Residential sprinklers could be required in new Calgary communities

Residential sprinklers could be required in new Calgary communities
By Brodie Thomas
Metro Toronto
Link to article: Residential sprinklers could be required in new Calgary communities

Fire sprinklers are a common sight in public buildings, but there’s no reason they can’t be installed in residential homes.

Calgary’s Fire Chief Steve Dongworth says while he knows they work, it will be up to council to decide if new communities in the city should be mandated to have fire sprinklers.

“Residential sprinklers, in the right circumstance for a fire occurring within the home, will not only alert you that you’re having a fire, they will also start tackling the fire,” said Dongworth.

He said smoke alarms took the fire department part of the way towards better fire safety, but he thinks residential sprinklers will be the next, most significant step.

City administration is currently exploring whether or not mandating sprinklers in new communities would be an acceptable way of increasing the required response time of the fire department.

The fire department has a target of responding to all calls within seven minutes 90 per cent of the time, and in 2017 they actually did it in eight minutes.

Coun. Shane Keating, whose ward has many new builds, thinks mandating sprinklers in new residential areas could provide safety while saving on the costs of new fire stations.

“The building code says if you’re farther than 10 minutes from the fire hall, then you have to mitigate the construction. If we’re building further than 10 minutes from the fire hall, mandating sprinklers is perfectly good mitigation which allows the fire response time to be greater.”

Rob Anderson, general manager and partner with Constant Fire Protection Systems, said installing a sprinkler system in your average new build costs about the same as putting in granite countertops.

“We often quote a price of about $5,000 for an average size house, but the homeowner will see more value in a granite countertop, and the sales team of the developer generally pushes that, because it’s sexier,” said Anderson.

He said new systems are more esthetically pleasing that what you might remember seeing in public buildings. Sprinkler heads can be recessed in a ceiling behind a plate, so that people won’t realize they’re there.

Dongworth notes that while sprinklers are good at tackling fires that originate in the home, they are not as good when the fire starts outside the building.

He gave the example of an out-of-control grass fire that blows into a community and catches a home or homes on fire.

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