A Pennsylvania House panel has voted to end a mandate requiring all new homes built in the state to have a sprinkler system. The Labor and Industry Committee took the vote yesterday on the initiative that took effect January 1st. In an effort to pacify supporters of the sprinkler requirement, the repeal would include language requiring builders to educate consumers about sprinkler system options. "It would be offered as an option. The consumer would be given the information...you know....here's the information. It's up to you to decide, but you've been educated,” says Melissa Etshied with the Pennsylvania Builders Association (PBA). Etshied supports the measure saying consumers weren't happy with the new code. "The most common thing is...you know...it should be my choice. I should be able to decide if I'm going to spend the extra money on this,” says Etshied. Adding a sprinkler system to a new home adds $5,000 to $7,000 to the construction cost.
But, Maria Figueroa of the National Fire Protection Association says the change will cost lives. “We're not losing people in hotels because they've had sprinklers. We're not losing people in high rises. They've had sprinklers. It’s in the home, where people feel the safest, where people are dying,” says Figueroa. She says this should not be a choice, “Consumers do not get to pick any other safety feature in any product that they buy, including their homes. Why does a single issue get removed from the minimum codes? It's not very smart. We don't know where this is going to lead. We know that lives will be lost.”
A final House vote on the plan could happen as early as this week.