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bringing safety home award

 

Amid this COVID-19 pandemic, we are learning to adjust to the many changes in our daily lives and schedules as we work from home and perhaps in slightly different capacities. Yet even during these uncertain times, we know that continuing your efforts to enhance safety is extremely important to you.


That is why NFPA and the 
Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) are extending the deadline for nominations for the Bringing Safety Home Award. The award recognizes outstanding efforts by a safety advocate who diligently promotes the importance of home fire sprinklers.

 

We are now accepting applications through Friday, April 3.

 

The Award honors members of the fire service and other fire sprinkler advocates in North America who use HFSC educational materials, NFPA data, and NFPA Fire Sprinkler Initiative resources to educate decision-makers on home fire sprinklers. Efforts are aimed at educating the public and policymakers to increase the use of home fire sprinklers in new homes. The award winner will receive a $1,000 grant to further fire sprinkler advocacy and educational efforts in his/her area.

 

As we chart our course through these difficult times, let’s continue to work together to help honor our favorite home fire safety leaders. Download the application form then send it to firesprinklerinitiative@nfpa.org. Or visit the HFSC webpage where you can find the form along with additional resources and links to information about the award.

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

 

residential home fire sprinklers

In a recent interview the Washington DC CBS affiliate WUSA9, Loudoun County Fire Chief Keith Johnson nailed how Virginia residents can be safer from fire – install home fire sprinklers in new homes.

 

The story pointed out that Maryland and the District of Columbia both require all new homes to have home fire sprinklers, an effort that dramatically reduces the loss from fire. NFPA statistics say that if you have a reported fire in your home, the risk of dying decreases by about 80 percent when sprinklers are present.

 

According to the piece, Virginia removed the building code provision for home fire sprinklers that is included in model codes on which the Virginia one is based.

 

The reporter asked Chief Johnson if people were safer living in Maryland or D.C. and he is quoted as saying, “I would say they're safer in homes that have residential sprinkles, absolutely.” Further saying that it’s a scary thought to not have sprinklers in your home.

 

Recent statistics from Maryland help make the case. According to the Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal, there were 66 Marylanders who died due to fire, compared to 71 in 2018. There were 471 incidents where a smoke alarm alerted the occupants where there were five fatalities, and 27 injuries to civilians and 164 incidents where residential sprinklers activated resulting in no deaths or injuries.

 

While smoke alarms are an essential fire safety component, home fire sprinklers provide an added level. Chief Johnson made a great analogy to the reporter about the progression from seat belts to seat belts and airbags in cars. He said, “It's kind of like seat belts in cars, smoke alarms back in the 70s in homes. We want that same protection for residential sprinklers because we know we can save lives. Property loss goes down by an average of 71 percent in homes that have protection by automatic sprinklers.”

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

coronavirus

As the world grapples with the unprecedented health crisis known as COVID-19 or the coronavirus, NFPA, like many organizations, is monitoring the U.S. Centers for Disease Controland Prevention and other governmental sources for COVID-19 updates and adjusting business practices as recommended.

 

We know that the information available through NFPA is of paramount importance to safety in both ordinary times and extraordinary ones. NFPA is fully operational and providing our tools and resources to those who depend on them to continue to do their jobs safely and protect their communities. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve put out a number of communications related to the pandemic.  For your convenience, here’s an overview of them and some additional information in one single post.

 

Emergency Planning

In a blog earlier this month, our Emergency Services Specialist John Montes wrote a blog entitled, Organizational Planning Tips for Pandemic Preparedness. While many may not immediately think of NFPA as the first place to go for resources in a medical emergency, Montes points to NFPA 1600, Standard on Continuity, Emergency, and Crisis Management  which was recognized as the US National Preparedness Standard by the 9/11 Commission. Widely used by public, not-for-profit, nongovernmental, and private entities on a local, regional, national, and global basis, NFPA 1600 has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as a voluntary consensus standard for emergency preparedness. The standard is available on the NFPA website for free viewing, and offers key information for entities who want to conduct a risk assessment, business impact analysis, capabilities and needs assessments, and develop emergency and recovery plans.

 

He also references NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code which provides critical safety information and requirements for isolation spaces, emergency planning, IT and data infrastructure, and more. An additional resource is the NFPA Emergency Preparedness Checklist.

 

Responder Safety During Pandemics

When tragic events unfold, it is our first responders that are on the frontline, risking their own safety to help others. Staff Writer Angelo Verzoni speaks to a number of fire service professionals in the latest NFPA Journal Podcast. The timely podcast looks at the additional precautions that can be put in place to enhance the well-being of first responders.

