published Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Chattanooga: Council votes to delay new fire regulations

  • photo
    Sprinkler fitter Derek Swanson, with Mission Fire Sprinkler LLC, installs a sprinkler head in the Strauss Building which is being renovated to be a restaurant in downtown Chattanooga.
    Staff Photo by Dan Henry

After a debate that has lasted several weeks, the City Council voted 5-3 to defer for two additional months a fire code ordinance that would have required bars falling under the city's definition of a "nightclub" to install expensive sprinker systems.

Murphy recommended that the city study the economic impact of the new fire codes during the two month deferral. The new code would give businesses three years to install sprinklers that could cost more than $100,000, change the way they do business or shut their doors.

Business owners have said the ordinance would force them to close, resulting in a loss of jobs and a less vibrant downtown.

Fire officials said the sprinklers are a safety necessity, though there have been no nightclub fires with fatalities in Tennessee's recorded history.

For more information, pick up a copy of tomorrow's Times Free Press.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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cannonball said...

This just goes to show you. Money talks BS walks.

February 22, 2011 at 8:23 p.m.
MountainJoe said...

Think maybe they will clue in that putting small businesses out of business is a bad thing?

February 22, 2011 at 8:25 p.m.
jpo3136 said...

I would like to see a justification for these claims that a business is going to spend $100,000 on installing some water pipes with specialized valves.

The average fire sprinkler head, the specialized melt-away valve, cost about $13 each.

Even if a business had to buy a hundred of those (probably not) and spend several thousand on other supplies, the materials bills for these jobs has got to be below $5000.

Where is the justification for the other $95,000 in the claimed estimate provided above?

Over 80% of the work involved seems like it could be done by ordinary plumbers with access to a hardware store. Most fire sprinkler contractors online do not advertise a flat rate for this work, either.

Consider this company, for example: In business since the 1800s, they do not advertise flat rate fire sprinkler retrofit costs.

According to this company, which sells the specialized valves, one valve costs $10 to $20.

Look at the pipes in these sprinkler systems. It's a pipe. For many years our own city was a leading source of fire hydrants. We shipped them all over the United States.

It's obvious: even if we had to build the factory to make the parts for these sprinkler systems, they are well within our grasp technologically.

$100,000? We've seen claims in these stories of costs ranging from $15,000 on up to, now, $100,000.

Where do you get $100,000 for some metal pipe strapped to a ceiling with some specialized valves? What part of that system is worth more than installing ordinary plumbing, and by what margin?

Even plumbing on the Space Shuttle does not cost $100,000.

It's obvious: the reporters are quoting whatever some politician says without checking up on basic facts. How much, for example, did it cost to install the fire extinguishing system over a common kitchen stove, compared to a dining area that seats or lounge area that holds 250 people?

Please provide some observable facts to support these egregious claims that installing sprinklers costs $100,000.

Who provided that estimate to the politician quoted yesterday? Retrofitting sprinklers into a building is a plumbing and safety remodel. Throwing out a flat rate quote for such a job is like saying all flat tar roofs cost $100,000. It's just not likely to be true.

Sprinklers are common and expected fire suppression equipment. They do not cost more than the building itself. What nonsense! Please provide some facts about installing sprinkler from a source other than a politician who opposes basic safety regulations for our city area.

It's outrageous that we're expected to believe these claims that we'd spend a hundred thousand dollars installing some $13 plumbing parts.

February 22, 2011 at 8:34 p.m.
jpo3136 said...

At $13 a fire sprinkler head, and no experience, for $100,000 a business could purchase the parts, train an employee on fire sprinkler installation from scratch, and still probably get the job done under budget.

Even if someone price gouged some related specialized service, like inspection, at thousands of dollars, this still does not cost $100,000 for the average sized nightclub. Sure, someone who has a massive factory or warehouse might have so many acres --acres-- of interior space that they need massive protection which would cost a lot. However, it's clear: at $13 a valve, a six figure simple plumbing system is not indicative of a reasonable estimate for common sprinkler installation.

A $13 part! Go to a place that has these already. Look up. Do the math. This does not cost $100,000 for everyone.

These are obviously political scare tactics from politicians who do not want to enforce basic safety standards.

Expect sprinklers. Reject these false claims of six figure prices on a $13 part. Our community has experience with building fire hydrants from scratch. We are not fooled this easily.

Installing sprinklers promotes the extinguishing of fires and the safe escape of crowds from confined areas in the event of an emergency. Now that we know that sprinkler heads costs less than $20 each, we should de-bunk these false and inflated claims from blocking politicians and expand our expectations of getting these installed.

Expect sprinklers. At $13 a valve, expand our range of expected places to see these installed. It's basic plumbing combined with some fire science. Installing sprinklers is well within the vocational skills available within our communities.

Expect and expand the sprinkler requirement.

February 22, 2011 at 8:51 p.m.
jpo3136 said...

There is no business that's going to close over installing some $13 valves and some water pipes in Chattanooga, Tennessee. These politicians are lying to us to scare us into ignoring obvious and practical fire safety protection measures.

For the training requirements, look at this:

That company offers a course in beginning fire sprinkler fitting that involves a two week course. The fee, with hotels, comes to near $2860. It is not impossible for us to train more employees on this, and still be well below the $100,000 we're told, above.

It's a $13 part, some pipe, and a lot of tall tales from these politicians that don't want to pass laws that make basic sense. Expect sprinklers. They're practical, low cost, and conserve lives of crowds of people in an emergency.

February 22, 2011 at 9:16 p.m.
MountainJoe said...

If it's that cheap and easy to install sprinklers, jpo, why don't YOU offer your services to all affected businesses at rates that reflect your estimate of the costs, plus a few bucks an hour for your time. I mean, put up or shut up.

There is no reason to require businesses, that have been operating safely for years, to suddenly expend thousands of dollars (regardless of the exact amount) because a bunch of politicians want to impose a brand new burden on them.

Don't think Comedy Catch or other nightclubs are safe without sprinklers? Don't go.

February 22, 2011 at 9:32 p.m.
jpo3136 said...

Mountain Joe, I already have put up. I am a former military officer who specializes in HAZMAT. Installing pumping and irrigation systems are a basic skill in that occupation.

And, in that line of work, I already have seen many, many politicians ignore basic matters in favor of what's easy. Tolerating ignorance until we create an emergency is bad policy. What's worse is that some of the politicians involved are spreading outright lies with their fictitious, inflated costs for safety equipment.

Wake up and face facts. Sprinklers are a basic form of protection. They're not new. They're not a surprise. They don't cost $100,000.

Expect sprinklers. The NFPA is advising what makes basic sense.

February 22, 2011 at 11:17 p.m.
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