According to a recentNFPA report, in 2017 there were 10,600 civilian burn injuries; the major cause of which is cooking. In 2015, almost half of all burn injuries were caused by the cooking equipment.
Activities and information available during Burn Awareness Week are designed to increase awareness, provide safety education, and encourage injury prevention practices to help reduce the number of injuries.
Phoenix Society Executive Director and NFPA Board Member Amy Acton discuss the importance of Burn Awareness Week on WABC 13. Click here to view video.
NFPA is proud to support Burn Awareness Week by providing statistics, various safety tips and information about burn and fire prevention.
One of the important aspects of life safety protection is the presence of home fire sprinklers. Properly installed and maintained fire sprinklers can decrease the number of burn injuries. Key facts to support the benefits of sprinklers include:
the civilian death rate is81 percent lowerin homes with fire sprinklers than in homes without them
the average firefighter injury rate is nearly80 percent lower when fire sprinklers were present during fires
when sprinklers were present, fires were kept to the room of origin97 percent of the time
the home fire death rate is90 percent lowerwhen fire sprinklers and hardwired smoke alarms are present.
By a unanimous vote the New Jersey Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee moved to the full Assembly this month the New Fire Safety Act (billA3974) which would require home fire sprinklers be installed in new single and two-family homes during their construction.
According to the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety, there were 31,944 fires reported in 2016, with 18,623 of those involving structures. More than 70 percent of the structure fires occurred in residential homes of which 66 percent were two family dwellings.
(A video produced by the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NJFSAB) showcases the quick intensity of today's home fires and rapid response of home fire sprinklers.)
Committee members testifying spoke to the aim to reduce loss of life to citizens as well as firefighters. “This bill has the potential to save residents and help our firefighters who put their lives on the line each time they go into a fire,” said Assemblyman Joe Danielsen (Middlesex, Somerset). “That alone makes this a crucial legislative effort.”
One of the arguments being used by Worcester County Commissioners in Maryland to try and opt out of the statewide requirement for home fire sprinklers in new homes is that sprinklers thwart building, a notion that has been proven erroneous in other areas. According toan article in The Dispatch, county commissioners voted to draft a document allowing single family homes to opt out of requirement which has been on the books since 2015. Quoted in The Dispatch article, Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said, “I believe that this is hindering building in the county.”
This is an example of unsupported reasoning being used to allow substandard homes to be built and deny new homeowners the protection home fire sprinklers afford. Aresearch reportdone several years ago concluded that the presence of sprinkler ordinances had no negative impact on the number of homes being built. The study compared residential construction in the Washington D.C. suburban counties of Anne Arundel and Prince George’s, Maryland and Montgomery, Maryland and Fairfax, Virginia. Prince George’s County and Montgomery County have sprinkler requirements; Fairfax County and Anne Arundel County did not at the time. The counties were selected for comparison based on their demographic matches to each other.A similar study was done in Californiamore recently and concluded there was no indication the presence of sprinkler requirements negatively impacted housing starts.
Fire Marshal Jeff McMahon was also quoted in the article letting the commissioners know that there had been about 3,000 structure fires in the county in the past five years and the average response time is 17 minutes. This too is valuable information to support the importance of sprinklers. With a response time of 17 minutes, you need all the help you can get in keeping fires small or even extinguishing them before the fire department arrives and significantly reducing loss from fire.
Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB), laid down a new year’s challenge he calls “Ban the Ban” to others concerned about reducing home fire loss. In arecent articlein the organization’s newsletter he pointed out that while a number of jurisdictions had success in passing sprinkler requirements, others were held back by anti-sprinkler efforts. Lia spurred advocates to press on. He wrote, “How can we allow a ban on improving public safety?” Further saying, “We can’t afford to sit back and watch sprinkler codes blocked … Let’s unite behind this challenge.” The overarching theme for ban the ban is to work together to change the map pictured here to reflect stronger public safety.
NFPA has received word from the Fire Protection Association (FPA) Australia that fire sprinklers will be required in new apartment buildings over three stories in height. The association calls the new requirement "the most significant shift in fire safety policy since the introduction of mandatory smoke alarms in homes and shared accommodation more than 10 years ago."
The catalyst for this nationwide requirement was a 2012 Australian fire in an unsprinklered apartment building that killed a woman and seriously injured another. A subsequent inquest concluded that both would have likely survived the fire if the building had fire sprinklers, according to an email from the association. A six-year collaboration with the association and other partners led to the new requirement.
“Automatic sprinklers are one of the most effective life protection measures in a fire. This change to our national building rules will dramatically improve the safety of residents living in the 700-plus new medium-rise buildings of this type built each year,” FPA Australia CEO Scott Williams stated in an email. “This is truly a major milestone for all of those involved in this wonderful collaboration, but mostly importantly the community will see the risk of fire in these types of building reduced significantly.”
Congratulations to all Australian advocates who championed for this requirement.
