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Anti-Fire Sprinklers Should Be Mandatory

On Tuesday, the Anaheim City Council will consider requiring that sprinkler systems be installed in 12 older high-rises built before state law required such protection.

The council should formally adopt the proposed sprinkler ordinance, which is even more stringent than the state law enacted in 1974. The state now requires sprinkler systems in all new buildings taller than 75 feet. Anaheim’s proposed ordinance affects buildings of 55 feet or more.

The council should also adopt the proposed loan package that will provide up to $8 million to help building owners pay for the new sprinklers and any required asbestos removal that often is necessary in the older structures. That will help guarantee compliance and protection from fire for thousands of people at risk each day in the vulnerable high-rises.

But taking those steps is tackling only half the problem. Still unprotected by sprinkler systems are smaller commercial buildings, apartment and condominium complexes, and new single-family homes. A second ordinance in Anaheim that would require sprinklers in those structures is scheduled for a public hearing April 4. The council should pass that measure too. And other Orange County communities should do the same.

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Sprinkler systems have a proven record of saving lives and property and reducing firefighting costs, so much so that insurance companies are now beginning to offer premium discounts on fire insurance polices covering homes with sprinklers. The heat-sensitive sprinklers begin dousing flames in a matter of seconds, controlling or extinguishing a fire before it can become a major tragedy. That kind of protection is needed not only in high-rise structures but in residences, where four out of five fire deaths occur.

Cost is always a factor, and one compromise suggested would make the sprinklers an option available to owners of new single-family residences. That should be considered, as long as prospective buyers are fully advised of the benefits and costs of the fire-protection system. But saving lives, not money, is what is most important, and sprinklers must be made mandatory in apartment and condominium complexes as well as all high-rises.


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