CHICAGO (CBS) — Fire sprinklers save lives, but they could cost building owners millions and millions of dollars. A proposal to require them in all high rises in Illinois has lots of people talking.
As far as Fran Mills is concerned, the smoke detector is enough. She’s among the many condo owners who oppose mandatory sprinklers in condo buildings like hers, built before 1975. It’s not just the thousands of dollars it might cost her, she says, “It’s unnecessary. The building is made of fire retardant material, we have automatic alert system, the fire department comes immediately.”
But Maureen Marley is just as adamant that sprinklers are necessary, especially after a fire next door threatened to spread to her unit.
“Here I am standing in this room looking at the door with the smoke coming through and think ‘I’m going to die,’” said Marley.
Both women intend to voice their opinions at a town hall meeting that will include state lawmakers who are members of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. The committee seldom gets much publicity, but it’s taking center stage because of the way state fire marshal Larry Matkaitis proposed the sprinkler mandate.
“He’s gone directly to the rule making body,” said State Rep.
Which means Matkaitis didn’t ask lawmakers to sponsor a bill, didn’t wait for the senate and house to pass it or the governor to sign it. He didn’t do anything wrong, he’s just ruffled some feathers.
“The state fire marshal is circumventing a lot of activity that we’ve honored for a number of years,” said State Rep. Ken Dunkin.
So now the future of sprinklers is in the hands of the committee.
There are two town hall meetings tomorrow. One on the North Side, the other in the South Loop. They’re being sponsored by state lawmakers.
On August 6, the State Fire Marshall is holding a public hearing in Springfield.
The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules is scheduled to vote on the sprinkler mandate August 13.
The office of the state fire marshal said in a statement, “….The proposed fire code update will make everyone in Illinois safer. Sprinklers can not only be installed in existing structures affordably, they can raise property values, lower insurance rates and make older buildings more competitive with newer high-rises. It is also critical to note that the proposed fire code does not necessarily require that individual units be sprinklered. Depending on their configuration, some older buildings can meet state safety standards by only sprinklering hallways and common areas…”