South Carolina Mulls Fire Sprinkler Mandate

South Carolina's routine process for updating the state's residential building code has hit a snag over the contentious issue of fire sprinklers in one-family and two-family houses. "The S.C. Building Code Council met Wednesday in Columbia to decide whether to adopt the International Residential Code, which mandates fire sprinklers in new homes built after July 2011," reported the Hilton Head Island-Packet in mid-May (" South Carolina debate over sprinklers in homes heats up," by Allison Stice). "Whatever the council decides, lobbying efforts will continue because the state's elected officials must ultimately sign off on the code." The South Carolina Building Code Council voted to adopt the 2012 IRC on May 23, "but members of the council will revisit the decision on August 22," the Island-Packet reported (" Decision on fire sprinkler mandate could take months," by Allison Stice). Meanwhile, "it's unlikely that the issue will make it onto the [legislative] agenda as the session draws to a close." For a look at firefighter arguments in support of the mandate, here's a link to the Fire Sprinkler Initiative web page " Faces of Fire," produced by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) with funding from a FEMA grant. Featured on the page are several South Carolina personalities, including Princella Lee Bridges of Greenville, S.C., a former operating room nurse who lost her career as a result of severe burns experienced in a house fire; Linda Chavis of Lexington, S.C., whose firefighter son died in the line of duty fighting a house fire; and Anderson County, S.C., fire chief Brian Black, who decided to install fire sprinklers in his own new house after losing his home to fire. Advocating for the other side, here's an opinion authored by Steve Mungo, president of Mungo Homes and 2010 president of the Home Builders Association of South Carolina (" Fire Sprinklers in Homes Will Make Housing Unaffordable," by Steve Mungo). Mungo's argument is that most house fire deaths and injuries occur in outdated older existing homes, which will not be helped by the IRC mandate because it only applies to new construction. On the other hand, raising the cost of a new house by adding a fire sprinkler mandate will prevent many home buyers from trading in their old houses on a new, safer structure, argues Mungo. And he says hard-wired smoke alarms with battery backup are a better and more cost-effective way of saving lives and preventing fire injury.