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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.

As Burn Awareness Week, sponsored by American Burn Association (ABA) and heavily promoted by the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, winds down it is a great opportunity to talk about home fire sprinklers and their role in reducing burns.

According to a recent NFPA 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.

fire sprinklers

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 is 81 percent lower in homes with fire sprinklers than in homes without them
  • the average firefighter injury rate is nearly 80 percent lower when fire sprinklers were present during fires
  • when sprinklers were present, fires were kept to the room of origin 97 percent of the time
  • the home fire death rate is 90 percent lower when fire sprinklers and hardwired smoke alarms are present.

More information to promote sprinklers can be found at the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative

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 (bill A3974) 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.”
New Jersey would join Californiaand Marylandas well as hundreds of communities across the country in requiring sprinklers in new one and two family homes, the place where the vast majority of fire deaths occur today.
For more information on this effort in New Jersey, visit the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board.
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 to an 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.   A research 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.  
While there is a lot of misinformation out there about home fire sprinklers, there are a number of resources available to refute them. To arm yourself with the facts, visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiativeand the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition
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 a recent 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. 
Lia outlined the key steps including developing an action plan, using the resources of the Fire Sprinkler Initiativeand the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalitionto bolster local efforts and participating in National Home Fire Sprinkler Day
As we head into the new year, take the time to read his full article and commit to making greater strides in 2019. 

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. 

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