The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) is urging policymakers to support new residential construction standards that call for the installation of fire sprinkler systems in new construction.
The International Code Council's model residential building code reads that fire sprinklers will be mandatory in all new one- and two-family homes as of 2011. However, several states have chosen to opt out of the requirement, or have left local governments to decide whether or not to adopt it.
In Pennsylvania, IBHS President and CEO Julie Rochman said there could be cases of legislators feeling apprehensive of the new design of the sprinkler systems. "There are people who are a little afraid of new technology, perhaps don't understand how sophisticated it is, how well it works, how efficient it is, and the long-term savings that will benefit people in Pennsylvania throughout the state," said Rochman.
These new sprinklers are equipped with a temperature-sensitive element, meaning they can only be set off by heat, rather than smoke or vapors. Rochman noted that in addition to the heat activation, the entire sprinkler system does not employ at once. "They operate each head individually, so only the sprinkler over the fire will activate, and when a fire starts, the heat from the fire actually activates the sprinkler closest to the fire," Rochman said.
Rochman said residential fire sprinklers dramatically reduce the risk of death, injury, and the amount property damage in homes. According to the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) U.S. Experience with Sprinklers report [full report - PDF], the death rate in homes with sprinklers is 83% lower than homes without sprinklers. The direct property damage in homes with sprinklers is 69% lower than homes without sprinklers.
Rochman said the IBHS is hoping that residential sprinklers will be more widely adopted in the future. "It takes people a while to get used to something new, and the more experience and more familiarity they have, the better results that we'll see in terms of lives saved, fewer firefighters being injured when they're responding to fires, less property being destroyed — we think the proof will be in the results and that more people will accept and really want to have sprinklers in their homes," said Rochman.