Ahead of tomorrow's tenth anniversary of the Station Night Club fire in West Warwick that killed 100 people and left hundreds more injured, Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) has announced he will reintroduce legislation that would reduce the cost and impact of fires by encouraging the placement of automatic sprinklers in all multi-unit residential and commercial structures.
The Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act was inspired by the 2003 fire and findings that thousands of Americans lose their lives each year because of buildings that lack adequate fire prevention systems. The legislation, which has received support from the American Fire Sprinkler Association and the Rhode Island Association of Fire Chiefs, allows small and medium size property owners to fully deduct the cost of installing sprinkler systems up to $500,000 and would cover most high fire risk properties, such as off campus housing, night clubs, and assisted living facilities.
"The tenth anniversary of the tragic Station Night Club Fire serves as a somber reminder of the devastating consequences that are possible without sufficient fire prevention systems," said Langevin, who was selected by AFSA as its Fire Sprinkler Advocate of the Year in 2007 for his leadership on this issue. "As my heart continues to go out to the survivors and families affected by that horrific event, I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle can recognize that fire sprinklers save lives. We must ensure property owners and small businesses have the ability to protect their buildings and, more importantly, the people who use them."
The National Fire Protection Association issued a study in June 2007 that concluded that in buildings with sprinklers, the death rate per fire can be reduced by 57 percent and the property damage decreased by up to 68 percent. Every year there are more than 3,200 civilian deaths, approximately 100 firefighter line-of-duty deaths, and more 16,000 injuries because of inadequate fire prevention systems in buildings across the country.
Current building codes for newly constructed properties require sprinklers in many of the most vulnerable occupancies like student housing, high rise commercial buildings, entertainment complexes, and high rise residential facilities. However, there are thousands of structures that were built before sprinklers were required, putting those who occupy them at a higher and unnecessary risk. 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.
Langevin's bill includes automated fire sprinkler systems as section 179 property, allowing small and medium sized businesses to fully expense the cost of a sprinkler retrofit for structures as large as 50,000 square feet. High rise buildings will also see their depreciation schedule for installed sprinklers decreased to 15 years.