It’s Fire Prevention Week: Phoenix Society Asks for Support in Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act

Help building owners retrofit with fire sprinklers

Did you know that no fire fighter has ever died fighting a fire in a fully sprinklered structure?

During Fire Prevention week (Oct. 9-15), the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors is asking for members to support the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act (FSIA), a tax incentive to building owners to retrofit their properties with fire sprinklers.

Action
You can get involved by contacting your House Representative and two Senators by email, letter or phone and asking them to cosponsor the appropriate bill. The House bill is HR 1792, and is in the House Ways and Means Committee, and the Senate bill is S 1035 is in the Senate Finance Committee.

How to Contact
Write To Your U.S. House Representative  
 |   Write to Your Senators

Background
The cost of fire in America is enormous.  Every year we suffer over 3,200 civilian deaths, 100 fire fighter line of duty deaths, and over 16,000 injuries.  The direct property damage caused by fire is over $10 billion and the indirect costs, such as lost economic activity, are over $107 billion.

One of the most effective ways to minimize the loss of life and property to fire is through automatic sprinklers.  The National Fire Protection Association has concluded that in buildings that were sprinkled the death rate per fire can be reduced by at least 57% and the property damage decreased by up to 68%.  In fact, no fire fighter has ever died fighting a fire in a fully sprinklered structure.

Issue
Current building codes require sprinklers in many of the most vulnerable occupancies like student housing, high rise commercial, entertainment complexes, and high rise residential.  The problem, however, is there are thousands of structures that were built and put in service before sprinklers were required.  In many jurisdictions, these structures are grandfathered from current standards even given the dangers of these occupancies.

The primary challenge to retrofitting these structures is the Internal Revenue Code.  Under current depreciation rules, building owners have a strong disincentive to invest in a sprinkler system given the 39 year depreciation schedule for commercial buildings and 27.5 year schedule for residential structures.

Legislation
In order to most effectively and efficiently target the most high risk structures the legislations has two parts:

  1. Section 179 tax treatment – Section 179 of the tax code allows small and medium sized businesses to fully expense certain types of equipment purchases like machines, equipment, vehicles, and computers.  Fire sprinkler systems are not currently a 179 property and this legislation would make them eligible for 179 tax treatment.

    Under current law this change would allow small and medium size property owners to fully deduct the cost of sprinkler system up to $125,000.  Assuming a per square foot retrofit cost of $2.50 per square foot this could cover a structure up to 50,000 square feet and accommodate most of the high fire risk properties such as off campus housing, night clubs, and assisted living facilities.
  2. High-Rise Retrofits– The most vulnerable structure not covered by section 179 tax treatment are high-rise structures (those 7 stories or higher).  In the United States, there are nearly 10,000 high-rise fires annually and they are some of the most deadly fires for civilians and fire fighters.

    This legislation will provide a financial incentive to high-rise building owners to install sprinkler systems by reducing the depreciation schedule from 39 years to 15 years.  This reduction will also put sprinkler improvements more in line with the current tax code that allows 15 year depreciation for leasehold improvements.

Cosponsorship

Mark Roman (Schock) 225-6201
Chris Prendergast (Carper) 224-2441

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