What Is NFSA & Why Should I Join?
The National Fire Sprinkler Association serves as the voice of the fire sprinkler industry—and so much more
Tax incentives that encourage building owners to install fire sprinklers. The first model codes and laws that require fire sprinklers in new homes, where roughly 80% of civilian fire deaths occur. Code changes and laws that mandate sprinkler retrofits in properties considered high-risk for suffering deadly fires, like nightclubs and high-rise commercial buildings.
Every one of these accomplishments makes the world a safer place. And the unflagging advocacy of the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) helped make them a reality.
Since 1905, NFSA has been the voice of the fire sprinkler industry. We work closely with lawmakers at all levels of government to foster greater use of this life-saving technology. We sit on the committees that develop the model codes and standards that impact fire sprinkler installations; inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) of systems; and overall fire safety.
We also provide our members with the resources they need to help sprinkler businesses grow and prosper, including discounted training, technical advice, legal services, business referrals, and more. And we support authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) as they work to interpret complicated codes and reduce fire risks in their communities.
Learn more about the mission of the National Fire Sprinkler Association—and the many benefits of joining our ranks:
A brief history of NFSA: the fire sprinkler industry gets its voice
In November of 1905, three specialty contractors joined forces in St. Louis, MO, to form the National Automatic Sprinkler Contractors Association. Their timing couldn’t have been better. It had been less than 30 years since Henry Parmalee patented the first practical automatic sprinkler—and nine years since the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) published its first fire sprinkler installation standard.
Insurance companies were embracing the benefits of fire sprinklers in factories and warehouses. And the first labor union for sprinkler installers had emerged in St. Louis—establishing the identity of a fire sprinkler industry separate and distinct from other pipe and mechanical trades.
Since then, we went through several evolutions until emerging as the National Fire Sprinkler Association of today. We honed our focus over the years, encouraging groups that fell outside the original scope—like open shop contractors and businesses focused on non-water fixed suppression systems—to form their own advocacy organizations.
But through it all, NFSA never wavered from its original goals: continuously seeking to improve fire protection methods, enhance life safety, and promote the automatic sprinkler industry.
Today, NFSA is an inclusive organization that represents all elements of the fire sprinkler industry, supporting those who manufacture, design, supply, install, inspect, and service water-based fire sprinklers. We employ diverse teams of fire officials, engineers, attorneys, and tradespeople that bring deep expertise and fresh perspectives to the table.
From our Maryland headquarters, we maintain a strong presence on the national stage, making media appearances, fighting for laws like the new tax incentives for sprinklers, and operating services that support our members.
Our regional operations cover the nation, resolving industry problems at the state and local levels while promoting sprinkler-friendly code adoptions and speaking on behalf of NFSA chapters. Regional leaders also organize powerful side-by-side burn demonstrations that drive home the effectiveness of fire sprinklers. They let people witness controlled fires in a room with sprinklers—next to a room without them.
NFSA’s efforts were crucial for expanding fire sprinklers beyond their primary application of factories and warehouses into hotels, schools, nursing homes, and other occupancies. We are a leader in fire sprinkler technology and training. We launched the International Fire Sprinklers Association (IFSA) as a separate organization to promote the use of fire sprinklers worldwide.
And as the longest-serving fire sprinkler trade association in existence, we maintain strong relationships with other advocacy organizations like Common Voices and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, regularly teaming together to advance our shared goals.
NFSA advocates at all government levels to advance the fire sprinkler concept
Advocating for the fire sprinkler industry at the federal, state, and local levels comprises the core of NFSA’s mission. And we have enjoyed countless success stories.
As COVID-19 tightened its grip on the nation, NFSA reacted swiftly to ensure that states included fire sprinkler contractors on lists of essential workers. Our advocacy also helped clear up confusion over complex state requirements during pandemic shutdowns and made sure sprinkler suppliers and manufacturers could continue to ship products across state lines. As restrictions have eased, we monitor the situation closely, ready to offer any support sprinkler contractors need to get back to work safely.
