Federal Fire Sprinkler Act Update: Legislation is Gaining Momentum

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff May 6, 2005

In Sept. 2004, CSE reported on the introduction of the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act in the U.S. Senate. Cosponsored by Senators John D. Rockefeller (D-WV) and Rick Santorum (R-PA), the legislation is beginning to pick up steam.

Both the House and Senate versions of the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act of 2005 have received bill numbers. The House Bill is HR.1311.1H, and the Senate Bill is S.512.1S. Both versions of the bill seek to accelerate the depreciation schedule of installing fire sprinklers in existing buildings.

There is also a bill from the House (HR 128.1H, the College Fire Prevention Act, that gives incentives to universities to install fire sprinklers.

Key industry suppliers and associations, such as the Society of Fire Protection Engineers and the National Fire Sprinkler Assn. are urging their members to write to their senators and representatives to advocate for passage of this legislation.

Passage of the act would provide a federal tax incentive by classifying the installation of automatic fire sprinklers in existing buildings as five-year property for purposes of tax depreciation. This would allow building owners to depreciate the cost of a sprinkler system over an accelerated schedule that would allow cost recovery in a much shorter time frame than offered by the current tax codes. In the current tax law, fire sprinklers are considered as 27.5 to 39 year property depending on the type of building.

The installation of fire sprinklers in a building significantly improves the chances of survival in a fire. Unfortunately, because there is a cost to install these systems in existing buildings and retrofitting sprinklers in existing buildings is not normally required by local codes, building owners may be reluctant to retrofit their facility with fire sprinklers,” said SFPE Engineering Program Manager Chris Jelenewicz. “The incentives that are provided in the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act will help motivate building owners to install fire sprinklers in existing buildings.”