The bill would require residential buildings over 40-feet high to install sprinklers by 2029.
“Tragically, many of the victims of fire fatalities are children,” said Councilman Barry Grodenchik of Queens. “Smoke detectors and even fire alarms are not enough. We need sprinkler systems to save lives.”
According to the Fire Department (FDNY), fire fatalities in New York City shot up to 88 in 2018 from 43 in 2017. So far this year, there have been 56. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Fire Investigation’s annual report shows there were 3,032 accidental fires and 1,001 fire injuries in 2018.
“I know firsthand the devastation that fires in tall buildings can cause,” said said Councilman Carlos Menchaca. “This April, a fire ripped through a building in my district in the neighborhood of Sunset Park. Many of my neighbors were displaced and had to enter shelters or leave New York City.
Fire safety must be understood as more than a safety issue, it’s a human rights issue,” he added. “From that lens, no cost is too high. We must do the right thing and install sprinkler technology wherever we can.”
And proponents say it’s not just about protecting residents.
“Fire sprinklers provide the technology to save countless lives, both civilians and firefighters,” said Vina Drennan, widow of FDNY Captain John Drennan who died in the line of duty in 1994. "Fire sprinklers buy time, and time buys life.”
In 2018, six people, including four children, died after a fast-moving fire ripped through a Manhattan apartment building. Seven adults and five children were also killed by a blaze in an apartment building in the Bronx last year.
According to a study conducted by the University of Nevada’s College of Urban Affairs, smoke detectors are not enough to save lives or prevent property damage.
“Studies have shown that properly installed and maintained fire sprinklers are effective at controlling a fire 96 percent of the time,” said Tony Saporito of the New York Fire Sprinkler Council. “By simply requiring that owners of older multi-family homes install and maintain the same fire sprinkler systems that keep office workers and residents of newer buildings safe today will save lives.”