. From 1979-2003 the death rate
per million persons from house fires dropped 58 percent, according to the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control. That trend will continue as more new housing stock is built, stronger
building codes are enacted and especially as smoke alarm maintenance by homeowners
improves.
Sprinklers are rarely needed for house fires. Sprinkler proponents claim that a residential
system is reliable in 96-99 percent of all reported structure fires where the fire was large
enough to activate the system. But reports from the National Fire Prevention Association
(NFPA) show that the number of fires that occur in one- and two-family dwellings
equipped with sprinklers are so few that they are not shown in studies done by the
organization.
Sprinklers cause unintended damage. Statistics from the Virginia Fire Incident Reporting
System show that 76.8 percent of all fires in Virginia from 2000 through 2008 either did
not spread or were confined to an object or a room and contained. But when sprinklers
detect smoke they set off every sprinkler in the house, not just in the room where the fire
is occurring. In many homes that suffer a fire where working sprinklers exist there is
more water damage to the home than fire damage.
Home insurance rates do not decrease with their use. Sprinkler proponents claim the cost
of home insurance decreases when you install fire sprinklers. It's true that some states
offer insurance credits for having fire sprinklers in the home. Using a conservative
sprinkler cost estimate of $1.50 per square foot in a 2,300-square-foot home with an
annual property insurance rate of $1,000, it would take approximately 35 years for a 10
percent credit to pay for the system. Insurance agents in the Richmond area say credits
rarely are given above 3.5 percent. Throw in maintenance costs and it would take even
longer for the credit to pay its due for the system.
However, that does not offset the increased costs charged for potential water damage and
flooding. In most cases sprinklers go off in areas of the home where fire is not occurring,
causing more claims for water damage than fire damage. Virginia insurance agents say
this drives the cost of insurance higher for people who have sprinkler systems.
Smoke alarms potentially save more lives than sprinklers. A 2006 study by the U.S. Fire
Association (USFA) on the presence of working smoke alarms in residential fires from
2001-2004 showed that 88 percent of the fatal fires in single-family homes occurred
where there were no working smoke alarms. USFA and NFPA data continue to show that
the vast majority of home fire fatalities occur when there are no operational smoke
alarms. The most recent NFPA report on smoke alarms estimates that more than 890 lives
could be saved annually if every home had a working smoke alarm. From 2000-2004, 65
percent of the fire fatalities reported occurred in homes where smoke alarms were not
present or were present and did not operate.
Sprinklers will harm efforts at providing affordable housing statewide. According to an
August 2006 survey of home builders done by the National Association of Home
Builders' Research Center, the average sprinkler system costs $2.66 per square foot to
install in a new home. For the average home size considered to be affordable housing in
Virginia – 1,800 to 2,200 square feet – the maximum cost would be approximately
$5,850. In the Richmond area, about 710 families lose the ability to qualify for a new
home mortgage with each $1,000 increase in the price of a new home. Mandating fire
sprinklers would keep more than 4,100 families from being able to buy affordable
housing in the Richmond area.
A hard-wired, interconnected smoke alarm system installed through the whole house
costs about $50 per alarm.
You may have heard of the "Scottsdale study," which sprinkler proponents are using to
claim sprinklers do not harm affordable housing. They claim sprinklers can be installed
for as little as $1 per square foot. In Scottsdale, AZ, where the Scottsdale study was done,
these units can be installed for $1 per square foot. But Scottsdale has some of the least
expensive building costs in America. Therefore, the Scottsdale study is not reflective of
the average cost for installation nationwide.
Sprinklers are much more difficult and time consuming to maintain than smoke alarms.
Homeowners have a difficult time remembering to change the batteries in their smoke
alarms once every six months. A sprinkler system requires much more maintenance than
simply replacing batteries. Based on the problems with maintaining smoke detectors, it is
easy to deduce that homeowners will not maintain sprinkler systems at the level required
for them to be at maximum efficiency. More lives can be saved by educating the public to
the importance of maintaining hard-wired, interconnected smoke alarms in proper
operating condition than through mandating fire sprinklers.
Sprinklers can be damaged by extreme cold, causing water damage. Should a home lose
power for several days, as occurred in some parts of the Richmond area during the early
March snowstorm, the basins that hold water for sprinkler use can freeze and burst.
Homeowners most likely would have to take measures to keep heat in the water basins,
further increasing the cost that many rural Virginians can't afford.
Sprinklers in homes on well water have additional problems. Owners will have to
calculate how the system will work if power goes out, or if the well's water level is low
enough to cause pressure problems. Extra water tanks, pumps and generators could be
purchased to help with pressure, but that adds more cost to the system – cost many
owners in rural Virginia could not afford.
Annual sprinkler installation costs will greatly exceed property losses nationwide and in
any jurisdiction where they are mandated. For example, had this mandate been in place in
2005 the installation cost to builders would have been almost $10.2 billion based on an
average square-foot home with a cost of $2.66 per square foot. The NFPA reported that
the total home property loss – new and existing homes – due to fire in 2005 was less than
$5.8 billion. The installation cost would have been nearly double the loss. As new homes
continue to be better built, the difference between installation cost and property loss will
continue to increase, and statistics show most people forced to have these installed will
never use them in their home.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This is NOT correct:
"But when sprinklers detect smoke they set off every sprinkler in the house, not just in the room where the fire is occurring. In many homes that suffer a fire where working sprinklers exist there is more water damage to the home than fire damage."

