Sprinkler ordinance gain momentum in Illinois

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

BUFFALO GROVE, Ill.--Fire sprinkler ordinances have big momentum in Northern Illinois.
Thirty communities now require fire sprinklers in new single-family homes, and 50 communities have adopted an even stricter ordinance requiring sprinklers for all new construction, including commercial buildings and townhouses, regardless of square footage. More communities are considering adopting one or the other of these ordinances.
In the past week, Oak Forest, St. Charles and Bedford Park, brought the total number of municipalities requiring sprinklers in new single-family homes to 30.
On August 4, the village board of Buffalo Grove, a Chicago suburb with a population of 43,000, became the 50th Illinois municipality to adopt the more comprehensive regulation, called the "zero-square-foot minimum sprinkler ordinance."
Illinois has the largest number of communities with zero-square-foot minimum ordinances. California, at 41, ranks second.
The Buffalo Grove vote concluded an intense two-and-one-half year public education campaign by the fire chief, fire marshal and village administrator here.
A lengthy education process prior to an ordinance approval is common, and often includes fire sprinkler burn demonstrations, said Tom Lia, executive director of Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board.
Federal Emergency Management Authority reports, including the five-year-old "America Burning" and "Fire Fighter Life Safety" that were issued earlier this year, provide compelling arguments for municipalities to adopt sprinkler ordinances, Lia said.
The good news for sprinkler advocates is that interest is growing.
"There is amazing momentum," Lia said. "Another 14 Illinois communities are working toward adopting sprinkler ordinances."
Lia credits fire officials for doing a good job educating elected officials and the public about the life-saving benefits of sprinklers.
"Eighty-two percent of fire deaths occur in residential occupancies. If communities want to tackle this issue and reduce fire deaths, they need to implement (sprinkler) requirements," he said.