FAQ

Why does Minnesota need a sprinkler code?
Nationwide, firefighters have been working to add a residential sprinkler requirement to building codes because having working smoke alarms and fire sprinklers in place, along with a practiced emergency exit strategy, is nearly 100-percent effective in saving lives during a house fire.

Aren’t smoke detectors enough to protect our homes and families?
As firefighters, we know that’s simply not true. Smoke alarms are not enough, particularly in newer homes. New construction methods and materials have increased the danger for homeowners. Today’s homes are filled with synthetic materials, which store significantly more energy than the natural products of previous decades. These synthetics release so much energy that a room can be completely consumed in fire in a matter of minutes – significantly reducing your chances of getting out safely in a fire.

This video by the National Institute of Standards and Testing shows the danger of today’s synthetic furnishings compared to conventional furniture. Fire sprinklers can give homeowners significantly more time to escape a fast-burning blaze.

Aren’t new houses safer than old houses?
The reverse is true. Older homes using conventional construction tend to have stronger structural elements and more interior walls, making them even safer from fire than homes using modern-engineered lightweight construction. Families in older homes have an average of 17 minutes to escape a house fire, 14 minutes more than those in newer homes.

Aren’t our homes safe enough with smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and emergency plans?
The sobering reality is that, in terms of fire safety, the most dangerous place to be is at home. Here in Minnesota, 257 people have died in house fires over the past 10 years. And most often the victims of fire are the younger and older among us, who have a more difficult time getting out in an emergency situation.

Why will only newer homes with more than 4,500 square feet be subject to the sprinkler code?
In the interest of public safety, we believe all residential dwellings should be covered by the sprinkler code. Only single family new homes larger than 4,500 square feet will be required to install sprinklers; that means only 9 percent of the homes being built will be required to install sprinklers. This is the result of the Department of Labor and Industry’s attempt to find middle ground. The minimum standard in the International Residential Code recommends that ALL new single family homes be constructed with sprinklers. The fire service agrees with that fire protection standard for your family. However, the builders are opposed and do not want any sprinkler fire protection mandate on single family homes.

Won’t the sprinkler code raise the price of homes, making them out of reach for homebuyers?
Fire sprinkler codes in other states have had no effect on housing starts or the average price of a new home. According to a 2009 National Fire Prevention Association study that compared counties in Maryland that had residential sprinkler requirements with counties in Virginia that didn’t, the study found no evidence that the approval of sprinkler ordinances “caused any detrimental effects on housing supply.” Statistics from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) showed a similar pattern –single-family home building permits increased on average by 28 percent in the United States between April 2012 and April 2013, but California (which passed a residential sprinkler code in 2012) experienced a 55 percent increase in permits in the same period.

Isn’t a sprinkler system too expensive for the average homeowner?
Costs vary depending on the individual system, but it’s important to note that the proposed rule will only impact five percent of Minnesota’s new home construction. The cost is similar to other home technology options such as central vacuums, burglar alarms and advanced heating/cooling systems. Oftentimes, the upgrade in counter tops to granite or an upgrade in cabinetry or carpet is more than the cost of installing a residential sprinkler system.

Are there any financial benefits to installing a residential sprinkler system?
Homes with sprinkler systems suffer far fewer property losses in a fire than unequipped homes. One study found that the average fire loss in a house with a sprinkler system was $1,544, compared to $11,624 for houses without automatic fire sprinklers. Additionally, sprinklers can reduce insurance costs through credits that can save homeowners up to 13 percent off their annual premiums.

Why not just make sprinkler installation voluntary?
By making sprinkler installation a minimum requirement, cities and towns can reduce the strain on fire service personnel, limit damage to property, and help conserve municipal water resources by reducing the amount of water needed to fight fires (fire-fighting hoses use more than eight times the amount of water used by automatic fire sprinklers).

Why is there so much opposition to this proposed rule?
Opponents are relying on misinformation about the costs and possible drawbacks of implementation, due to the assumption that the rule will impact their businesses. As members of the public safety community who experience the tragic results of house fires first-hand, we feel this is an opportunity to make homes in Minnesota — and the families who live in them — safer than ever before.

What can I do to make my voice heard?
Please join the Minnesota Fire Association Coalition and call your state legislator and urge them to enable safer construction of new homes over 4,500 sq. ft. by making fire sprinklers a minimum requirement so we can begin to put a stop to the senseless deaths that take place right in our own homes.

What is the Minnesota Fire Association Coalition (MnFAC)?
MnFAC is a coalition of five Minnesota public safety organizations representing 20,000 individual members. Its mission is to act as a unified voice on behalf of the Minnesota fire service in public policy matters. Members include: Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association, Minnesota State Fire Department Association, Fire Marshals Association of Minnesota, Minnesota Area Relief Association Coalition and the Minnesota Chapter of the International Association of Arson Investigators.

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