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Erie, PA home daycare fire aftermath

Photo Credit: Associated Press

 

It was with heavy hearts that four siblings, ages nine months to eight years old, were laid to rest over the weekend. The children were four out of the five that were killed in a home daycare fire in Erie, Pennsylvania. The fifth child, a two-year-old boy, will be laid to rest today.

 

The cause of the fire is being investigated; it is believed to have started by an overloaded extension cord in the home’s living room. Erie Chief Fire Inspector John Widomski said he suspected the intensity of the fire, which melted the siding on the front of the house and damaged two homes next door, was made worse by furniture in the living room. Officials reported that the house only had one smoke detector, in the attic.

 

In the wake of the fire, local fire chief Brian Enterline has called for lawmakers to pass legislation that would require sprinklers in all new homes. Enterline cited that Pennsylvania has the third most fire deaths in the country.

 

Ironically, beginning January 1, 2011, Pennsylvania lawmakers mandated the installation of sprinklers in all new one- and two-family homes. However, with pressure from home builders, that mandate was repealed in April of that same year. Since 2011, there have been nearly 143,000 single-family housing starts in the state.

 

To learn about how you can advocate for home fire sprinklers in your community, visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiative website.

Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition HouseWhen it comes to home fire sprinklers, misinformation about these life-and-property-saving systems continues to persist. Many who unfamiliar with the technology think that sprinklers are too expensive and that they will activate for no reason. They also often believe that in the event of a fire, the sprinklers will cause more damage than the fire itself.

 

In an all-encompassing article on Forbes.com writer Sheri Koones refutes these claims and explains why home fire sprinklers should be a requirement in all homes.

 

Supported by data from NFPA, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, and the Scottsdale Study, Koones writes, “It is clear that sprinkler systems can save lives, and reduce property loss.”

 

Read the full article here and share it with your peers, legislators, and anyone you know who could benefit from this information.

 

Photo: Courtesy of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition

 

Today’s post was written by guest contributor, Peg Paul, Communications Manager at the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition:

 

Home fire sprinklers are a proven, long-term solution to the home fire problem. But the fire service often faces many challenges when working to protect new housing stock. In jurisdictions that do not have codes that require fire sprinklers in new construction, the fire service is taking a different path to improve community risk reduction. Fire departments from Washington State to New England are using home fire sprinkler incentives (sometimes called trade-ups) as valuable motivation to install NFPA 13D systems in new-home developments.

 

Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) are finding that developers and big builders who balk at sprinkler code discussions are all ears when offered financial benefits in exchange for installation. The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) has published a series of case studies on its website that summarize these successful AHJ-led efforts. The incentives are wide ranging, from bottom-line benefits like increased hydrant spacing, allowing higher density resulting in additional units, to infrastructure cost-savings, such as allowing reduced street width.

        AHJs successfully negotiated with a developer in Camas, Washington.

 

Read their stories to learn how these AHJs found common ground with local builders and how you might do the same through your coalition.

 

Already offering home fire sprinkler incentives? We want to hear from you! Please share your story: info@homefiresprinkler.org.

The National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) and the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB) were recently involved in a project working with Designing Spaces, a home improvement show, to retrofit a home for vets with disabilities. When they were asked to sponsor the project, the two groups didn’t think twice about getting involved.

 

 

The sprinkler installation was for Noah Currier’s home in Poplar Grove, Illinois. Currier, a quadriplegic, not only lives in the house but also runs weekly clinics out of his residence for the Oscar Mike Foundation. After years of working through his own challenges, he founded the foundation to keep veterans “on-the-move” through adaptive sports programs.

 

Noah knows the devastating effects of fire all too well; his dad was in a house fire where he was severely burned and suffered smoke inhalation. The fire also left the house unsalvageable.

 

Now, the safety and protection of his own home – and those that visit it – is top of mind for Noah, who is also a veteran himself. On any given day in the 9,000 square-foot fully accessible residence, more than a dozen people with disabilities may be in it taking part in activities and events. Noah is aware that house fire can become deadly in less than two minutes and that to survive means being able to escape quickly. "It takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, into my wheelchair and outside," Noah explained.