It's an unfortunate fact that the media doesn't typically crave success stories. Reporters are more inclined to cover stories on destruction, accidents, or system failures and less likely to underscore when something went right. Think about the number of recent stories on catastrophic home fires you may have seen or watched, and compare them to the stories (if any) of people saved by the proper activation of a smoke alarm or fire sprinkler. There's sadly some truth behind the journalistic maxim: "If it bleeds, it reads."
Granted, those stories involving the unfortunate impact of home fires should be highlighted as a means to underscore a problem that isn't going away. However, the solution should also be promoted whenever possible. Simply telling a news outlet that a sprinkler activated may or may not get a reporter's attention. Backing an activation with what-could-have-been scenarios and solid facts may bolster your chances of getting something published or on air.
Here's one example of a "sprinkler save" pitch that works. The story starts with the headline "Redmond's mandatory residential sprinklers saves home thousands in fire damages." Todd Short, the town's fire marshal and member of the Washington Fire Sprinkler Coalition, underscored that this sprinkler activation saved more than $100,000 in damages. If you, too, are able to quantify similar numbers following activations, please share those figures with the media.
Short also ties this success to a fire sprinkler requirement that's been in effect for more than a decade. “With the automatic activation of the residential fire sprinkler system, this fire event was quickly and successfully contained to the garage,” he told a local news outlet. “This is a great example of the benefits of residential fire sprinklers and the reason that Redmond adopted a requirement for fire sprinklers in all newly built homes since 2007.”
Please follow Short's approach when sending out a news release on a sprinkler save or communicating these saves with the media.
NFPA has gotten word that two more towns have passed requirements for home fire sprinklers this year. Dayton, Maine, and Washougal, Washington, have joined nearly a half-dozen other towns that are installing sprinklers in their new homes. (Nearby Camas, Washington, approved their own sprinkler ordinance in 2016.) Others that have made the list this year include:
“People are at risk of a fire anywhere they live, work, or recreate. But residential fires have accounted for almost all of the loss of life in our community,” Las Vegas Deputy Fire Chief and Fire Marshal Robert Nolan told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. While those statements are applicable in far too many U.S. cities, the news outlet focused its journalistic lens on the local impact of residential fires.
Five children--ranging in age from one to nine years old--died in a horrific home fire in Youngstown, Ohio, this month. At the time of this post, the children's mother remains in critical condition at a Cleveland burn center after she leaped from a second-story window and roof to escape the flames.
"I don't think she knows [about her children] yet," the mother's friend, Yary Rodriquez, told a local NBC affiliate. "[Those were] her five babies. Her five angels. They were her world."
After speaking with Youngstown fire officials, the local media has also reported that there were working smoke alarms inside the residence. The cause is under investigation, but initial findings don't seem to point to anything suspicious.
NFPA has been developing new ways of letting the public know that home fires should be a serious concern. Simply telling people that home fires are responsible for the majority of fire deaths isn't enough to change behavior. We need to show them the gut-wrenching realities of fire.
We took this approach with NFPA's first, limited episode podcast, The Survivors." This is the story of a family that had a devastating interaction with fire, one that has had a lasting impact. We didn't take a cursory look at what happened to the van Dijk family when a fire occurred at their home; we dove deep into their lives and explained their emotional and physical pain of losing two children in such a heartbreaking way. Their trauma and personal growth following the fire is equal parts devastating and uplifting. And it's a story of a family that we felt needed to be heard.
We were honored that their story got the attention of the Association Media and Publishing this year; it awarded us the gold award for educational podcasting. More recently, "The Survivors" received the top honor in the audio storytelling category by PR Daily's Content Marketing Awards. We were honored to be in the running with big-named companies such as Microsoft and Capital One.
We share this news not to gloat about our accolades but to inform you that this personal type of storytelling is getting the attention of those not in the fire arena. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard from "outsiders" that since listening to the story of the van Dijk's, they've made sure their smoke alarms are working. They've practiced home escape planning. They realize how important fire sprinklers are in new homes. What seems to be seeping in are key safety messages made important by this family's story.
Please listen to "The Survivors." Please tell us how their story impacted you. Please share with those in and out of the fire world. And please--find those human stories in your community that can help humanize fire's impact.
We again thank the van Dijk family for having the courage to put their lives in the spotlight. They have been searching for ways to honor the two boys they lost in the fire. In some small way, we hope the podcast has been one of those ways.
The Sheridan Press reports that the Sheridan, Wyoming, Town Council voted "no" during a third and final reading on a code requirement to sprinkler its new homes. The council voted similarly during previous readings.
Despite the vote, research efforts on a sprinkler requirement in Sheridan will continue. While installation costs were discussed prior to the recent vote, a building official told the publication that a more comprehensive cost-benefit analysis will be presented to the city council next year. Based on this information, the council could reverse their decision.
