Jack Swanson proudly displays his " Fire Sprinklers Save Lives" sticker inside his company office in Casper, Wyoming. But the insurance agent with Mountain West Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company wasn't always a full-time sprinkler supporter. In fact, when his client Justin Smith, chair of the Wyoming Fire Sprinkler Coalition, initially asked him to join the group that's focused on home fire sprinkler education, he begrudgingly agreed to attend the first meeting.
"When he first asked me to come, I told him I was pretty busy," Swanson says with a laugh. "But I went and since then I’ve gotten on board with the entire thing. I truly believe in it. Sometimes you surprise yourself when you get so involved in something you didn't expect." Swanson's colleaugue, Gene Kessner, the company's district claims manager, has also joined the coalition.
Swanson's involvement with the coalition became an enlightening experience. Watching a live burn/sprinkler demonstration and discovering the facts about sprinklers, he gradually understood the incredible role these devices play in safeguarding property. "After attending the coalition meetings, I made a few phone calls and sent a couple emails," Swanson tells NFPA. "There was another insurance company giving a [home fire] sprinkler discount ... and I thought that completely made sense."
Swanson admits that his company had given thought to insurance discounts for homes with sprinklers, but his powers of persuasion convinced his company to officially offer a five-to-10-percent premium discount, which took effect last year.
Calling sprinklers a crucial safety feature, Swanson also notes that the devices take into account an insurance company's bottom line. "A fire could end up being a complete loss on an entire structure--all of the contents, everything. With sprinklers, you might have some water damage instead of a half-million dollars in damage or more. The bottom-line dollar savings [sprinklers] can provide is the main way the insurance company looks at this issue."
Since more and more homeowners are preferring sprinklered homes, per a recent study conducted on behalf of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, Swanson foresees insurance companies addressing this trend. "Here’s the thing with insurance companies--everyone wants to be on the cutting edge, but we’re always looking at other companies' policies, and other companies are always looking at ours. There’s no patents on coverage. If someone has a good idea, other companies will follow suit. In that regard, I’d suspect somewhere down the road, I’d say this will be a common discount on most policies."