 

After the producers of Designing Spaces, which airs on Lifetime, heard that Noah’s house needed a remodel, they were eager to help and install home fire sprinklers to help protect the home. Designing Spaces worked with United States Alliance Fire Protection (USAFP), a fire sprinkler contractor, to design and retrofit the system in accordance with 13D code requirements  

 

The episode that features the sprinkler installation at the Oscar Mike Foundation aired as part of a three-part series. Here is a clip from the show, where the Designing Spaces host, Ryan, talks with USAFP President, Chad Huennekens, who explains how fire sprinklers protect people in the home.

 

 

 

In an update shared by Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB), Noah said, “We're really grateful for the support. We've already had a few weeks of clinics come in since the remodel, and everyone is loving it. The home is going to be used to serve injured veterans for a long time."

 

No one was home at a McKinney, Texas apartment when a fire broke out in the kitchen. Firefighters received a call about smoke and when they arrived at the scene, they found that the sprinkler system had successfully stopped the fire from spreading beyond the room of origin, according to North Texas e-News report.

“Fire sprinklers have been around for more than a century in public and commercial buildings,” said McKinney Fire Marshal Mike Smith. “That same lifesaving technology is just as effective when it comes to protecting your home.” 

According to NFPA's research:

 

  • when sprinklers were present during a fire, the fire was kept to the room of origin 97 percent of the time.
  • In roughly nine of every ten home fires with operating sprinklers, just one sprinkler operates.

 

Has your fire department responded to any fire sprinkler activations? Have you seen any in the news? If so please send these saves to the Fire Sprinkler Initiative team so we can highlight them in a future blog post.

How can you leverage social media to champion the life-saving power of home fire sprinklers? The answer to this question was the focus of Changing the Conversation and Raising Awareness for Fire Sprinklers #fastestwater, a well-attended session at the NFPA conference and Expo yesterday in San Antonio, Texas.

Presenting was Vickie Pritchett, the Director of Outreach & Government Relations at the National Fire Sprinkler Association. She highlighted the power of social media, citing how it provides immediate access to information, fosters connectivity and the opportunity to influence and create a movement.

With all the positives of social media, not surprisingly it's not all good. As so many of us have witnessed, people can easily hide behind their anonymity and the platforms can be a place of "all talk and no action."

Despite these negatives, it's to our advantage to embrace social media to help raise awareness for home fire sprinklers. By doing so, "We are advancing the conversation and we are saving lives," said Vickie.

To ensure your social media efforts are primed to make a positive impact, Vickie offered the following advice:

 

As you might have seen on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, sprinkler advocates across North America, including members of NFPA, NFSA, HFSC and AFSA recently took part in Home Fire Sprinkler Week. Social media proved to be an impactful way to get the word out and generate conversation about this life-saving technology. Did you participate and use social media in your own advocacy campaign? We invite you to share your social success story below.

 

 

 

Today's post was written by Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board:

 

During the holiday season, my family and I took a trip to the Wisconsin Dells and passed through Winnebago County, Illinois. I was reminded of our good fire safety friend and patriot Chief Rob Martin of the Win-Bur-Sew Fire Protection District. Dedicated to his family, his fire district, and his country Chief Rob Martin is certainly someone I look up to.

 

Rob is one of the esteemed Illinois Fire Service and Building Department Class of 2008(9) and was an asset to the Minnesota ICC historical vote for the inclusion of residential fire sprinklers and the NFPA votes for same. He then did his own research and spoke with community leaders and the fire district board to push for fire sprinklers at a local level. I could never forget his enthusiasm for this issue and for being a part of this effort.

 

Win-Bur-Sew is one of the most progressive Illinois fire districts outside of the Chicago area. Chief Martin and the Board of Trustees of the Win-Bur-Sew Fire Protection District are examples to all. Their district requires fire sprinklers in all new construction at a zero square foot fire sprinkler threshold, including townhomes and single-family homes following the NFPA 13D standard. This forward thinking is a result of Chief Martin’s dedication to community safety.

 

Chief Martin understands the importance of educating his community. As a member of a Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) Built For Life Fire Department, he uses consumer education and other available resources to make sure his community understands the life-saving value of home fire sprinklers. He conducts open houses in homes protected with fire sprinklers. To demonstrate how quickly a house fire spreads compared to how quickly a fire sprinkler prevents a fire from becoming deadly, he conducts live side-by-side fire and sprinkler demonstrations.