 

Fire Doors and Life Safety

Kristin Bigda, the NFPA technical lead on building and life safety posted a blog - Don't Compromise Fire Safety While Responding to Coronavirus: Keep Fire Doors Operable after hearing that  facilities had begun propping fire doors open so that people didn’t have to touch handles for egress. While she recognizes the logic in terms of germ spread prevention, Bigda stresses that propping fire doors open presents significant hazards and risks in the event of a fire.  “It is imperative that we not forfeit institutional elements of safety while working to address others. In this case, we need to balance the risk of the coronavirus against other real hazards that have the potential to harm multiple people in a very short window of time,” the popular NFPA 101 blogger said.

 

NFPA codes and standards such as NFPA 1, Fire CodeNFPA 101, Life Safety Code, and NFPA 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, govern the installation, inspection, testing and maintenance of fire doors.  Fire doors and other opening protectives such as shutters and windows must be operable at all times. 

 

Trainings and Certifications

Amidst travel bans and cancellations of face-to-face gatherings, we understand that individuals are not able to participate in live training programs or conferences aimed at keeping them up to date on the latest learnings for their professions or meeting various certification requirements. NFPA offers a full array of online training and certification programs to help meet those needs.

 

During this time, we are all focused on responding appropriately and continuing our efforts to enhance safety. Thank you for the work you all do. For the latest from NFPA, please visit our website.

home fire sprinkler week

 

The vast majority of fire deaths in North America happen at home. It’s imperative we bring attention to this problem--and its solution.

 

From May 17 – 23, 2020, the NFPA Fire Sprinkler Initiative, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, and Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition-Canada will celebrate Home Fire Sprinkler Week and encourage other home fire sprinkler advocated to join in with local activities at any time during the week.

 

Participating in Home Fire Sprinkler Week will send a powerful message to your local decision makers, residents, and even the media that fire sprinklers in new homes should be embraced. Here are some great ways to help you get started:

 

  1. Join forces: If your state or province has a fire sprinkler coalition, check with them to see if you
    can support their efforts. To find the locations, visit the fire sprinkler coalition page on the Fire Sprinkler Initiative site.
  2. Pick a project: There are a number of great projects you can choose to take part in. Check out the list of potential activities.
  3. Make it public: Download and customize a proclamation for use by one of your community’s officials.

 

There's still plenty of time to plan an event or lend your support to an event in the works. Visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Week webpage for more information. 

In its latest resolution action, the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) National Advisory Council unanimously approved one in support of Home Fire Sprinklers. The resolution was offered by the American Fire Sprinkler Association, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (FLSS), National Association of State Fire Marshals, National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, National Fire Protection Association, National Fire Sprinkler Association, and National Volunteer Fire Council, and is officially named, A Resolution Encouraging Stronger Federal Support for Home Fire Sprinkler Education and Advocacy, Including within Fire Service Community Risk Reduction Efforts.

 

The resolution touted the consistent facts used by national advocates on why home fire sprinklers are a key to reducing today’s home fire problem. The stark reality is that home fires are deadlier today as a result of unprotected lightweight construction material, open floor plans, and abundant synthetic furnishings, which make homes burn faster, becoming deadly in two minutes or less. Over 90 percent of all civilian structure fire deaths are in homes, and home fires cause $6.7 billion in direct property damage each year. Residential structure fires accounted for nearly 70 percent of firefighter injuries (70 percent of firefighter deaths were operating at structure fires - nearly 60 percent at one- and two- family homes).

 

Leveraging this information, the resolution calls for more federal support and policies to counter the negativity and misinformation associated with home fire sprinklers used by opponents who have spent more than $500 million to thwart efforts to increase the number of new homes that include fire sprinklers, which would dramatically reduce loss from home fires. In particular, the resolution supports funding and policies aimed at: supporting fire service strategies to enhance community risk reduction with home fire sprinkler education and advocacy; raising public awareness of the dangers of home fires to both civilians and responders; underscoring the unique protective benefits of installed fire sprinklers for homes and entire communities; building awareness of the role of home fire sprinklers in further protecting responders from home-fire exposure hazards, such as cancer and other diseases; and supporting proven, outcome-driven strategies to educate about home fire sprinklers.

 

More information on sprinklers can be found at the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the NFPA Fire Sprinkler Initiative.

The Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association (MCOPA) urged release from committee and passage of

HB 2027 – An Act relative to enhanced fire protection in new one and two family dwellings citing its ability to save the lives of the public, firefighters, and police officers.

 

HB 2027 is a local option bill and would allow communities the ability to adopt home fire sprinklers for new one- and two-family homes. The Massachusetts Building Code does not include a provision for fire sprinklers in new one- and two-family homes.

