Council okays sprinklers in new home builds

Council okays sprinklers in new home builds

By Gisele Winton Sarvis,
Published: January 13, 2017
Link to article: Council okays sprinklers in new home builds

CLEARVIEW TWP. - Builders will be encouraged to install sprinklers in any new residential builds in Clearview Township.

Clearview council passed a motion to promote the voluntary installation of residential sprinklers as an important fire safety measure.

Fire Chief Colin Shewell presented a report to council detailing the efficacy of sprinklers in saving lives and property damage to fire as well as allowing for discounted insurance.

“I recommend that it be voluntary,” said Shewell because sprinklers for residential builds are not yet provincial policy.

However the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs has supported and advocated for the installation of residential sprinklers since 2005 and is pushing the province to make sprinklers mandatory in new construction, said Shewell.

Vancouver is leading the country in this regard, as it made sprinklers a requirement for new construction in 1990.

A report showed that residential sprinklers reduced average fire losses by more than 90%. The city had experienced zero fire deaths in homes protected by working sprinklers during the 11-year study period.

Across Canada, fire kills between 325 and 400 people a year and many more are seriously injured. In Ontario in 2013, 76 people died in a fire.

Today’s homes contain cheaper, flammable materials that burner hotter and create toxic smoke when burning. It’s toxic smoke that causes the majority of fire deaths from smoke inhalation, said Shewell.

“The average homeowner is unaware of how fast modern fires grow,” said the OAFC in Shewell’s report.

“Fire doubles every minute. For example, two minutes equals four times the fire growth and five minutes equals 25 times the fire growth.”

Shewell said it’s particularly important in today’s homes that are built in higher density including condos, townhomes and semi-detached homes.

“Working smoke alarms combined with a residential sprinkler system offer families and highest level of protection and the best opportunity for survival during a fire in a home,” the OAFC information states.

Shewell said locally Quality Homes offers sprinklers as a choice of upgrades for buyers.

“If we can get them in the higher density homes . . . at the time you pick your upgrades to consciously make that choice . . . at 1% of the cost, you could protect yourself,” he said.

Coun. Kevin Elwood said he installed sprinklers in his home when renovating it several years ago.

“We had a fire and it was saved by the sprinkler system. We had a very small loss,” he said, adding that his insurance company was “very happy.” He added that he gets a discounted rate of insurance because of the sprinklers.

“I don’t think we should demand it. To me voluntary is the right approach,” Elwood said.

Coun. Connie Leishman wanted to take it further.

“Why don’t we pass a bylaw that you have to have sprinklers - at least one,” she said, but the idea didn’t get the support of other members of council.

Shewell is planning to begin a campaign to promote residential sprinklers.

Most seniors homes and nursing homes and many apartment buildings have sprinkler systems. All seniors homes in the province must install them by 2018 and all publicly owned nursing homes must have them by 2025.

There were 45 fire related death at buildings housing seniors in Ontario between 1980 and when legislation was passed in 2013.

A fire at Muskoka Heights Retirement Residence in Orillia in January, 2009 resulted in the death of four elderly people and injury to others in a building without sprinklers.

The fire triggered the fourth coroner’s inquest examining fires in Ontario seniors’ homes and put pressure on the government to legislate sprinklers.

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