 

Chief Martin extended his dedication to community and safety through his extensive military service. As a member of the Army and Army Reserve, he deployed to Afghanistan with the Public Safety Team for Civil Affairs, connecting to local civilians and working with their communities and government to create safer living conditions. During his deployment to Afghanistan, he worked as Deputy Chief of Stability Operations. In Iraq, he worked with Civil Affairs and worked with communities to rebuild infrastructure and care for community needs. He also served in the United States, training soldiers for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

 

Major Martin interacts with the Iraqi Children of the city of Yousaffia, Iraq, May 2004. Major Martin and his Civil Affairs team were conducting an infrastructure assessment for the area.

 

Now firmly back in the US after three overseas commitments Chief Martin had to defend his code from attempts to reverse his progressive measures at a recent board meeting where the attempt was held off. His dedication to community and safety is the groundwork for all his efforts. Chief Martin’s and the Board’s action put fire safety first for all new residential and commercial buildings, making Win-Bur-Sew a model to follow. Thank you, Chief Martin!

 

Tom Lia is executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting legislation, raising public awareness, and educating code officials and government policymakers on home fire sprinklers. This blog regularly features Lia's perspective on sprinkler activities taking place in his state and elsewhere.

With nearly 40 educational initiatives occurring across North America and one in Europe, the 2019 Home Fire Sprinkler Week has been deemed a success. Through social media, video, local community events, and more, advocates took action to raise awareness about the lifesaving benefits of sprinklers. Here is just a sampling of some of the Home Fire Sprinkler Week activities that took place: 

 

  • The Wisconsin Fire Sprinkler Coalition hosted a live side-by-side burn to demonstrate the power of fire and home fire sprinklers to more than 150 people at Madison’s annual Brat Fest.
  • As part of a live burn/sprinkler demonstration in Edmonton, Alberta, sprinkler advocates, including members of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition – Canada, used eye-catching graphics to dispel some of the common myths about home fire sprinklers.
  • In New York, the Oneida Fire Department showed Otto Shortell Middle School students just how quickly flashover can occur and how home fire sprinklers can save lives.
  • The Texas Fire Sprinkler Coalition and Honolulu Hawaii Fire Department produced creative and informative videos about home fire sprinklers.
  • NFPA joined United States Deputy Fire Administrator Dr. Denis Onieal, and Massachusetts Deputy State Fire Marshal Maribel Fournier and others for a Home Fire Sprinkler Week media event in Quincy, Massachusetts. 

 

A big thank you to everyone who played a part in making this Week a success. To view more photos from events that took place, we invite you to visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Week photo gallery on Facebook. If you have photos from your event, please send them to NFPA Fire Sprinkler Initiative team.

 

The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition has released a new set of videos that give important facts about fire sprinklers in 90 seconds or shorter. 

 

The videos are available on YouTube and available for download Use them: 

  • on social media and share with your network 
  • during a presentation to your town's decision makers or public
  • by embedding the video on your company, department, or organization's website

 

Topics include:

How Home Fire Sprinklers Work

 

Who is Most at Risk in a Home Fire? 

 

Why House Fires Burn More Quickly and are More Deadly

If you haven't heard, Home Fire Sprinkler Week is just around the corner! From May 19-25, safety advocates across North America are taking action in unison to raise national awareness of a fire sprinkler's life-saving ability. 

 

Fire departments, fire sprinkler coalitions, and other sprinkler advocates are hosting activities, such as a live side-by-side burn/sprinkler demonstration and a fire department open house, to highlight this powerful technology and to break down common myths and legislative barriers to its use. Visit our event map to see where events are occurring: 

 

Home Fire Sprinkler Week Map May 2019

 

In 2018, Fire Sprinkler Initiative®, a project of NFPA®and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition®, and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition-Canada®, hosted the inaugural Home Fire Sprinkler Day on May 19 with more than 50 events taking place on the same day. 

NFPA's Bob Duval, Northeast Regional Director and Fire Investigator (right) presented Fire Chief Robert Lefebvre (left) with the Bringing Safety Home Award at the Maine Fire Chiefs Association Conference in March

National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Fire Sprinkler Initiative and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) awarded Fire Chief Robert Lefebvre from the Gorham Maine Fire Department with the 2018 Bringing Safety Home Award. 

