The Connecticut General Assembly's Public Safety and Security Committee held a public hearing recently in West Hartford on a new bill that would require sprinklers in new, one- and two-family homes. NFPA joined an army of sprinkler advocates to testify in support of the measure.
What surprised NFPA Regional Director Bob Duval, who offered statistical data on the impact of fire at the committee hearing, was the level of support for this bill from the state's politicians at the meeting. "State Rep. Stephen Dargan [who chairs the committee] said in the meeting's opening statements that he was in support of the bill," Duval tells NFPA. "He attended a side-by-side demonstration by the Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition. It was a very strong visual. He said the time for [this requirement] is now." Duval adds that West Hartford's mayor, Scott Slifka, was also in attendance and voiced his support for the bill.
Also at the hearing was the Connecticut Fire Marshals Association, Connecticut Fire Chief's Association, the National Fire Sprinkler Association, sprinkler fitters, plumbers, and Keith Flood, chair of the Connecticut coalition. Adding poignancy to the hearing was a woman who lost her home in a house fire. "Her husband's a firefighter, and neither one of them were home when the place caught fire," says Duval. "When she returned home, she felt so hopeless while watching it burn."
A Norwalk firefighter also testified, noting how he cost effectively sprinklered his home. As for sprinkler opponents, Duval says they offered the same rhetoric heard across North America. "They said older construction is where the fires occur, new homes don't burn." (Research by NFPA and others counters this statement.) A video of the hearing is available for viewing.
Momentum for home fire sprinkler requirements is building across the northeastern portion of the U.S. New Jersey legislators have also filed a bill, and the New York State Fire Prevention and Building Code Council is considering a provision to sprinkler new homes.