SC council adopts fire sprinkler code for new homes

South Carolina joins California, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey as states that have adopted the sprinkler requirement


By David W. MacDougall
The Post and Courier

CHARLESTON, S.C. — The S.C. Building Codes Council on Wednesday adopted modifications to the proposed building code that would require installation of sprinkler systems in all new residential construction, Charleston Fire Chief Thomas Carr said.

Carr, who had spent the day testifying at the council's hearing in Lexington, said the council's decision was a victory for the fire service in South Carolina and a decision that will save lives.

"There hasn't been a single fire fatality in a sprinklered structure, anywhere that we know of," Carr said.

Under the proposed code, all newly constructed single-family homes will have to have sprinklers, he said. "Not traditional sprinklers but residential sprinklers."

Residential sprinkler systems operate off a home's regular water supply and do not require a separate water meter, he said. They flow only 3 to 8 gallons of water per minute and they are activated at lower fire temperatures.

South Carolina joins California, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey as states that have adopted the sprinkler requirement, he said.

There is another step before the proposed code becomes law, Carr said. The state Legislature can intervene. The sprinkler requirement has been opposed by builders.

Carr, who headed the Montgomery County (Md.) Fire Department when the county mandated residential sprinklers in 2004, said the experience in Maryland demonstrates the efficacy of residential sprinklers. "Montgomery County has eight to 13 fire fatalities a year in non-sprinklered buildings and none in sprinklered buildings," he said.

"It's going to have an impact on lives," Carr said. "Everyone says smoke alarms are great. They are cheap and easy to install, but they require maintenance. A sprinkler doesn't require maintenance. It sits there for its lifetime, hopefully never operating."

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