The award recognizes fire service members and other safety advocates who use HFSC's home fire sprinkler educational materials and Fire Sprinkler Initiative resources to educate local officials as part of an effort to upgrade or pass new home fire sprinkler legislation.

Fire Chief Robert Lefebvre has been an advocate for home fire sprinklers for more than 20 years. He was one of the first to offer incentives in subdivisions for fire sprinkler installation as an alternative to costly fire ponds/dry hydrants. Chief Lefebvre’s work set the stage for a town-wide ordinance, passed in October 2018, mandating the installation of fire sprinklers in all new one- and two-family homes. Since the ordinance passed, more than 200 homes have been sprinklered in Gorham.

As the Bringing Safety Home Award recipient, Lefebvre was awarded a $1000 grant to further fire sprinkler advocacy and educational efforts in his community. Previous recipients have included Keith Flood, fire marshal for the West Haven, CT, Fire Department, who launched the Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition, and members of the Maryland State Firemen’s Association, who were instrumental in helping defeat a legislative bill that would have weakened the state's sprinkler requirement.

To learn more about previous award winners who were influential in their efforts to promote sprinklers, visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiative site.


Photo Credit Associated Press

“Please, no more talk.” In a recent opinion piece for The Chronicle Herald, former president and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association, Peter Simpson, is adamant that the time for stalling on home fire sprinklers has passed, and the case for them has been “doused long enough.” 

Citing the 12 Nova Scotian children who have died in house fires in the past year, including the deadly Halifax fire which killed seven children, Simpson asked, “How many more youngsters will lose their lives before influential political and regulatory leaders take action?”

Once a sprinkler opponent, who voiced the same demand and cost-benefit concerns that other builder groups voice in opposition, the former home builder association president now says, “I was wrong. Embarrassingly wrong.”

Simpson’s stance changed six years ago when he became a firefighter and first responder himself. Referring to the skills of firefighters as well as their commitment, and willingness to put oneself in harm’s way, he wrote, “That’s a commitment most folks don’t fully understand.” It’s a commitment that comes with incredible risk; as he shared (and as the NFPA reports), today’s homes contain many synthetic materials, which burn more quickly and create carcinogens that are likely responsible for the rise in cancers in firefighters.

By contrast, the presence of sprinklers can help save lives and minimize exposure; Simpson shared, “Typical response time is roughly 10 minutes, whereas a single sprinkler head can extinguish a fire in under 90 seconds — saving lives and property, and reducing firefighters’ and residents’ exposure to carcinogenic, noxious smoke, gases and fumes.”

As Simpson calls for change, he wrote would be, “It would be wonderful if just one prominent Nova Scotia builder stepped up and announced, ‘I’m going to install automatic sprinkler systems in all my new single-detached homes.’” He’s urging for lawmakers in Nova Scotia to also do their part by becoming “life-safety champions” and for homebuyers, buying a new house, to ask how their families will be protected from fire. 

In case of the deadly fire in Halifax, in the days after the devastation fire officials and local media pointed to the value of home fire sprinklers: “The fire in its early stages would never have left whatever room it started in had a sprinkler system been operating in that structure,” Len Garis, chief of the Surrey Fire Department in British Columbia for two decades also told The Chronicle ina previous article, “and I can say that with absolutely 100 percent confidence.”

More information on making the case for sprinklers is available through NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative and Home Fire Sprinkler Canada. For regular updates, sign up for the Fire Sprinkler Newsletter.

 

The Massachusetts Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Worcester (MA) Fire Department held a live side-by-side fire and sprinkler burn today to educate the public and policy makers about the rapid and deadly pace of fire – and the fact that fire damage can be minimized with home fire sprinklers.


The burn was staged to inform area residents, elected officials, and rookie recruits from the state fire academy about the aggressive and devastating nature of fire. The mobile burn demonstration unit features two side-by-side rooms with living room furniture, throw pillows, curtains and a working smoke alarm. One room contained a fire sprinkler. The other did not. Within 160 seconds, the room without fire sprinklers had reached flashover, while spectators watched in awe and snapped photos. Sprinklers within the second unit went on seconds after the fire started, minimizing damage to the structure and the contents of the room.


