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Study reveals effectiveness of fire sprinklers in home fires

Mandatory fire sprinkler areas have reported reduction in fire related deaths

Prince George's County recorded no deaths in fires in any homes protected by home sprinklers

Recent findings from a key study show the overwhelming effectiveness of mandatory home fire sprinklers in saving lives in municipalities with mandatory fire sprinkler codes for homes.

Prince George's County, Md., the first county in the nation to require residential fire sprinklers in its building code, has reported that since 1992, when the code was first adopted, there were no deaths and only six injuries resulting from house fires where fire sprinklers were present.

The 15-year study, titled, Prince George's County 15-Year History with its Single-Family Residential Dwelling Fire Sprinkler Ordinance, was led by the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department, in cooperation with the University of Maryland.

During the 15-year study, Prince George's County recorded a total of 13,494 single-family home and townhouse fires, with 245 of those affected structures being protected by fire sprinkler systems. In the fires where fire sprinkler systems were present, no deaths occurred and only six injuries were reported. In the fires that occurred in dwellings without sprinklers, 101 residents were killed - which represented 89 percent of all fire deaths in the county during the study - and 328 people were injured.

The study also noted that during the 15-year study, the average property financial loss after a fire with fatalities in an unsprinklered residence was more than 10 times the cost of a fire in a fire sprinkler-protected residence.
These findings are particularly timely as the International Code Council (ICC) - the governing body for the International Residential Code (IRC), which is the national building code - will meet late this month to vote on proposals re-confirming the ICC's building code requirement that all new one- and two-family homes in the U.S. that are built starting in 2011 be equipped with fire sprinkler systems.

The powerful data from this study must be held up as evidence that fire sprinkler systems should be embraced nationwide when building homes

The ICC residential fire sprinkler vote is expected to take place either October 28 or 29 - depending on the pace all action items before the ICC are debated - during the ICC's annual hearings in Baltimore.

"The powerful data from this study must be held up as evidence that this technology should be embraced nationwide when building homes. We must go to the heart of the country's fire problem if we are to solve it, and that is in the home, where most of the fires happen. There has NEVER been a multiple loss of life due to fire in houses where a properly installed and maintained fire sprinkler system is present," said John Viniello, president of the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA).

Home prices maintain value with sprinklers

Additionally, a previous study conducted in Maryland by the National Fire Protection Association, has revealed that the cost of residential home fire sprinkler systems - a national average of $1.61 per-square-foot of a home's size - has had a beneficial effect on the housing market prices in that area.

The U.S. Fire Administration strongly agrees and recently endorsed the requirement of fire sprinklers in new homes and struck a partnership with NFSA, the longest-tenured fire sprinkler advocacy group in the nation, to promote fire safety. Other groups that are supporting nationwide adoption of mandatory residential fire sprinklers are the National Fire Protection Association, the Home Safety Council, and fire service organizations across the U.S.

"Fire departments and other fire service professionals in surrounding states often look at Prince George's County as a model of true teamwork. That county provides a valuable life-saving benefit to the residents in Maryland," said NFSA Mid-Atlantic Regional Manager Ray Lonabaugh.

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