Until recently, there was no sound literature documenting why homeowners opt to purchase a home with fire sprinklers, their opinions on these devices, or how their opinions relate to policies supporting mandatory sprinkler requirements. Identifying this research gap, the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Injury Research and Policy initiated a study gauging public opinions of fire sprinklers in one- and two-family homes.
Noted in the study's report as a "preventable public health problem," home fire injuries and deaths are still a cause for alarm in America; more than 42,000 people have died in U.S. home fires between 2000 and 2014, according to NFPA. Understanding the life-saving successes fire sprinklers have had in other occupancies and current code requirements for home fire sprinklers, researchers surveyed more than 2,300 homeowners living in sprinklered and unsprinklered homes to understand how home fire sprinklers are perceived and the role these devices can play in future fire prevention strategies.
Of the homeowners surveyed:
- those who lived in a sprinklered home learned about this safety feature from a variety of sources, but fire service officials who had informed them were rated as most helpful
- more than half of homeowners living in a sprinklered home stated that sprinklers made them more likely to purchase their home; nearly 75 percent of these respondents would choose sprinklers again
- ten percent of respondents in sprinklered homes documented home fires where "fire sprinklers put out the fire completely" more than half of the time
- owners of sprinklered homes noted that the benefits of sprinklers far outweighed the costs; owners of unsprinklered homes had an opposing opinion
- while unsprinklered homeowners had more uncertainty about choosing a sprinkler-equipped home or willingness to pay for the safety feature, sprinklered homeowners more often indicated they would pay for sprinklers in a new home
- respondents in sprinklered homes were twice as likely as those in unsprinklered homes to support mandatory sprinkler requirements for one- and two-family homes
Analysis of these results from the study's researchers underscores focus areas when advocating for fire sprinklers. Since most respondents either supported or were uncertain about buying a sprinklered home, "this lack of strong opposition to [home fire sprinklers] presents an opportunity for educational and policy efforts to increase [home fire sprinklers] in new homes, and to affect more general social norms on the issue," states the report.
Furthermore, the results indicated a high proportion of people with disabilities living in sprinklered homes. To appeal to those "undecided" about sprinklers, the researchers suggest ramping up the fact that these devices can give this group ample time to escape a home fire.
Using the free resources from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) as a means to incorporate sprinklers into professional training and certification, particularly for real estate and insurance agents, was another suggestion. (Last year, HFSC conducted its own study highlighting the likelihood of homeowners purchasing sprinklered homes.)
Read the full report, "Public Opinion Concerning Residential Sprinkler Systems for One- and Two-Family Homes," and use the data and report's suggestions to bolster your sprinkler advocacy efforts.