According to Michael Young, New England regional manager for the National Fire Sprinkler Association, “Today’s materials, furnishings and interior finishes tend to be more synthetic-based, petroleum-based products. Being petroleum-based they burn just like gasoline and release heat exponentially faster than organic materials so the fires tend to develop more rapidly in one-and-a-half to three minutes.”


Worcester is no stranger to dramatic fires. Nearly 20 years ago, 6 firefighters were killed in the Worcester Cold Storage and Warehouse Co. Fire in New England's second most populous city. Sadly, Worcester lost another firefighter recently in a fast-moving fire in December; and just last week a large fire displaced 14 residents, 7 of whom were carried to safety by firefighters.


Worcester Fire Chief Michael J. Lavoie explained, “Demonstrations like this are way more effective than telling people sprinklers work. The fires that we show up at without sprinkler systems, we use hose lines with 250 gallons of water a minute – and you have a ton of smoke damage, ton of fire damage, ton of water damage; whereas a sprinkler system uses 13-18 gallons per minute in a residential system resulting in less water, fire damage and smoke damage. People need to see this so they get the information that in a 2,000 square foot new home, it’s only about $1.50 per square foot to put in a residential sprinkler system, and it makes that much difference.”


Lavoie went on to explain that there are some cities and towns, not in Massachusetts, that have passed ordinances that new homes have to be sprinklered. “We would love to do it in Massachusetts. It’s not going to put us out of business, by any means, but it will keep the citizens safe and also keep our firefighters safe. We would much rather walk into a fire with a sprinkler system and get wet, than deal with a flashover situation,” the chief said.

 

Interested in promoting the effectiveness of home sprinklers in your community? Join NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition-Canada as we celebrate Home Fire Sprinkler Week from May 19-25, with a national media event on May 22. The vast majority of fire deaths in North America happen at home. The time has come to bring attention to this problem--and its solution. Fire departments, fire sprinkler coalitions and other home fire sprinkler advocates are urged to join in with local activities at any time during this week to show the effectiveness of home fire sprinklers.

FSI

The small community of Spryfield within Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada was overcome by sorrow last month when a usual day turned tragic as seven children died in a fatal home fire in what news reports described as a relatively new home.

In its aftermath, fire officials and local media pointed to the value of home fire sprinklers and called for their use to prevent future tragedies like this one.

Len Garis, who has been chief of the Surrey Fire Department in British Columbia for two decades, told The Chronicle Herald “The fire in its early stages would never have left whatever room it started in had a sprinkler system been operating in that structure, and I can say that with absolutely 100 percent confidence.” There are more than 30 municipalities in British Columbia that require sprinklers in all new homes.

According to National Fire Protection Association research, when sprinklers are present, flame damage is confined to the room of origin in 97 percent of fires, compared to 74 percent of fires in homes without sprinklers. Also, the civilian fire death rate is 87 percent lower in properties with sprinklers than in properties with no sprinklers.

“How many more people must die before Nova Scotia’s provincial and municipal elected officials take steps to make mandatory the installation of sprinklers in all new homes?,” said Peter Simpson, firefighter, to The Chronicle Herald.

The Chronicle Herald then weighed in with an opinion piece calling on Nova Scotia to follow the lead of the 30-plus British Columbia municipalities and the states of California and Maryland in making home fire sprinklers mandatory in new homes. Taking on the cost argument, they wrote, “The automobile industry once argued installing seatbelts would makes vehicles unaffordable. In the end, safety and common sense won out.”

The escalation of the fire can be seen in a unique video captured by a doorbell camera across from where the fire took place.

More information on making the case for sprinklers is available through NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative and Home Fire Sprinkler Canada. For regular updates, sign up for the Fire Sprinkler Newsletter.

The National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) announced the passing of its former President, John Viniello on Tuesday, February 26, 2019. John served the Association as President from 1984-2012, and was involved in the fire sprinkler industry since 1973.

John was NFSA’s president when the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) was founded in 1997. He was always a major supporter of the HFSC mission and all of the work to educate on the value of sprinklers. 

In a press release Shane Ray, NFSA President  spoke of John’s impact, “John’s contribution to the growth of the fire sprinkler industry is visible today in the number of personnel and the number of programs dedicated to advancing the mission of saving lives and property from fire through the widespread acceptance of the fire sprinkler concept,” 

More information about John’s legacy and on arrangements can be found on the NFSA website.

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