 

It is our professional opinion that home fire sprinklers can change the outcome of future fires and protect not only the resident and firefighters but our members in Police Services.” Chief Jeff Farnsworth

 

The MCOPA Executive Board and the leadership of the MA Fire Sprinkler Coalition had recently met and MCOPA President Chief Jeff Farnsworth felt the coalition had done an excellent job of dispelling myths and educating the board of the life-saving benefits of sprinklers. Chief Farnsworth wrote to Senator Michael Moore and Representative Harold Naughton on behalf of members of the police service. He wrote, “Many times, our Police Officers arrive on the scene of active structure fire situations. Our members do not receive the advanced training that Firefighters receive but they are the indeed the first responders to many of these incidents. The responding Officers are forced into action based on the oath that they take to protect the public and place themselves in harm’s way to save lives.”

 

Chief Farnsworth offered a strong view of the bill and the value of sprinklers by adding, “It is our professional opinion that home fire sprinklers can change the outcome of future fires and protect not only the resident and firefighters but our members in Police Services.”

 

The bill has been filed numerous times in Massachusetts but has been stalled in committee. There are at least 18 states across the country that allow local adoption of sprinkler requirement. Both California and Maryland require all new homes to have sprinklers.

 

Action is pending before the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.

 

 

New Paltz, New York, a small town in the southeastern part of the state with about 14,000 people, took a giant step forward to better protect their community from fire last month by requiring fire sprinklers in all new residential construction.

 

Mayor Tim Rogers was quoted in the Daily Freeman as saying, “The belief is that if there are sprinklers in homes ... then people will have a better chance of surviving [fires].” He further stated, “It’s a pretty straightforward law, where any new [residential] construction, regardless of the size ... has to put the sprinklers in,” Rogers said. “The studies show that’s incredibly important for property and safety and saving lives. It makes common sense when you have a volunteer fire department, too.”

 

The community clearly understands the changing dynamics of fire today and the fact that new homes, often built with unprotected lightweight construction and filled with lots of synthetic materials burn hotter and faster than older homes. According to fire safety experts, you can have as little as two minutes to escape a home fire compared to eight to ten minutes ago in previous decades.

 

NFPA, as part of its Fire Sprinkler Initiative, has developed a number of resources to help communities successfully make the case for home fire sprinklers.

 

How did I get here?

When you read an average of a half-dozen home fire death stories every day for a month, it changes you. That’s not hyperbole; I did, and it changed me. At the conclusion of 2019,I wrote in my #101Wednesdays blog about the year and decade in review in terms of life safety from fire.While there were several significant advances, I pondered about whether enough was being done to reduce the number of civilian deaths in home fires. The number has hovered between about 2,500 and 3,000 for the last 20 years or so. This is a significant improvement over the number of deaths recorded in prior decades, largely attributable to the proliferation of smoke alarms; but it’s not getting any better. I had to ask myself, “Is this good enough?”

 

To help me understand the problem, I assigned myself a project. On January 1, I started scouring the internet for media reports of home fire deaths and tweeted the results each day with a running tally (you can see them in my Twitter feed at @NFPAGregH – see the hashtag #homefiredeaths). The U.S. Fire Administration’s website was a valuable resource; between their data and my findings, I was able to provide a daily summary of who was dying in home fires every day in the U.S. My goal was to educate myself and to raise awareness. I did so until this past Monday, January 27, when the task became too much; the numbers were so high that it was affecting my ability to perform the functions NFPA pays me to do and was cutting into my nights and weekends. Reading all the stories of loss and tragedy also had an emotional impact on me. I needed to be reminded of why I came to work for NFPA almost 24 years ago. Yes, overseeing the development process for codes like NFPA 101 is important work and ultimately leads to a safer built environment. But I believe there’s more that we – I – can do to make a real difference, and the home fire death problem is certainly an area in which there is room to make a difference.

 

While each story I read over the past month was tragic, there were several that stood out in my mind. This journey actually started a few days before the new year. On December 27th, a spectacular fire destroyed a Concord, MA mansion. This fire garnered tremendous media attention despite the fact that no one was killed or injured. On the same day, a father and his two young daughters died in a fire in their modest apartment in Hemet, CA; this fire was barely a blip on the media radar. The disparity in coverage was glaring.

