Senators Carper, Collins Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Improve Fire Safety

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced bipartisan legislation today that would encourage commercial building owners to invest in life-saving fire safety upgrades. The Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act of 2015 strengthens tax incentives for owners of buildings to install fire sprinklers that can save thousands of lives and billions of dollars in property from fires each year.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that is certainly the case with unexpected, and often tragic, fires,” said Senator Carper. “Each year, we lose thousands of lives and billions of dollars of property when buildings catch fire. Unfortunately, upgrading or installing fire sprinklers that would reduce those numbers can be prohibitively expensive for building owners, especially small businesses. Senator Collins and I have introduced this bipartisan proposal to provide much-needed tax relief for businesses that invest in retrofits that help keep people safe and mitigate the costs of fire damage.”

“Fire sprinklers have proven to be very effective at preventing deaths caused by fires. Encouraging the installation of these sprinkler will help prevent deadly fires and save lives, property, and money.” said Senator Collins. “This bipartisan legislation will have a significant impact in the state of Maine, which has some of the oldest buildings in the country—buildings that generally may not be required to have fire sprinklers.  This legislation would help these building owners in Maine and across our country upgrade to this lifesaving sprinkler technology.”

While current building codes require fire sprinklers in new commercial buildings, tens of thousands of structures across our nation were built and put in service before these life-saving sprinklers were required, including structures like commercial office space, nursing homes, and college dormitories. Currently, there is no requirement for these older buildings to make this upgrade and building owners across our country find it difficult to fund the addition of retrofit sprinklers.

This legislation provides two strong incentives for building owners to install these critical fire sprinkler systems:

  1. 1. At present, commercial building owners must depreciate fire sprinkler retrofits over a lengthy 39-year period. The Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act reclassifies fire sprinkler retrofits as 15-year depreciable property, thus allowing businesses to receive the tax benefits more quickly.
  2. 2. The bill also provides an option to certain small businesses to qualify for an immediate tax benefit on fire system upgrades.??

Providing stronger incentives will be particularly helpful to small businesses. In addition to accelerated depreciation incentives, the bill also provides small businesses with an up-front tax write-off for fire sprinkler upgrades, instead of forcing them to wait years or decades under existing law to claim the tax benefit.

In 2014, there were 1,298,000 fires reported in the United States. These fires caused 3,275 civilian deaths, 15,775 civilian injuries, and $11.6 billion in property damage.