SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Subject: SB 129 -- Residential Sprinkler System Requirements
By David Hull


March 22, 2010
Monday PM

This residential sprinkler system debacle needs some air clearing I believe. First of all, I oppose SB 129 because I don't think the state should pick and choose the way the local community should conduct their business. It has nothing to do with the installation of residential sprinkler systems. This bill has to do with whether or not the local community can make an appropriate decision on their own to require the sprinkler systems or not. The state and the home builders apparently think we can t be trusted to do things the way we always have. We need more process and state guidance on this one specific issue. Why?

There has been a lot of misinformation put out there regarding these systems and what insurance companies will or won't charge. There was even one claim that residential sprinkler systems will raise your taxes because it will raise the value of your home if you install them. Now it is being suggested that sprinkler systems were never intended to save lives, only property. Well, I have been in this business for almost 36 years and have seen more fire deaths in this community than I care to remember.

The sights, the smells, the aftermath with the families; no one should have to go through that. I have never seen a major injury in any fire where the structure had a sprinkler system. Look at what just happened at Holy Name School. Remember the fire at White Cliff School? Home sprinklers do the same thing. They put out the fire before it gets out of hand. Everyone got out of the schools unharmed. A few years ago, 4 children died in a house fire that was not equipped with sprinkler systems. This last year a person almost died in a house fire not equipped with a sprinkler system and both smoke detectors were rendered useless by unhooking the batteries. What use were they? OK, the sprinkler systems did save the school property, but they also saved lives. Isn't it good they did more than was intended? Sounds like a pretty good return on our investment.

Smoke detectors DO save lives but as with anything they have their limitations. The main limitation is maintenance. As mentioned above, if you don't take care of them they won't work when you need them. Yes, sprinkler systems have the same problems. Think about it, your whole house has to be maintained or it will fall down around your ears. The truth of the matter is that a combination of smoke detectors and sprinkler systems makes for the safest environment and the best chance of escape in case of a fire. One thing that has never been mentioned here and should not be forgotten is those sprinkler systems help protect firefighters as well. The less fire to fight means the less chance of getting a firefighter hurt. Remember, over 100 firefighters die each year and over half are volunteer firefighters. Are they worth a sprinkler system?

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this debate is that it really doesn't involve installing residential sprinkler systems at all. It involves the process of requiring them. The state is saying to the local communities that, because this one specific issue -- residential sprinkler systems -- is so volatile we can't be trusted to move forward in a reasonable and ethical manner to decide for ourselves if we want to require residential sprinkler systems or not in our community. Is this true? Ketchikan, can't we be trusted?

Because the state doesn't trust us on this issue they are dictating how we must do it, their way, not ours. The sponsors -- The home builders -- support this because they don't want the requirement to install residential sprinkler systems. OK, so let's make the process harder and more costly. That way most communities won't ever bring the issue up. No local vote, no residential sprinkler system requirements. Simple! Not on every resolution or ordinance mind you, only on residential sprinkler systems. They apparently do not think us mature enough to make a decision on this issue for ourselves utilizing the process we developed locally. No Sir! This is the only way it can be done properly and ethically. Well, BUNK!

The City of Ketchikan and the Borough have a process that works pretty well for multimillion dollar deals, construction projects, ethics matters and other such community needs. Was this needed on the Pool? How about the new High School or maybe the proposed Library? How about the new fire station? Was this new process needed there? Did we have to have extra meetings to discuss any of these issues? Did our process fail us?

Were cost-benefit analysis reports done on each of these? The process worked just fine without the state involvement that SB 129 requires. Why then do we just need to do it for residential sprinkler systems? Council and Assembly members think about it. The state is saying YOU can't be trusted to decide. How does this make you feel? How should it make me feel about your ability to decide any issue? Can you decide?

In the end, it is our local process that is being put into question here, not residential sprinkler systems. If this community does not want residential sprinkler systems, fine! Let's talk about it and make a decision the way we always have. We don't need the state telling our elected officials how to do their work. That is our job. The process is just fine the way it is. If it isn't, then we need new elected official's not new state laws.

David Hull, Homeowner
Tired of outside interference
Ketchikan, AK

About: "Resident for 39 years and NO, my house does not have a sprinkler system but I wouldn't hesitate to purchase or build a house with a residential sprinkler system installed."

Received March 19, 2009 - Published March 22, 2010



Viewpoints - Opinion Letters:

letter Webmail Your Opinion Letter to the Editor



Note: Comments published on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.


E-mail your letters & opinions to
Your full name, city and state are required for letter publication.

SitNews ©2010
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska