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In a recent commentary, the Sauk Valley Media Editorial Board addressed the home fire sprinkler debate. They foresee the day when "sprinkler systems in new homes are as common as smoke alarms," and adds that "politics" is only delaying the inevitable.  

 

"The National Fire Protection Association’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative is gaining momentum, but it’s a tough battle trying to reach everyone at the local level," states the board's commentary. "The cost is a legitimate concern, but according to the NFPA, sprinklers can reduce the risk of death from home fires by 80 percent and property loss by 70 percent."

 

The commentary points to Rock Island, Illinois, which recently passed a fire sprinkler ordinance for new homes. (Read NFPA's interview with the town's fire marshal.) "While detractors had predicted that the extra cost would be $4 a square foot, the actual cost has come in closer to $2 a square foot," states the board, adding that sprinklers have a life-saving impact that should put the cost debate to rest. 

 

NFPA also addressed the question, "how long before all new home are sprinklered?" in this feature story for NFPA Journal. Please give it a read, and submit your comments via this post. 

During Fire Prevention Week, the team at the National Fire Sprinkler Association showcased the power of home fire sprinklers during a segment on "Fox & Friends." This wasn't your average burn from a fire sprinkler trailer, though; NFSA created a new portion of their trailer to showcase how a closed door impacts fire spread. 

 

According to NFPA, a closed door may slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire. A sign stating "close before you doze" was placed near that compartment on the trailer. Smoke alarms sounded during the fire, which served as a reminder to the public to install smoke alarms inside and outside of all bedrooms in a home. (For best protection, make sure all smoke alarms are interconnected.) 

 

Watch the dramatic video by visiting the Fox News site.

Adults 65 or older comprise only 13 percent of the U.S. population, but 30 percent of all home fire victims fell into this age group, according to NFPA. Trends examined by the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that by 2030 all baby boomers will be older than 65. This age group is expected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history.  

 

All the more reason, say safety advocates, to protect the country's new housing stock with home fire sprinklers. This technology recently helped save older adults during a residential fire in Bath, Maine. A quick response from firefighters complemented the sprinkler's activation. "The sprinkler system in the hallways did activate so I think that was in our favor as well,” Bath Fire Chief Lawrence Renaud told The Times Record. “I can’t advocate enough about sprinkler systems. They do save property and lives.”

 

According to the report, a resident was transported to the hospital but likely due to anxiety and not the fire. 

 

 If you're an older adult or if you're seeking housing for one, please consider a home with fire sprinklers. Also, please adhere to these safety tips for older adults.

 

Fire safety organizations have teamed up to produce a new video succinctly outlining the life-saving benefits of home fire sprinklers. 

 

NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition-Canada, the Co-operators (a Canadian insurance cooperative), and the Canadian Automatic Sprinkler Association unveiled the video during Fire Prevention Week. The hope is to underscore the life-saving value, research, and cost estimates of home fire sprinklers to a wider audience. Narrating the video is Howard Sher, executive vice president of Quality Homes. "Builders and developers have the privilege of constructing the most imporant asset that a person can invest in: their home," he says in the video. "One of the ways is to add value and protect that investment is to install home fire sprinklers."

 

Watch the video: 

 

Geneva, Illinois, aldermen recently voted against a requirement to fire sprinkler all of the city's new homes. Their 8-1 decision seemed to be based on concerns argued extensively by the homebuilding industry. 

 

 “We’re trying to keep our housing affordable,” said Alderman James Radecki in a story appearing in the Kane County Chronicle. “It’s not prudent for us to mandate it at this time." 

 

One builder quoted in the story countered installation estimates for fire sprinklers and stated "$20,000 to $30,000 [per installation] was more accurate a cost." Fire sprinkler advocates have questioned these high estimates.

 

The lone dissenter was Alderman Jeanne McGowan; a self-described "proponent" of fire and life safety, she referenced how fire in the new home environment places residents and firefighters at increased risk of injury or death. 

 

Geneva's decision appears to buck the trend in Illinois; more than 100 communities have passed requirements for home fire sprinklers, with a few towns passing new ordinances this year. 

The following commentary appeared in the September/October 2018 "member takeover" issue of the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) Magazine. Many thanks to NFSA for allowing us to repurpose these thoughts to the fire sprinkler industry from retired Fire Chief Dan Jones, a longtime, fire sprinkler advocate: 

 

As a career fire chief, I have been an active and public supporter of automatic fire sprinklers since the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity tragedy in 1996. I am a believer in the life-saving, firefighter-protecting, property-preserving, and environmentally friendly advantages of fire sprinklers. I serve on the advocacy organization, Common Voices, and I have friends in the fire sprinkler industry. 

 

But. I have to ask all of you some questions.

 

Why do you sit back and expect the fire departments to do your marketing and advertising? Why don't I see TV commercials for fire sprinklers? Why do I not hear radio spots about fire sprinklers? Why are there no ads in popular magazines about fire sprinklers? Why are there no fire sprinkler ads in real estate sections of newspapers? Don't you believe enough in your product to spend money on advertising? I see advertising for carpeting, house paints, plumbing fixtures, windows, HVAC systems, water softeners, bathroom features, roofing materials, and any variety of other home and building products. But fire sprinklers? Nothing.

 

I know, I know. I have heard the discussion in your industry that advertising would appear self-serving. Well, isn't all advertising self-serving to some degree? It doesn't seem to bother the smoke detector industry that advertises heavily and touts the potential life-saving aspects of their product, and yet your product is more assuredly lifesaving because it does not require persons at risk to take action to ensure safety. 


The biggest problem we have in promoting fire sprinklers is education. Most policy makers, members of the public, and people in the real estate business don't really understand what fire sprinklers do, how they work, the advantages they offer, and what they cost in initial building. A concerted campaign effort by your industry would be key to overcoming that lack of understanding. There are way too many myths and bad information out there in the public domain about fire sprinklers to ever enable us to gain widespread acceptance and, dare I say, demand for automatic sprinklers everywhere we live, work, and play, including at home. We need you, the fire sprinkler industry, to engage in this effort with commercial advertising.


I want you, as an industry, to be more aggressive in promoting your life-saving product. I have challenged some companies in your industry to even educate your employees to a greater degree about their involvement in saving lives. Make your employees advocates for fire sprinkler protection as well. Help them understand that they play a part, every day, in saving lives and property. That would be a huge boost to your employee's self-worth and morale and they can help educate others. Please let them know that their work is part of fire protection efforts to save lives.

 

Let's get back to the lack of advertising. There can be no industry related to homes and buildings that has access to more dramatic video proving the value of your product than the fire sprinkler industry. Anyone who has ever observed side-by-side burn demonstrations can attest to that. You also have access to overwhelming data about the effectiveness and reliability of your product. And, you have the testimonial of the fire service, one of the most trusted public institutions in our society, at your disposal. Surely you could find some room in your profit margins to fund an advertising campaign?


The NFSA and other organizations are doing all they can with the resources they have, but it will take much more to make the kind of impact I envision. It's time to create a marketing plan on how dollars will be used to promote retrofit and residential sprinklers and raise the money to do it.


Your industry has the answer. So, what is it going to take to get you to advertise the best fire protection technology available? You have to get into the public awareness, and the only way is through major advertising. You rely way too much on code enforcement to provide your business opportunities instead of promoting your business. Stop depending on us in the fire service to be your marketing arm. You can advertise as individual manufacturers or installation companies, or you can combine your dollars as an industry and advertise the product and its effectiveness. It matters not to me how you do it, but please do it. We will work with you to promote the life-saving advantages of fire sprinklers, but we need you to engage.

 

I want to see the day when every residential occupancy built and any facility that people work, study, have fun, or spend time in is protected by fire sprinklers. I would think you would want to see that as well. It will take a greater public awareness campaign than we have ever seen before to achieve that goal. If my letter makes you uncomfortable, that's good! Comfort creates complacency, and your industry must become more proactive. I am waiting to see my first TV fire sprinkler commercial. Don't keep me waiting too long. People are at risk and you have the answer. So, promote it. 

While we have seen some unfortunate setbacks for home fire sprinklers this year, there have been some major successes on the local level. About a half-dozen towns this year have passed requirements for home fire sprinklers. See who made the list by reading the latest edition of our Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter. You'll also find stories on: 

 

  • a major homebuilding company who decided to include voice-activated features--not fire sprinklers--in all its new homes
  • a new tool by NFPA to help us get a better handle on where NFPA 13D is required throughout North America
  • a deep sleeper unstirred by smoke alarms, but saved by fire sprinklers

 

Take 30 seconds to sign up for our Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter and start receiving it directly to your inbox. The newsletter promises to link our fire sprinkler advocates with need-to-know news. 

The Warrensburg, Missouri, City Council recently voted against requirements to sprinkler certain establishments, opting instead for alternatives that were deemed "as safe as sprinklers." 

 

The council's decision would exempt certain, existing food-and-drink establishments with an occupancy load of 300 or more from installing fire sprinklers. Justin Burton, a consultant hired for one of the establishments told the Daily Star-Journal that adequate signs, lighting, and evacuation plans provide a "better level of safety." He added that the occupancy load requirement of 300 or more people was a "knee-jerk reaction" to code provisions that followed The Station Nightclub Fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island, in 2003. The fire killed 100 people. 

 

"While lighting, signs, and evacuation plans are great additions to fire safety in any establishment, they are in no way equal to, or serve as a replacement for, what a single sprinkler head can do in the event of a fire,"  sprinkler advocate Rob Feeney, who was injured in The Station fire, told NFPA. He also lost his then-fiancee in the fire. "Mr. Burton can also find that the cost of a single death or significant burn injury would far exceed the cost of a sprinkler system. Perhaps Mr. Burton should recommend a sign for patrons stating ... the reluctance ... to provide adequate and available life safety measures. Further, [these establishments] should also inform the patrons that it's the city councilors who are allowing this. 

 

"The continued need for sprinkler requirements are based on the ongoing problem of preventable fire deaths that occur year after year. There's an opportunity ... to step up and be part of the solution."

 

Be part of the solution by joining Rob in advocating for fire sprinklers in whatever way possible. Also, hear more of Rob's story by watching this video:

Earlier this month, firefighters were responding to a home fire in La Grange, Georgia, when a "flashover situation" occurred and injured six of them, according to news reports. Four of them experienced second- and third-degree burns while the others were treated for smoke inhalation. 

 

"We had one crew inside fighting fire, one crew in there doing a search, and within split second ... everything went south on them and had a flashover situation," Deputy Chief John Brant with the LaGrange Fire Department told a local news station. The homeowner was able to corral his girlfriend and four stepchildren out of the house before the fire department arrived. 

 

"The kids didn’t believe it at first when we were like, 'Wake up, the house is on fire,' so I had to pull one out because he was still kind of sleep," homeowner Lakes told the station. 

 

It was recently reported that one of the firefighters has already gone through six surgeries since the fire.

 

Learn the data behind U.S. home fire loss and injury--peruse these specific reports found on NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative site. 

It's coming. 

 

Fire Prevention Week (FPW), October 7-13, is the time to bring your local and our national home fire problem into focus. It's the time to explain to the public that "fire can happen anywhere," as the new FPW slogan states. They should know that despite their technological advances, newer homes aren't immune to fire's wrath; NFPA research states that if there's a reported fire in your home today, you're at greater risk of dying in that fire than one in 1980. 

 

Since prevention is the name of the game, here are some tools to promote fire safety at home during FPW. If you're able to weave in messages on home fire sprinklers, a key component to reducing fire death and injury, all the better:

 

The line snaked past the gutted home and into the street. Seeing is believing, and about 800 eager New Zealand residents saw an eyeful when they finally made their way past the home's front door. There were charred remnants of a home once inhabited by a family of three. Signage throughout the structure pointed to its damage ("note the black staining of the glass") and the stove where it began ("fire started here"). The show and tell was an ingenious way for Fire and Emergency New Zealand to underscore fire's wrath by having residents get close to its aftermath. 

 

The event's overwhelming turnout proved it was a hit with the public and safety advocates trying to promote fire prevention in new ways. "We see this as a really, really good opportunity to show people the damage after a house fire and to reaffirm preventative measures as well as talk to people about smoke alarms and an escape plan if they have a house fire," Craig Chambers, Fenz Mid-South Canterbury fire risk management officer, told the Timaru Herald. 

 

The event also brought fire statistics to life. As is the case in the U.S., cooking is the leading cause of home fires in New Zealand. The family who had lived in the home left a pot of oil unattended, which sparked the fire, reports the Timaru Herald. The fire's flames and smoke destroyed all of their belongings. 

 

If there's a home impacted by fire in your community that's safe enough for a walk-through, please consider taking a similar approach as our New Zealand friends and open it up to the public. Here are photos of the event: 

 

 

Photos: Stuff.co.nz

While we have seen some unfortunate setbacks for home fire sprinklers this year (Connecticut, for example), there have been some major successes on the local level. Recently, the Gorham, Maine, Town Council voted to require sprinklers in all new homes. According to a news story, the new "Fire Suppression Systems Ordinance"  takes effect in October. Quoted in the piece was Town Councilor Ronald Shepard, who said sprinklers "are a life-safety issue for firefighters."

 

The council's decision follows months of dialogue on the issue and included two educational workshops on home fire sprinklers. The new ordinance, which passed with a 5-2 vote, expands on Gorham's existing sprinkler ordinance. Under that law, "only homes built in subdivisions without fire ponds were required to have fire sprinkler systems," states the story, adding that 260 homes in Gorham have already been sprinklered. 

 

Addressing concerns from homeowners on doing self-inspections, the local fire department will offer training courses. (Inspecting a home's fire sprinklers, according to the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, couldn't be simpler.)  

 

Outside of Maine, other communities have embraced sprinkler requirements this year. Via this blog, we've highlighted: 

 

 

Do you know of a town or community that has recently passed a requirement for home fire sprinklers? Please let us know.

Florida Fire Sprinkler Coalition Co-Chair Wendy Niles (left) joined Lorrell Bush with the Florida Fire Sprinkler Association (middle) and Jeni Pierce, fire marshal with the Clermont Fire Department in Florida, at the 2018 Central Florida Home Expo in Orlando. "We had lots of visitors stop by our booth and feel we made some good impact on both awareness of home fire sprinklers and their benefits," says Niles. "We’re hoping for some calls regarding retrofits and new installs for a few folks who are in the process of constructing a new home."

 

Attending a similar expo in your community? Will you be in front of builders and need resources? There's no need to reinvent the wheel. Use free resources from NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC), including: 

 

Within the span of a day, two home fires in the same state resulted in four people being injured and an estimated $200,000 worth of damage. There were likely news reports on the fire, but the media did not likely discuss the immediate and long-term aftermath of these fires. In the following commentary, Paul Eichler, chair of the Delaware Fire Sprinkler Coalition, sheds light on what will likely follow these fires: 

 

Unfortunately here in Delaware, two devastating fires have been reported that will have long-lasting and debilitating effects on those directly involved as well as the communities where the fires took place. First, three people--two occupants and one firefighter--were injured in an early-morning fire outside of Dover. The dwelling suffered approximately $50,000 in damages.

 

The second fire occurred in the Scottfield neighborhood near Newark. An occupant of that dwelling was also critically injured. Damages are estimated at $150,000. Both dwellings that suffered fires are described as “uninhabitable."

 

While the fires happened in two separate sections of the state, the similarities and comparisons are disturbing. Besides the life-changing injuries to occupants, if the people recover from their injuries, they will not have a house to come home to. If the dwellings can be repaired, it will be many months before they are habitable again. Neither house had working smoke alarms. In the Scottfield house, it is reported that no smoke alarms were found at all. This is extremely upsetting to learn as every fire company in the state has an inventory of smoke alarms to provide to residents in their districts. Working smoke alarms provide the notification necessary for early detection of fires. This is not a secret, nor a little known fact. 

 

Also consider the impact to the areas where the fires took place. Neighborhoods will now have these burned-out shells in their presence until some type of remediation occurs. The local environment around these neighborhoods have now been punished with air and water runoff pollution. Delaware is a state that is fighting battles on both of these environmental fronts with little success. These fires just added insult to injury.

 

I hope that the victims of these fires all have successful recoveries. In the event their homes can be repaired, or if they make plans to rebuild, please consider building with residential fire sprinklers. While working smoke alarms provide early detection of fire and smoke, residential fire sprinklers provide early suppression of small fires. Small fires controlled by sprinkler systems do not become large fires that threaten lives, property, and the environment.

 

Anyone considering building a new house in Delaware should include residential fire sprinklers in their plans. Do not be put off or dissuaded by your builder. While you will most likely get a quality house, it's the contents that fill your home that cause many concerns in the unfortunate event of a fire.

A new report once again points to the horror home fires pose on the public, and the power of home fire sprinklers. Examining 10 years of fire data, the University of Fraser Valley in British Columbia released new research that bears a striking resemblance to U.S. data. 

 

"We wanted to take a fresh look at the data in light of modern-day fire response, demographics, and building fire risk," says Joseph Clare, who co-authored the study "Sprinkler Systems and Residential Structure Fires--Revisted: Exploring the Impact of Sprinklers for Life Safety and Fire Spread." "The results underscore the life-saving potential of automated sprinklers in all residential settings, particularly when paired with working smoke alarms." 

 

Some of the reports key findings include:

 

"This is further evidence that mandatory sprinkler systems in all new homes would be a large, proactive step towards furthering residential fire safety in Canada," Clare told Fire Fighting in Canada. Visit the site for more information on this report. 

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