NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Pennsylvania Builders Unhappy with State-Imposed Sprinkler Mandate

January 13, 2011

This year marks the beginning of a new government mandate in Pennsylvania requiring that all new one- and two-family homes have an automatic fire sprinkler system -- a feature that costs thousands of dollars.  Home builders say they have no problem installing sprinklers, but that the decision should be left up to the consumer, and with the economy struggling and business down, the added cost will be exceptionally burdensome, says the Daily Caller.

According to the Pennsylvania Builders Association spokeswoman, Melissa Etshied, "It is a private property issue, it should be the consumer's choice, not a government mandate." 

Advocates for the mandate argue it is a safety issue.  "It will make everybody safer," according to Bill Gault, president of Local 22, the Philadelphia Fire Fighters' Union.

  • Gault added that even though home builders fear the increased cost, sprinklers could help lower the cost of home insurance.
  • According to the U.S. Fire Administration, a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), that decrease could be up to 10 percent.
  • The Fire Administration reports that in 2009 there were 377,000 residential fires, 2,590 civilian fire deaths, 13,050 civilian fire injuries and $7.8 billion in property damage.
  • The agency argues that sprinkler systems could have alleviated the damages.

Yet, the Pennsylvania GOP House Policy Committee notes that data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System shows that there is a 99.7 percent chance occupants will survive a fire with an operating smoke alarm.  Pennsylvania is the second state after California to impose a statewide sprinkler mandate, says the Caller.

Source: Caroline May, "Pennsylvania Builders Unhappy with State-Imposed Sprinkler Mandate," Daily Caller, January 10, 2011.

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