County commissioners, firefighters and members of the community got a firsthand view Tuesday evening of the value of residential fire sprinklers.
Representatives from the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) brought a demonstration trailer to Hartsville to promote requiring sprinklers in new residential construction. The trailer was set up on the western side of the old courthouse and the street was blocked off by the Volunteer Fire Department.
The County Commission is looking at updating the ICC building codes to the 2018 version, but the state legislature has given local jurisdictions the option of removing the sprinkler requirement in newly built homes.
The NFSA brought the trailer at the request of Commission Chairman Dwight Jewell, who served as Trousdale County’s building inspector until retiring in 2018. The trailer has been used previously in other Tennessee cities, Maryland and even New York.
“It’s in the code; we would have to make the decision to take it out,” said Jewell, who added that he supported keeping the sprinkler requirement in the code. “This is for us to have an informed decision so we can make that decision.”
“This is a public, live-fire demonstration trailer,” added Shane Ray, president of the NFSA. “This will show the importance of fire sprinklers. That’s why we’re here in Trousdale County.”
The trailer contained two identically furnished rooms, with one containing sprinklers and the other without them. A third room separated the two.
First the sprinkler room was set afire. The blaze spread for 55 seconds until the sprinkler went off. Local firefighters then quickly put out what was left of the fire. The furniture in the room suffered some water and smoke damage but was mostly intact.
Next the room without sprinklers was set on fire. The flames spread for just over two minutes and complete engulfed the room, with the heat able to be felt across the street. When firefighters put out that part of the trailer, the room looked to be destroyed.
The middle room looked to have no damage after the first fire, while it was full of smoke after the second.
Prior to the demonstration, NFSA officials presented a slideshow on sprinklers that included estimated costs, insurance savings and photos of sprinklers inside homes. Ray said on average, adding sprinklers in a home under construction added from 1 to 1.5% to the cost, or roughly $1-$1.30 per square foot. Insurance savings averaged anywhere from 10 to 25% for homeowners as well.
Asked if a sprinkler requirement would increase impact fees for builders, Jewell said that would not be the case.
Around 50 people turned out to watch the demonstration, and most seemed convinced of the necessity of requiring sprinklers.
One builder, Andrew Eadler, said the demonstration had pretty much convinced him.
“I thought it was a good demonstration. As far as implementing it into the codes, I think it’s a good idea. I still have some questions about how it will work though,” he said.
The Codes & Zoning Committee plans to meet sometime in October to determine whether it will recommend requiring sprinklers to the full Commission. The updated residential codes are scheduled to be voted upon at the Oct. 26 Commission meeting.
Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or firstname.lastname@example.org.