NFSA was also instrumental in ensuring that tax incentives for installing or upgrading fire sprinklers offered by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act extended to all commercial buildings. We teamed with other prominent advocacy groups to correct a bonus depreciation loophole accidentally drafted into the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
The technical error only allowed small businesses to benefit from the unprecedented tax savings associated with fire sprinklers. The correction enables larger organizations that need more expensive installations to obtain valuable tax benefits that pay for a sprinkler system on a vastly accelerated timeline.
The TCJA tax break capped off 14 years of lobbying by NFSA and other advocacy groups for legislation to incentivize the installation of fire protection systems. To learn how you and your clients may benefit from the new CARES Act tax incentive or the original TCJA tax savings, visit our website or read our previous blog, “The CARES Act Delivers New Fire Sprinkler Tax Incentives.”
NFSA continues lobbying to get other active bills passed that would improve fire safety and advance the sprinkler industry. Topping that list is the High-Rise Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act, which would make all types of high-rise buildings—including residential—eligible for the accelerated depreciation tax benefit. We support the Public Housing Fire Safety Act as well, which would provide $25 million per year for 10 years to retrofit public housing overseen by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
NFSA has also worked diligently to convince state governments to adopt model code requirements for residential fire sprinklers in new construction, with major successes in California, Maryland, and Washington, DC. These wins came in the face of opposition from some housing and industry groups who insist that sprinkler installation is too costly.
In reality, besides the proven life-saving benefits residential fire sprinklers offer, trade-up incentives for installing them can lower construction costs and potentially make sprinklers cost-neutral. Residential sprinklers also increase homes’ resale value and provide overall average insurance premium savings of roughly 7%, helping to mitigate the expense of installation.
Free NFSA guides teach stakeholders how to make their communities safer by advocating for and implementing fire sprinkler programs in their areas. These resources include the “Residential Fire Sprinklers: A Step-by-Step Approach for Communities” and the “Fire Sprinkler Retrofit Guide.”
NFSA helps shape the codes and standards that increase fire safety
Driving changes to model codes and standards that increase safety while advancing the sprinkler concept is another critical service. NFSA is internationally known and widely recognized as the preeminent spokesperson on technical issues for the sprinkler industry.
With representation on more than 50 NFPA technical committees, NFSA is one of the largest contributors to the entire NFPA consensus codes and standards-making process. NFSA representatives also sit on International Code Council (ICC), International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and American Water Works Association (AWWA) technical committees.
A key focus of NFSA efforts has been adding sprinkler requirements for various occupancies in model building and fire codes. Before the 1970s, fire sprinkler systems were almost exclusively installed in commercial and industrial buildings, with some high-risk occupancies like high-rises typically lacking sprinkler coverage.
Model codes also did not require sprinkler installations in residential occupancies, where most fire deaths occur. In fact, no residential installation standard existed until the release of NFPA 13D: Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes in 1975.
Thanks to the influence of NFSA and other fire protection thought leaders, fire sprinkler mandates have significantly changed.
By 2011, all U.S. model codes regulating residential building construction required fire sprinklers in newly constructed homes. NFPA codes called for sprinklers in new homes in 2006, and the International Residential Code (IRC) followed suit in 2009, with a 2011 trigger.
Stringent sprinkler requirements also now exist in high-rise buildings—a source of many fatal fires due to their unique firefighting challenges. By the mid-70s, model codes offered incentives for adding sprinkler systems to new high-rise construction. A decade later, sprinkler installations were required in new high-rises.
The 2018 editions of NFPA 1: Fire Code and NFPA 101: Life Safety Code expanded sprinkler retrofits of high-rise buildings within a 12-year period, as well. And the 2021 edition of the International Fire Code (IFC) is expected to move high-rise retrofit requirements into its main body instead of the appendix, which government jurisdictions adopt separately.
