Everyone can agree that fire safety and fire prevention are important. However, there are many considerations when it comes to making fire sprinklers mandatory in residential buildings. Many influential residential builders oppose fire sprinkler laws because of the additional costs they would incur during construction. The issue is reminiscent of the airbag debate that took place during the mid-1970s. As everyone knows, technological improvements and the public’s demand for safety led to the passing of legislation requiring airbags in all new cars.
Fire service men and women have known for a long time that fire sprinklers are the best way to protect the public and firefighters from the dangers of fire. Without sprinklers, condominiums and other connected residential buildings are at risk of being damaged by a fire started in another home. Not only does that needlessly endanger firefighters and neighbors, but it also leads to much greater property loss. One way to convince builders to agree to new laws would be to offer credit to new homeowners who install fire sprinklers. Real estate appraisers give added value for cosmetic upgrades, so why not value safety upgrades?
Sprinklers are required in certain states like California and Maryland, and those mandates have proven to help protect firefighters and property. Prince George’s County, Maryland had zero fire-related deaths in homes with sprinklers between 1992 and 2015. During that same time there were 230 fire-related deaths in homes without sprinklers. In addition, homes with sprinklers saw on average $57,000 less in property damage than those without sprinklers. Thankfully, there are organizations that work with fire service and other partners to educate the public and policymakers about the importance of fire sprinklers. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, and Common Voices work with local fire departments and other fire service organizations to spread the word about the importance of requiring fire sprinklers in new homes.