Fire sprinkler myths during public hearings on the requirement seemed to have cemented council's decision. A resident told them that "it's not a matter of if a sprinkler system leaks, it’s a matter of when." In actuality, leaks from fire sprinklers were rare.
Take a 2,000-square-foot-house with a 500-square-foot attached garage in California. Our state has by far the largest residential sprinkler market in the world and it’s highly competitive. Our pricing is likely the lowest in the nation. Most tract product and lower-cost multifamily products can be fire protected for $1.50-$1.75 per square foot in the dwelling units, but let’s use a conservative $2 per square foot for this equation. In California, the garage will be sprinklered, so $2 x 2,500 = $5,000. Two. Dollars. Per. Square. Foot. Right? Except it’s not because the builder is describing that house as a 2,000-square-foot house, not 2,500-square-foot home. The price immediately jumps to $2.50 per square foot. That’s a 25 percent price increase based on semantics. Many (too many, in my opinion) authorities having jurisdiction require audible alarms, so that’s another $350-$500. Now we’re approaching $2.75. And the water district may mandate a one-inch meter over a three-quarter-inch one because it’s a sprinklered home, then possibly charge a $7,500 uptick in the service and capacity fees for that larger service. That's an increase of $3.75 per square foot, bringing the total cost to $13,000, or $6.50 per square foot, an increase of 2.6 times the very generous starting budget quoted by the sprinkler industry. And those fees are often higher.
I serve as chair of NFPA 14, Installation of Standpipe and Hose Systems. I’ve been using and contributing to NFPA 13D and NFPA 13R since 1988. I have spoken to fire officials, building officials, city councils, homebuilders, contractors, water agencies, and just about any other stakeholder you can name in this conversation over the course of many years. I’ve met with the Association of California Water Agencies and others about meter pricing. I’m a new member of the American Water Works Association Fire Protection Committee, where I hope we can generate new energy to get the water works community on board with residential sprinkler advocacy and sane policy making.
I would love to be part of any effort that is being undertaken to push back on exaggerated claims such as those cited, but it’s important to acknowledge that in many cases the high cost of residential fire protection is due to archaic standards and associated fees that are incurred as direct costs by homebuilders that drive their seemingly institutionalized opposition.
What are your thoughts on Steve's comments? Let us know by replying directly to this post.
Before we promote a key solution to America's home fire problem (e.g., fire sprinklers), we must first convince decision makers why they're needed in the first place. Fire data can help cement the importance of requiring this technology.
Here are some new facts that will help your cause. NFPA's latest report underscores the leading cause of home fires and injuries: cooking. Here are other key findings from the "Home Cooking Fires" report:
Between 2012-2016, there was an average of about 470 home cooking fires per day. These fires caused an average of 530 civilian deaths, 5,270 reported civilian fire injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage per year.
Unattended cooking was the leading cause of cooking fires and casualties. Clothing was the item first ignited in less than 1 percent of these fires, but clothing ignitions led to 15 percent of the home cooking fire deaths.
Home fires caused by cooking peaked at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Ranges or cooktops were involved in the 63 percent of reported home cooking fires, 86 percent of cooking fire deaths, and 79 percent of cooking fire injuries.
Households that use electric ranges have a higher risk of cooking fires and associated losses than those using gas ranges.
One-third of the people killed by cooking fires were sleeping at the time. More than half of the non-fatal injuries occurred when people tried to control the fire themselves.
Learn how to prevent cooking fires using these NFPA safety tips. If in the market for a new home, ask for home fire sprinklers, which can quickly respond to a cooking fire.
"It's nothing short of a tragedy," Fire Chief Brian Enterline told a Fox affiliate following the death of a young couple from a residential fire in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Based on what was discovered at the scene, it seems the couple tried to fight the fire; firefighters discovered the sink's faucet running and rummaged cabinets, possibly from them trying to find a fire extinguisher, says Enterline. (If there's a fire in a home, NFPA urges residents to get out of the home immediately rather than fight the fire.)
The fire department arrived at the scene in four minutes but was unable to save the couple. The cause seems to be electrical, says Enterline, adding that "we wouldn't even be talking about the fire because it would have been so small" if fire sprinklers were at the residence. Even if the building were built today, it would still lack fire sprinklers per the city's building code. The building doesn't exceed the 75-foot threshold for fire sprinklers, nor does its renovations cost more than 50 percent over its assessed value, another requirement for installing fire sprinklers, states the news story.
Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, officials in Pittsburgh obtained public comment on a proposed requirement to fire sprinkler any building there at least 75 feet tall. During a public hearing on the requirement, parties on both sides of the debate aired their concerns, including a retired fire chief who said that "prevention is better than sprinklering."
Complementing preventive efforts with sprinkler installations in residences can have a significant impact on reducing North America's home fire problem.
What are your thoughts on the statement "prevention is better than sprinklering?" Please offer your response by replying to this post.