Mythblaster Monday 10: Home Fire Sprinklers are a Win-Win for Jurisdictions and Developers

From the latest smoke alarms to solar panels, there are many ways for homeowners to make their homes safer and smarter. Unfortunately, when it comes to home fire sprinklers, their many safety benefits can get lost in the noise of misinformation. In our Mythblaster Monday series, we clear up common misunderstandings and share resources that explain how much sprinklers contribute to the protection of lives and property. Last week we debunked the myth that home fire sprinklers increase insurance costs, but insurance incentives aren't the only advantages that come from sprinkler installation.

Myth: If a community doesn't require home fire sprinklers, we can't ask builders to put them in.

Fact: Even without a code requirement, local jurisdictions can work with developers and builders on many possible incentives for including home fire sprinklers in construction.

An exciting and growing phenomenon is happening in communities throughout the country—more communities are working hand in hand with developers to include home fire sprinklers in new homes as part of a program that gives them trade-ups or incentives. These incentives are a win-win for communities, allowing safer homes to be built, providing financial gains for the developers and reducing the burden on first responders. 

Yet many jurisdictions are not aware of incentives or think they can't offer them. In order to better protect communities from fire, it is important to learn more about how this works.

The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) lists some of the most common incentives as:

  • Street-Width Reduction—Traffic lanes may be narrowed, substantially reducing the amount of pavement in every linear foot of street in the development.
  • Longer Dead-End Streets—Dead-end streets may be increased in length, allowing additional building lots to be accessed.
  • Tee Turnarounds Permitted—The permitted use of tee turnarounds in sprinklered developments can create at least one additional lot per cul-de-sac.
  • Increased Street Grades and Building Setbacks—Steeper street grades and building locations allowed further from where the homes access leaves the main road.
  • Additional Units Permitted—Development plans that allow homes to be closer together.
  • Expansion of Existing Water Supply May Not Be Needed—Required fire flows for fully sprinklered developments can be greatly reduced compared to non-sprinklered developments.
  • Increased Hydrant Spacing—Supply mains may be reduced and hydrant spacing can be increased.
  • Subdivision Single Access Point—A fully sprinklered subdivision allows for a single public access road. This decreases infrastructure costs and significantly increases the number of single-family dwellings allowed.
  • Gated Communities—Gated communities can delay Fire Department Access. A fully sprinklered subdivision provides mitigation for this impact allowing developers to utilize this security option when desired.
  • Reduced Basement Windows—Fire sprinklers reduce rescue openings in every basement sleeping room.

HFSC has several resources to begin a program for incentives in your community.

This fact sheet details the many incentives available for jurisdictions to present to developers.

There are a number of case studies also available on the HFSC website. For example, in Camas, WA, a developer building a 60-home development on a hillside successfully achieved $1 million in infrastructure and material cost savings by agreeing to install home fire sprinklers that protected the entire subdivision.

Material for developers interested in including this life-saving technology in their projects can explore more information here or with the free Built for Life Homebuilder Kit. For more resources on how to advocate for home fire sprinklers and combat misinformation, visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiative and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition online.

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Cierra Thompson
Public Affairs Intern

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