South Carolina City Makes Push for Residential Sprinklers

BEAUFORT, S.C. -- Less than a month after the South Carolina Legislature voted to override Governor Mark Sanford's veto on a sprinkler systems bill the City of Beaufort is leading the way for people across the state to embrace higher standards for fire protection.

State Fire Marshall John Reich says they will be among the safest homes in America when they are complete. Two Habitat For Humanity-built homes in the City of Beaufort are now outfitted with fire sprinkler systems as part of a state-wide effort to get sprinkler systems installed in all homes and commercial buildings.

"It's to save lives and protect property, and protect our firefighters from the harms of fire," Reich said. "The residential sprinkler system will activate and contain fire to the room of origin and give people that valuable time to escape their occupancy and evacuate safely."

And the sprinkler systems have a proven track record.

"A smoke alarm and a sprinkler system gives you an 82 percent chance of better surviving a fire if one were to happen," Reich said. "And statistically, there has never been a multiple-fatality incident in a structure where a sprinkler system has been installed and is working properly."

The Beaufort Fire Department built a demonstration system to show people how the sprinkler systems work. Inside the sprinkler head is a small bulb programmed to break when temperatures reach a certain point; generally between 130 and 150 degrees. Once the bulb breaks, water starts flowing at a rate of about 20 gallons per minute.

After the South Carolina Legislature voted to override Governor Mark Sanford's veto on the sprinkler bill the systems became considerably more affordable. The bill provides for several tax incentives that take quite a bit of the cost burden off the buyer.

"But once the local authority adopts that standard you will get a 25 percent incentive for putting that sprinkler system in over the total cost of the property locally," Reich said. "And then you could go back onto the State of South Carolina and you get an additional 25 percent from your income tax refund. So, basically, you're getting 50 percentof the total cost of the fire protection system, your sprinkler system back."

Beaufort is working to become the first city in the state to approve the local tax incentives, and has already begun a push to have all new homes and buildings fitted with sprinklers.

Daniel Byrne of the Beaufort Fire Department says installing the systems just makes sense.

"I think they'll find that putting a sprinkler system in is the absolute best, cost-effective and best insurance policy they can put in their home," Byrne said.

Reich also says homes and buildings with sprinkler systems tend to sustain less damage in fires not only because they slow the spread of the fire, but also because they cause less water damage than firefighter hoses.

Republished with permission of WCSC-TV.