When building a new home it is exceptionally reasonable to build fire suppression into your plans. Sprinkler systems are not only for commercial buildings such as restaurants, schools, grocery stores, and hospitals. Fire doesn't occur based on the type of building, fire prevention and safety should be practiced in the same way. People and property are made safer by the presence of a sprinkler system. The system can apply water to a fire in the early stages, before the fire becomes larger and more difficult to extinguish. Home fire sprinkler systems are on duty 24 hours a day. A smoke detector can only detect, a sprinkler system can detect and begin suppressing fire when you're at work or on vacation, they're providing a firefighter in your home protecting your property.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, in 2011 there were:
- 364,500 Residential building fires
- 2,450 fire deaths
- 13,900 injuries due to fire
- $6.6 billion in damages and loss to fire
Homes today can be retrofitted or built with sprinklers connected to a local water supply or independent holding tanks offering protection against fire and savings in home insurance rates of 5 to 15%. Installing sprinklers can also help qualify your home for a tax rebate. According to USFA the cost of a home fire sprinkler system is approximately $1.61 per square foot in new construction, "That would only translate into approximately $5.00 extra mortgage payment a month," according to Maria Figueroa, NFPA Communications Project Manager, or 1 to 1.5% of the total cost to build the home. In comparison to commercial sprinklers, residential systems can be coordinated with home decor for a functioning, yet aesthetically pleasing, home fire protection system. Home sprinkler systems also provided added protection for anyone not able to exit the home without assistance. They can also reduce the risk of injury to firefighters since they would be fighting a less intense fire.
"Consider a hypothetical $3,000 sprinkler system in a $300,000 home with a 6.5% mortgage, a 5% credit on a $2,000/year insurance bill, and a combined Federal/State income tax rate of 33%; the net cost of fire sprinklers, after mortgage related tax deductions, would be $4.37 per month. This represents a 0.23% increase in the monthly payment and roughly equates to the cost of a premium beverage at your local coffee shop." - Maria Figueroa, NFPA Communications Project Manager
Currently there are only two states which require residential sprinklers in new construction. Cities and communities have adopted local ordinances but nothing is not much widespread enforcement. You can view the status of each state's legislative initiatives regarding residential fire sprinklers at the NFPA Fire Sprinkler Initiative website.
If you are considering building a home with a sprinkler system you can order a free kit from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition: BUILT FOR LIFE education kit including a CD and DVD full of information for you and your home builder.
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Alex is a volunteer firefighter in Evansville, Indiana and a full-time firefighter in Providence, Kentucky. You can follow him on Twitter @FireSafetyAZ