NFSA representatives also influenced sweeping changes to codes governing A-2 assembly occupancies after a tragic fire claimed 100 lives at the unsprinklered Station nightclub in Rhode Island in 2003. Within months, NFPA had issued tentative interim amendments (TIA) to NFPA 1, NFPA 101, and NFPA 5000: Building Construction and Safety Code that required property owners to install fire sprinklers in new nightclubs and similar assembly occupancies, regardless of occupant load. The TIAs also mandated sprinklers in existing facilities that accommodate more than 100.
The 2006 editions of the three codes incorporated the TIAs into their main bodies of text. The 2018 edition of the International Fire Code followed suit, demanding retrofits of existing bars, nightclubs, and restaurants with automatic sprinklers if the fire area where alcohol is consumed holds 300 or more occupants.
Such changes to model codes exponentially increase fire safety in the U.S., as well as the fire sprinkler market. As more states and municipalities adopt updated codes as law, sprinkler system installations multiply—and deaths, injuries, and property damage decrease.
Current model codes also include many design trade-offs that entice building owners to install sprinkler systems voluntarily. NFSA has played a vital role in advocating for and expanding these common-sense measures.
NFSA members enjoy a wide variety of benefits
Of course, high-level benefits like the passage of new laws and changes to codes and standards aren’t the only advantages NFSA passes on to members. Let’s dig deeper into the more immediate and direct benefits of joining us:
- Participation in NFSA boards, councils, and executive committees. NFSA’s inclusive nature gives members from all parts of the industry a voice while allowing them to work with the president of NFSA to create goals and a national agenda.
- Exceptional NFSA training at a discounted price. We offer a variety of in-person and online training, as well as a combination of the two that allows members to create customized courses to fit their needs. Members receive free monthly online training (Technical Tuesdays) and up to 50% off the listed price for NFSA courses. They can also request custom training in their regions.
- NFSA’s Expert of the Day (EOD) program. Our EOD is on-call to answer any questions members may have regarding codes, standards, and technical issues within two business days. These answers often help resolve project hang-ups, driving direct monetary value to the contractor.
- Labor and legal support. This department supports the fire sprinkler industry by performing contract negotiations and assisting with contract administration and grievance issues. It also provides representation on various pension, health and welfare, and employee benefits trust boards. Additionally, the department supports NFSA staff and serves as general counsel for the association.
- Access to field staff. NFSA maintains a nationwide team so it can easily advocate for members around the country. This enables members to reach out to their regional manager for support on projects specific to their state or municipality.
- A place in NFSA’s member database and work leads. All members will be entered into our database. NFSA also sends members leads for fire sprinkler work obtained through our Fire Sprinklers Buy Life website.
- Access to NFSA’s contract referral program and multiple chapters. We will connect members with similar-sized contractors in different areas (to avoid direct competition), enabling them to share experiences and learn new ways to overcome issues. Members can also participate in NFSA chapter meetings throughout the United States.
- Marketing. Members can co-brand our marketing materials and submit articles to our publications, like the NFSA blog and the National Fire Sprinkler Magazine.
- Stay up-to-date on changes that impact the sprinkler industry. Members receive access to the National Fire Sprinkler Magazine and Technotes. The National Fire Sprinkler Magazine is a bi-monthly publication that includes technical articles, contractor advice, and regional and national news. Technotes is a newsletter that keeps members abreast of changes and proposed revisions to fire sprinkler codes and standards while highlighting advances in fire protection technology. Members receive new publications and access to a digital archive of previous issues, as well as an article search.
- In addition, NFSA is committed to keeping our members informed about developments related to COVID-19 that could impact their companies. Our website consolidates resources that can help sprinkler businesses weather the crisis, including valuable information about loans and state-by-state executive orders.
Join NFSA to enjoy the benefits of membership—and know your voice is heard
By joining NFSA, you add your voice to critical efforts that advance acceptance of the most effective system for protecting people and property from fire. And you gain access to the support you need to build a profitable business and career in the fire sprinkler industry.
For over a century, the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) has served as the voice of the fire sprinkler industry. Our mission: advocating to protect lives and property through the widespread acceptance of the fire sprinkler concept. To join NFSA or learn more about the ways membership can benefit your organization, visit nfsa.org/join.