 

On January 5th, two men died in a house fire in Fitchburg, MA. The fire was blamed on an overloaded power strip (or relocatable power tap in code parlance); coincidentally, the latest #FireCodefridays blog addresses electrical safety requirements in NFPA 1, Fire Code. This fire stood out to me because I grew up in the adjacent town and was a member of that town’s on-call fire department in the 80s and 90s. We ran mutual aid to Fitchburg quite often; that’s where I caught most of my “big fires.” Because of my personal experience, this fire hit close to home.

 

On January 8th, an elderly woman died in a fire in Ellabel, GA caused by a clogged dryer vent. This fire stuck out for several reasons: one was because the victim was elderly, as were several other victims I documented over the month. Another was because the fire was in a manufactured home (or “mobile home” as commonly referred to by the media). Manufactured home fires and elderly fire victims are apparently not uncommon. If you search my Twitter feed for #manufacturedhomefire and #olderadultfiredeath, you will find several occurrences. Another fire in a manufactured home in rural Kentucky killed a grandmother and three children the day before.

 

Another house fire in Kentucky left a mother and her six-year-old daughter dead on January 17th. This fire was noteworthy because it was reported that the home had no working smoke alarms; this is also not an uncommon occurrence (search my Twitter feed for #noworkingsmokealarms). It’s unimaginable to me that people still don’t have working smoke alarms. This will be a topic for a future post in this series.

 

On January 20th, a fire in a Bronx, NY high-rise apartment building killed an 85-year-old retired NYPD police officer. Although not reported, it is presumed that sprinklers were not installed in the apartment of fire origin. The combination of a high-rise building, residential occupancy, elderly residents, and lack of automatic sprinklers seems to be a “perfect storm” with regard to the potential for large numbers of fatalities. Disaster was averted in this fire thanks to the strong work by the FDNY.

 

The home fire death problem appears to stem from a combination of lack of protection (sprinklers and smoke alarms) and an apathetic public. Codes like NFPA 101 can prescribe minimum protection requirements, but we can’t regulate people’s attitudes towards fire; this is, I believe, the biggest hurdle to be cleared if we’re going to lower the numbers of fire deaths. In this series, I don’t expect to have a lot of answers; rather, I intend to ask questions to stimulate discussions to help hone in on the things we can change to have the biggest impact. I figure I’ve got about another 15 years left in this career. It won’t mean much in 2035 to have my name in a bunch of Life Safety Codes if 2,500 to 3,000 people are still dying each year in U.S. home fires as they have been for the last 20 years.

 

Thanks for reading, and as always, stay safe.

The views expressed in #101Wednesdays are my own and do not reflect the views of NFPA.

Did you know NFPA 101 is available to review online for free? Head over to www.nfpa.org/101 and click on “FREE ACCESS.”

Follow me on Twitter: @NFPAGregH 

 

NOTE: This blog first appeared as part of Mr. Harrington’s #101 Wednesdays blog series on NFPA Today on January 29, 2020.

The nonprofit Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) is now offering $500 stipends to 50 qualifying fire departments looking to increase home fire sprinkler education in their communities.

 

The stipend will help pay for materials needed to build displays or demonstration units, or produce educational banners, posters, or other educational materials, to be distributed at events during Home Fire Sprinkler Week, May 17-23, 2020. Requirements to receive the stipend include such actions as:

 

  • Ensuring the event contains home fire sprinkler educational outreach
  • Endeavoring to extend the educational benefits beyond the actual event (such as through local media or social media)
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of the events
  • Reporting event summary and evaluation findings to HFSC

 

Looking for additional information to help with your event? HFSC provides free guidance and resources via its Fire and Sprinkler Burn Demonstration Kit.

 

Join other fire departments who have committed to making home fire sprinklers a focus of their community outreach. Complete the application today. The deadline to apply is March 6.

 

NFPA is now accepting nominations for the 2020 James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal, which recognizes outstanding advocacy efforts aimed at reducing losses associated with fire, electrical, or other hazards.

The advocacy medal honors an individual or group that shares the values of former NFPA President James Shannon. During his 12-year tenure as president, Shannon had an exceptional record of advocacy efforts tied to life safety issues. Under his leadership, NFPA considerably advanced its mission of fire safety, most notably by spearheading the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes and advocating for fire sprinklers in all new homes.

Nominees should be involved in advocacy efforts that advance NFPA’s mission, take into account cost-effectiveness, and involve collaboration with NFPA and other organizations. Previous medal recipients include Jon Nisja who played a key role in changing model codes and strengthening Minnesota’s fire code. NFPA recognized Jim Dalton in 2018 for his efforts supporting a career-long commitment to fire safety which led to the passage of the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act. Legislator Ann Jones received the medal in 2017 following her efforts leading to a nationwide requirement for home fire sprinklers in Wales.

