Members of the International Code Council (ICC) have voted overwhelmingly in favor of code proposal RB64, which requires residential fire sprinklers for all new one- and two-family homes and townhouses. This represents an unprecedented step forward in advancing home fire safety in the United States.
The vote, held Sept. 21, in Minneapolis, was supported by 73% of the voting members in attendance, easily overcoming a procedural requirement that mandated a super-majority of two-thirds approval. Fire service and building code officials united to approve the requirement and countered opposition.
The IRC Fire Sprinkler Coalition, an association of more than 100 fire service, building code official, and safety organizations representing 45 states, assumed a leadership position and secured unified support for this issue over the past 18 months.
“Our team worked hard to rally support throughout the United States for a residential fire sprinkler requirement, but our supporters deserve the recognition for showing up en masse in Minneapolis,” said Ronny J. Coleman, president of the IRC Fire Sprinkler Coalition. “They know from experience that sprinklers are the answer to the nation’s fire problem.”
Fire deaths in the United States realized a dramatic decline over the past three decades as smoke alarms became common – today, more than 95% of homes have them. Still, more than 3,000 people die each year from fire, and a home burns every 80 seconds. Residential sprinklers are the only fire protection technology that works to rapidly contain fire, effectively giving families more time to escape the deadly heat and poisonous gases of an unchecked fire. Therefore, the proposal’s passage has also pleased home safety advocates across the country.
“We work with families every day that are directly affected by the ravages of fire,” said Meri-K Appy, president of the Home Safety Council. “We are thrilled not only because this moment has taken decades of demanding work to achieve, but because it provides protection for potential victims of future fires.”
Kaaren Mann, a fire safety advocate and the mother of a fire victim stated in her testimony, “the cost to put sprinklers into the home where my daughter died would have been less than what I had to pay for the flowers at her funeral.”
The sprinkler mandate will first appear in the 2009 International Residential Code® (IRC), which will be published by the end of the year. Forty-six states use the IRC as the basis of regulating new home construction.
“The vote was a historic moment in residential fire safety – and is a significant step in a long journey before sprinklers are installed in every new home,” noted Ronny J. Coleman, president of the IRC Fire Sprinkler Coalition. “We’re now going to move forward at the state and local level to ensure new code requirement is adopted.”