A recent report issued by an Orange County, Calif. Grand Jury overwhelmingly supports residential fire sprinklers. The study evaluated the use of fire sprinklers in the county in order to make recommendations for improvement.
"Our new Grand Jury asked us what current fire and life safety issues were important to us, and we explained why we felt that protecting homes with fire sprinklers was one of the most significant," comments Laura Blaul, deputy fire marshal, Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), which serves 22 of the 34 cities as well as unincorporated portions of Orange County.
Installation of fire sprinklers is mandated in most commercial buildings throughout all cities in the county, and the 22 cities and unincorporated areas [under OCFA's jurisdiction] require that all multi-family homes (three-plus units) be protected with residential sprinkler systems. However, requirements in individual homes and in multi-family homes outside of OCFA's jurisdiction differ from city to city.
The study noted that it has been well established that fire sprinklers "are extremely effective to control and extinguish a fire in its earliest stages and thereby limiting property loss and reducing deaths."
OCFA reported that there were 2,320 fires in 1999 with $13 million in property losses in OCFA's jurisdiction. There were 43 fire-related injuries with four deaths in 1999. The jury noted that five cities in the county require fire sprinklers in all new residential structures: Buena Park, Dana Point, Placentia, San Clemente, and Stanton. In San Clemente, the average residential fire loss is 60% less with sprinklers than without. (See Table 1.) In 1999 in the Orange County Fire Authority's jurisdiction, property loss in buildings with fire sprinklers averaged $1,721, compared to $16,064 without fire sprinklers, or less than 10% of the loss.
The grand jury believed that requirements for residential sprinklers would benefit the county, cities, and homeowners. Substantial elimination of accidental deaths related to fires, increased property value, reduction of the costs associated with fighting fires, and reduction of property loss are all benefits according to the Grand Jury, The jury also addressed builders concerns about costs. The grand jury interviewed several fire service personnel, organized site visits, viewed video tapes, and collected data from various studies during the study. After completing the study, the jury had several recommendations:
The report, along with comments from Orange County Fire and Building Departments, will be forwarded to the county's Board of Supervisors for consideration and direction to staff. To view the Grand Jury's entire report visit AFSA's website at www.sprinklernet.org 
Reprinted with permission from Sprinkler Age, the official publication of the American Fire Sprinkler Association, Volume 20, Number 8, August 2001. Copyright 2001, all rights reserved.
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