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IAFC Supports Fire Sprinkler Retrofits in Existing High-Rises

In November 2010, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) – Fire and Life Safety Section passed a position statement titled “Fire Sprinkler Retrofit in Existing High-Rise Buildings.” IAFC’s position advocates for fire safety of condominium/apartment dwellers and business owners in high-rises, as well as responding firefighters.

In Illinois, the NFPA Life Safety Code 101 2000 Edition is in effect, which offers two choices for an existing high-rise: (1) fire sprinklers; and/or (2) an engineered life safety system.

However, Chicago has adopted a customized Life Safety Evaluation for residential occupancies, which unfortunately provides less points for fire sprinklers versus the national model codes.

Fire sprinklers are the obvious choice for three reasons: (1) life safety; (2) property protection; and (3) insurance premium reductions. Since virtually every existing high-rise already has an underground water supply, standpipe and/or fire pump system, only a cross main and branch lines would need to be installed on each floor. Therefore, the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board urges all high-rise occupant associations in the Chicago area to follow IAFC’s recommendation and research ways to implement fire sprinkler retrofits. In addition to the life-safety benefit of fire sprinklers in high-rises, the building owners will receive discounts on fire insurance for sprinklered common areas, as will the buildings’ occupants.

The United States Congress is working to help the effort by passing the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act, legislation that would create economic incentives for commercial-building owners who install automatic fire sprinklers. In the 2009-2010 Congress session, the legislation had been co-sponsored by Illinois Representatives Jesse Jackson, Jr. (2nd District), Luis Gutierrez (4th District), Peter Roskam (6th District), Janice Schakowsky (9th District), Timothy Johnson (15th District), Aaron Schock (18th District), John Shimkus (19th District), and Deborah Halvorson (former Representative of the 11th District).

For more information, please see FEMA’s America Burning Recommissioned or the James Lee Witt Associates findings following the deadly Cook County Administration Building fire of 2003.

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