When Tara Mohr and her husband bought a rowhouse in Northern Liberties in 2014, they were merely looking for more space. But the property came with a potentially life-saving bonus: a home fire sprinkler system.  

Their residence is one of nearly 5,000 sprinklered one- and two-family dwellings in the city. Officials at the Fire Department and Licenses & Inspections hope that number grows as the public becomes more aware of the benefits of having a home sprinkler system. 

“Sprinklers keep small fires from becoming big fires,” said Deputy Chief Charles Le Pre, who heads the Fire Code Unit. 

Home Fire Sprinkler Day — observed on Saturday, May 19 — is a chance to remind homeowners that fire sprinklers aren’t just for hotels and high-rises. According to the National Fire Protection Association, a home fire sprinkler system:

  • Reduces by 80 percent the risk of dying in a house
  • Reduces fire damage by about 70 percent
  • Costs $1.35 per sprinklered square foot for new construction — or about the same as a carpet upgrade 
  • Can be camouflaged with decorative covers
  • Won’t be activated by things like burned toast or cigar smoke

Sprinklers are required in newly built rowhouses in Philadelphia. They are especially important in lightweight construction homes, which burn faster than older houses made of bricks, concrete or plaster. Sprinklers are not required in new detached or semi-detached (“twin”) single-family homes.

Three years after buying her home, Mohr became Chief of Staff at the Philadelphia Fire Department. She knows all too well that PFD members respond to about seven building fires per day — and very few are mitigated by sprinklers.

“With a sprinkler system and smoke alarms, I feel like I’m doing everything I can to protect my family,” Mohr said. “Fire is everyone’s fight.”

A side-by-side burn demonstration at the University of Pennsylvania shows how sprinklers can save lives.