Residential fire sprinklers are activated by heat and ONLY the sprinkler at the source of the fire is activated, not all the sprinklers in the house.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 7, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Peter -

You're cleary a very smart and knowledgeable guy and I appreciate your opinion. We get it. Sprinklers don't go off in every room of a house when there's a fire. You continue to argue a point that isn't the issue.

But you conveniently ignore our central point that sprinklers are an incredibly expensive solution to a extraordinarily rare occurrence! To make every single homeowner who wants to remodel their home pay an extra $25,000 to sprinkle their home is simply asking too much. As someone else suggested, why not make them install portable cardiac defibrillators? They cause a lot more deaths than residential fires!

Peter, there's a reason we don't make homes that can withstand Category 5 hurricanes, F5 tornadoes and 7.0 earthquakes. It's expensive and they are very rare events. But interestingly, they are responsible for far more fatalities than residential fires!

It's call cost-benefit.


Posted by Satire, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 8, 2010 at 6:02 am

Wait! I have figured it out!! It's not about the lives saved. It's not about the structure or its contents. It's about the pets!

Here's a story where the people were spared by the smoke detector. The dogs made it out with the help of firefighter. The birds, however, perished.

Had they had a $25,000+ sprinkler system and paid $200/month the birds would have been saved.

Web Link

Finally a case for sprinklers. It's about the pets.

Nevermind that they had ELEVEN dogs in the house. WTF?


Posted by something smells, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 8, 2010 at 7:58 am

Satire, you just don't get it.

Residential fire sprinklers are activated by heat and ONLY the sprinkler at the source of the fire is activated, not all the sprinklers in the house.


Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on Jan 8, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Fire sprinklers, whether in a private residence, a multi-family structure, or a commercial building are not intended/designed to be the mechanism by which inhabitants are alerted to a fire and the need to evacuate. Smoke detectors and fire alarms systems perform the notification function in terms of life safety. By the time a sprinkler head has gotten hot enough to start spewing water, anyone in the room will have realized the place is on fire. What sprinklers do is mitigate the amount of risk/effort it takes for firefighters to put out a fire. There is a strategy in fire fighting circles--its, "surround and drown". If a structure is on fire, and its clear no one is inside, and there is no fire suppression system in place, rather than risk the life of a fire fighter to go into the structure, they stay outside and drown the fire from the exterior. The problem comes in when it cannot be absolutely determined that no one is inside and there are no sprinklers installed. That means the fire fighter has to enter the structure. It isn't a matter of statistical chance that someone is inside--rather its why I, personally, have such great respect for firefighters. Sprinklers will create water damage to a building and its contents; perhaps equal to or greater than the fire that is put out will have caused. However, I've never heard of anyone drowning because they were in a room when the sprinklers went off. I have heard of people dying in a fire, however, because either they had to go in to the structure to search for victims or because they were inside and the emergency responders didn't realize they were there (surround and drown). Requiring sprinkler systems in structures makes good sense to me. I, for one, will pay the maintenance fees and accept the cost of the water damage should I need the system.


Posted by Satire, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 8, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Nobody wants to interfere with anyone's right to install a sprinkler system in their single family residence. You want to spend the $$$, good on ya!

The issue is the Government mandating that everyone do so when there is a remodel or new house. It's a mandate to spend an additional $25,000 on your home. With maintenance and other additional service requirements, that mandate works out to nearly $200 / month.

The argument for sprinklers has ranged from saving lives, to saving property, to mitigating the risk to first responders. We spend a lot of money on mitigating risks for fire fighters -- SCBA, turnouts, training, etc.

Taking the argument to the extreme, we could make a house out of fireproof materials and eliminate the fire department altogether. But, as a society we have chosen to risk fires in our dwellings and maintain a group of people to extinguish them.

The analysis shows that the expenditure to add sprinklers for single family dwellings exceeds $13 million per life saved. Our society, through its inaction in other risk mitigation expenditure opportunities, deems that to be too high. We won't spend half that amount to protect kids in school buses with air bags. Why force those who wish to remodel / rebuild to further protect fire fighters?

Again, if you want to spend YOUR money I think it's great. And, if by some remote chance your system is ever used, I am sure the fire fighters will be most appreciative.

For me, the answer is smoke detectors and a line in the sand which the nanny state need not cross!


Posted by Sean Howell, Almanac staff writer
on Jan 8, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Sean Howell is a registered user.

FYI: The introduction of the fire sprinkler ordinance has been pushed to the Jan. 26 agenda (previously scheduled for Jan. 12). This is still tentative; the city could move it to a later date.


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