On Home Fire Sprinklers and EMS

When I learned in late October that the International Code Council (ICC) voted at its annual conference in Baltimore to keep residential sprinklers on the book despite strong opposition from the National Association of Home Builders, I could not help...

I could not care less about commercial buildings. We do not represent the commercial builders. I am only worried about our members. We must prepare for the next battle. We must take our fight to the counties and municipalities to keep fire sprinklers out of new homes!"

Although this is a fictitious conversation, and I believe in the American way of making a profit, I do not believe it should be at the expense of public safety or people’s lives. Interestingly, there is an irony related to the fire service pushing for residential sprinklers. In the years to come, there will be fewer devastating fires in residential structures as older homes are torn down and replaced with new homes with fire sprinklers. There will be fewer injuries and deaths in residential fires. Politicians will look at these statistics and conclude that fewer firefighters and fire stations are needed. Little do the politicians realize that the number of firefighters and fire stations should never be based on run volume, but on risk. Fewer firefighters and fewer fire stations mean less capability to deal with risk.

However, when the politicians look at the statistics, they will see that fire service run numbers have edged up even more with EMS calls. Historians in the years to come will look at the inclusion of fire sprinklers for homes as a watershed moment for the fire service. Hopefully, they will also see the impact that home fire sprinklers have had in making the fire service even more of an EMS provider.

GARY LUDWIG, MS, EMT-P, a Firehouse contributing editor, is a deputy fire chief with the Memphis, TN, Fire Department. He has 32 years of fire-rescue service experience. Ludwig is chairman of the EMS Section for the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), has a master’s degree in business and management, and is a licensed paramedic. He is a frequent speaker at EMS and fire conferences nationally and internationally, and can be reached through his website at www.garyludwig.com.