STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS
By Mr. SANTORUM (for himself, Mr. ROCKEFELLER, and Mr. REED):
S. 512. A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to classify automatic fire sprinkler systems as 5-year property for purposes of depreciation; to the Committee on Finance.
Mr. SANTORUM. I rise today to introduce with Senator ROCKEFELLER the bipartisan Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act of 2005. Passage of this Act would serve greatly to help reduce the tremendous annual economic and human losses that fire in the United States inflicts on the national economy and quality of life.
In the United States, fire departments responded to approximately 1.7 million fires in 2002. Annually, over 500,000 of these are structural fires causing approximately 3,400 deaths, around 100 of which are firefighters. Fire also caused some 18.5 million civilian injuries and $10.3 billion in direct property loss. The indirect cost of fire in the United States annually exceeds $80 billion. These losses are staggering. All of this translates to the fact that fire departments respond to a fire every 18 seconds. Every 60 seconds a fire breaks out in a structure, and in a residential structure every 80 seconds.
There are literally thousands of high-rise buildings built under older codes that lack adequate fire protection. Billions of dollars were spent to make these and other buildings handicapped accessible, but people with disabilities now occupying these buildings are not adequately protected from fire. At recent code hearings, representatives of the health care industry testified that there are approximately 4,200 nursing homes that need to be retrofitted with fire sprinklers. They further testified that the billion dollar cost of protecting these buildings with fire sprinklers would have to be raised through corresponding increases in Medicare and Medicaid. In addition to the alarming number of nursing homes lacking fire sprinkler protection, there are literally thousands of assisted living facilities housing older Americans and people with disabilities that lack fire sprinkler protection.
The solution resides in automatic sprinkler systems that are usually triggered within 4 minutes of ignition when the temperature rises above 120 degrees. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has no record of a fire killing more than two people in a public assembly, educational, institutional, or residential building that has fully operational sprinklers. Furthermore, sprinklers are responsible for dramatically reducing property loss, from as low as 42 percent to as high as 70 percent depending on the structure.
Building owners do not argue with fire authorities over the logic of protecting their building with fire sprinklers. The issue is cost. This bill would drastically reduce the staggering annual economic toll of fire in America and thereby dramatically improve the quality of live for everyone involved. This legislation provides a tax incentive for businesses to install sprinklers through the use of a 5-year depreciation period, opposed to the current 27.5 or 39-year period for installations in residential rental and non-residential real property respectively. While only a start, the bill will help eliminate the massive losses seen in nursing homes, nightclubs, office buildings, apartment buildings, manufacturing facilities, and other for-profit entities.
This bill enjoys support from a variety of organizations. They include: the American Insurance Association, the American Fire Sprinkler Association, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Campus Firewatch, Congressional Fire Services Institute, Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, International Association of Arson Investigators, International Association of Fire Chiefs, International Fire Service Training Association, National Fire Protection Association, National Fire Sprinkler Association, National Volunteer Fire Council, the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, and the Mechanical Contractors Asociation of America.
The Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act of 2005 provides long-needed safety incentives for building owners that will help fire departments across the country save lives. I ask my colleagues for their support of this important piece of legislation.