My Association dealt with this issue several years ago. (We were told spinklers would pay for themselves in lower insurance costs - the insurance company told me they would say thank you, period.)
We had to get the Legislature to change the Fire Code to make us legal. And if you are not on city water - OMG the extra cost!! The way things were, we would have to have the enclosed staircases, fire doors etc the the big boy hotels had to have or if they recognized we were not a hotel then we must be a rooming house and were permitted 3, yes that is three, paid occupants.
Our Legislators in their infinite wisdom decided that a portable ladder in each room was not protecting the public so inns of 4 - 6 rooms must have either 2 interior staircases (main & maid's in the old mansions), OR sprinklers OR each room accessing the exterior (as in sleeping porches or balconies), OR must have a covered staircase to ground accessed by a door accessible to everyone on the second floor. Guestrooms on the third floor MUST have the outside staircase to ground (if owners or innkeeprs occupy the 3rd floor - no problem). 3 rooms or less that are owner or innkeeper occcupied are considered a residence.
Minnesota mandates a window of a certain size - no ladder required. When I e-mailed the Fire Marshall site asking about that, I was told, "We figure if it is jump or burn, people will jump. They may break a leg or twist an ankle but they will be alive."
An architect on the Fire Commission told me that sprinklers are to protect property, not lives. That the temps required to set off a sprinkler would have already roasted a person..
Wish I were in your state! Maybe you can lobby mine! As there is no local code here we are dealing with the state code. The building is T shaped, with a door on each end. Initially I thought by putting the front porch back on,and porch roofs over each door with a ladder of some sort would allow egress -the size of the window openings are plenty large to qualify, but they don't count egress onto a porch roof/deck as an exit--not even with a stair at ends.
The inn currently has two stairwells, but the front stair is not enclosed, and the rear stair is too narrow--it must be 36" and exit directly outdoors, not the kitchen. Ladders of any sort are a no go--must be metal stairs. Architect feels he can re-work the back stair to comply which is something the Marshall feels strongly about.
It does seem the code is a little extreme for smaller properties. The building is not a big boy hotel. I don't see myself lobbying to change the laws here but I sure would support it someone did! I would never want to jeopardize life or property, but please!
I feel that sprinklers are about property too-- but I would like to save it as well. Boy this stuff makes the head spin! Thanks so much for all your input!