Better safe than sorry [Editorial]

For the past umpteen years, there have been disagreements here and there about requiring the installation of sprinkler systems in buildings – public and private. That there has been any disputing the value of the added safety a sprinkler system brings is befuddling.

There can only be one reason and it’s all green. Other than the cost, which cuts into the profits of someone building a new structure or retrofitting an old one, there’s no rationale explanation for opposing them. Having water running throughout a building just waiting to spring into action putting out a fire, on the off chance one might occur, sounds like a great idea.

It was more than a great idea in Abingdon last week when a smoke alarm is credited with alerting a family there was a fire in their home and the sprinkler system is credited with containing the fire to one room.

Make no mistake, a sprinkler system can do a lot of damage when it starts spewing water everywhere. The water can do as much damage, especially to possessions, as any fire. In the Abingdon fire, for example, State Fire Marshals estimate the fire did $5,000 in damages to the structure and another $15,000 to its contents. There’s no doubt some of that $15,000 was caused by water.

Another thing that’s absolutely clear is no one died in the fire.

Fire officials said a grandmother, who lives in the middle of a row townhouse with a couple and their 2-year-old daughter, was home alone when the fire broke out at about 4 in the afternoon. She escaped unharmed.

More people would have escaped safely from any number of fatal fires had there been a working sprinkler system.

“Deputy state fire marshals credit the fire sprinkler for containing the fire and allowing [the grandmother] to safely escape,” a notice of investigation of the incident said. “Fire sprinklers also help firefighters by containing the fire to the area of origin, reducing the chance of injuries and/or death.”

Amen to that. Let’s not forget that whenever someone questions the need for a fire suppression sprinkler system. Contents are things and can be replaced. A life cannot be replaced and all lives matter.

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