Study: Older U.S. Hotels Lack Fire Sprinklers

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Despite a national push to require fire sprinkler systems in new hotels and motels, a study by the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) found that many older hotels can legally avoid installing sprinklers.

A 1980 fire at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, which killed 87 people, led to a national push to require sprinkler systems in new hotels and motels, resulting in a significant decrease in fire deaths.

Nationwide, most hotels that have been built or remodeled within the last 10 years are required by local ordinances and building codes to install sprinkler systems, the Associated Press reports. However, many older hotels and motels were grandfathered under fire safety laws, and have avoided the cost of installing sprinklers.

An estimated 3,900 hotel and motel fires are reported to U.S. fire departments each year, resulting in an average of 15 deaths, 150 injures and $76 million in property loss. Nearly 60 percent of hotels and motels reporting fires for 2005-2007 lacked sprinkler systems, according to an USFA report.

In its research, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) found that from 2002 to 2005, each fire-related death was in a hotel or motel that did not have a sprinkler system.

The research comes after four college students died from a Jan. 19 fire at Days Inn Hotel in Hoover, Ala. The fire began when a maintenance worker left his room after burning incense in a makeshift Hindu shrine. The structure, which was built in 1964, did not have sprinkler system.

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