Carroll County's largest senior housing community has decided to voluntarily install sprinkler systems in its new developments, at a cost of $300,000.
Although not bound by law to install the systems in its residential units, Carroll Lutheran Village said its population merits the extra safety measure.
"We see it as a real significant safety factor and if we're going to help them age in place, we're going to help them do so safely and securely," said Hermine Saunders, director of church and public relations for Carroll Lutheran Village.
The move coincides with a push from county officials to require sprinkler systems in new residential developments.
"The majority of fires start in single-family dwellings, in kitchens or bedrooms," said Robert Cumberland, spokesman for Westminster Fire Engine & Hose Company No. 1. "With sprinklers in place, the fire is out before the engines arrive."
At yesterday's Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, county fire officials unveiled a proposed ordinance that would require new one- and two-family residential projects to meet minimum water supply requirements for fire fighting.
The proposal would pertain to developments of four or more lots that are not served by a public water system and do not have another water source within two miles. In those cases, developers would be required to install a 30,000-gallon underground water tank.
A county fire official may waive that requirement if a developer installs sprinklers in each unit. The current water-supply law only covers commercial and multifamily buildings. (Mount Airy passed an ordinance a year ago requiring new homes to have sprinkler systems.)
"This is probably one of the most beneficial acts the [county] commissioners could take in protecting life and property," said Scott Campbell, the county fire protection engineer and assistant administrator of the county's Office of Public Safety. The proposed ordinance is expected to go before the commissioners next week.
Cumberland said he hoped the initiative by Carroll Lutheran Village will spur the commissioners to agree to the ordinance.
"Kids under age of 5 and senior citizens are the two groups who are affected most in the nation by fire," said Tom Olshanski, spokesman for the U.S. Fire Administration, an organization that promotes fire safety. "When fire breaks out for children, there's confusion over the alarm and for adults, there's inability to move quick enough as fire spreads."
The administration's director, R. David Paulison, is expected to appear at Carroll Lutheran Village today to speak at a news conference about the community's sprinkler initiative, which is the latest addition to the community's most ambitious project.
Carroll Lutheran Village will undergo a $60 million expansion that will double the size of its hilltop Westminster campus. It's expected to break ground in April.
Saunders said the community is close to its goal of preselling 94 of its 142 new units.
The 29-acre Wakefield Overlook project is to include 82 apartments, 60 houses, an indoor pool, exercise room, classrooms, a doctor's office, a bistro and a convenience store.
Saunders said that village personnel worked with architectural firm CSD and general contractor Whiting-Turner to include National Fire Protection Association automatic sprinkler systems in the new homes. Sprinklers and fire alarms are included in the plans for the apartments.
The community is home to about 500 residents, who come from Carroll County and throughout the Baltimore area. They live in 48 cottages, 208 apartments spread throughout two buildings, 50 units of assisted living and 103 nursing beds in the Healthcare Center.
The wait to get into the community ranges from two years to five years, which spurred the staff to come up with an expansion plan to meet that demand, Saunders said.