Nominations are open to members of the fire service or any other person or group whose advocacy efforts meet the award’s criteria. The medal recipient will be honored at NFPA’s Conference & Expo in Orlando, Florida, in June 2020. NFPA will cover the recipient’s travel and lodging.

The nominee application, which is available for download, is has been extended to February 5, 2020 and can be sent to publicaffairs@nfpa.org

 

Photo: John Nisja (center) accepts the 2019 James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal from NFPA's Lorraine Carli (left), Vice President of Outreach and Advocacy, and Jim Pauley (right) President and CEO.

Sprinklers

Almost every day in the news, we read about (another) house fire. Families, first responders, communities severely affected. Homes damaged or completely destroyed. Last year, unfortunately, was no different.

In particular, the last few months of 2019 were difficult for the fire department in Worcester, Massachusetts, a city not far from NFPA headquarters. In November, a Worcester firefighter, Lt. Jason Menard, died battling a home fire. Menard’s death occurred just weeks before events to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. fire, a devastating event that killed six of the city’s firefighters. In the wake of this tragedy, news outlets, including The Boston Globe and The Worcester Telegram, and others close to the event, have urgently called for more sprinklers in residences.

As home fire sprinkler adoption continues to be debated in many states, there remains much misinformation about the effectiveness and benefits of home fire sprinklers. But NFPA and like-minded organizations see, first hand, the benefits of sprinklers. In the January/February 2020 edition of NFPA Journal, NFPA President and CEO, Jim Pauley, takes a hard look at the realities of these devastating home fires, and explains why home fire sprinklers must be at the forefront of our fire and life safety discussions.

In a letter to the editor published today on Capegazette.com, Delaware Fire Sprinkler Coalition chairman, Paul Eichler, addressed the conversation about home fire sprinklers that is taking place in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. On behalf of the Delaware Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Delaware Volunteer Firefighters' Association (DVFA) Fire Sprinkler Committee, Paul Eichler voiced support for the commissioners' review of the residential building codes. He also strongly encouraged that the commissioners leave the home fire sprinkler requirements intact.

 

“The requirement was part of the 2012 code adopted by the city,” read an earlier editorial, “but commissioners opted to exempt that requirement from the code at that time.”

 

Fire and life safety were among the many benefits of requiring sprinklers that Paul outlined in his letter. Here are some of the key points he shared:

 

-Residential fire sprinklers will protect many people and significantly reduce property damages. Certainly, the homeowners, any tenants, their pets, and their possessions will be protected by the 24-hour coverage. When a property is protected by a fire sprinkler system, fires are kept to the room of origin 97 percent of the time, and sprinklers use 90 percent less water than what is flowed by a firefighter’s hose. 

 

-First responders are protected due to responding to less severe conditions. Neighbors are protected since an interior fire will be held in check and not extend to neighboring properties.

 

-Insurance claims will be considerably lower, as well as the aspect that the affected occupants will most likely be able to stay in the same occupancy after the fire instead of being displaced for months.

 

The article also briefly mentions concerns raised about cost. According to a report by The Fire Protection Research Foundation the cost is, on average, $1.35 per sprinklered square foot - an amount that is similar to what people pay for carpet upgrades, whirlpool baths, or granite countertops. 

 

You can read Paul Eichler’s full letter here and learn more about the Delaware Fire Sprinkler Coalition by visiting its website

The November issue of the Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter is now available. There are stories on:

 

  • the home fire sprinkler test performed by This Old House's Richard Trethewey
  • the New Hampshire summit that brought together fire safety stakeholders from New Hampshire and Vermont
  • tips on staying fire-safe this winter as well as resources you can use to educate your community on home heating safety

Not getting this monthly newsletter in your inbox? We can fix that. E-mail our Fire Sprinkler Initiative team and tell us you'd like to start receiving this publication. 

The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors is accepting applications for its 2020 Phoenix Fellowship program. These 11-month service-learning positions give early-career professionals the opportunity to gain professional experience as well as build a larger understanding of the Society's organizational functioning and partnerships. 

 

Phoenix Society Fellows for 2019 Year

The Phoenix Society Fellows for the 2019 Year

 

There are eight Phoenix Fellowship positions available in the following focus areas:

Advocacy, Community Events Planning, Marketing and Communications, Peer Support Programming, Philanthropy, Virtual Support and Education, Young Adult and Supportive Programming, Youth Supportive Programming

 

The Phoenix Society says its dream candidates are mission-focused, collaborative, and always looking for ways to grow. If that's you - or someone you know - you can learn more about the program and how to apply here. Applications are open through December 20, 2019 and the fellowships will begin in January 2020.

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