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Thus far, close to 80 people have been killed from the Grenfell Tower fire in London. Attention has been partly placed on the structure's lack of fire sprinklers and the technology's presence in both existing and new residences. A lawmaker wants other decision makers to start embracing the fire safety aspect of sprinklers via sprinkler requirements in the wake of this tragedy. 

 

"What I would like to see is the U.K. government [take] a leaf from Wales," Welsh legislator Ann Jones told the BBC. She was recently honored by NFPA for her influential role in passing Wales' requirement to sprinkler all of its new dwellings. Wales is the first country to pass such a requirement. "I would like to see the U.K. government and the ministers put a commitment that they will put fire safety higher up the agenda - that they will stop talking about the costs because, for me, it's a small amount of money to have.

 

"I was astonished to see how U.K. ministers could inflate costs of installing sprinkler systems and yet we see the tragedy that's happened." Some legislators seem to be getting the message, as efforts are now under way to fire sprinkler certain residences in certain areas of London. 

 

In North America, the same lofty, cost estimates and cost-cutting efforts prohibiting fire sprinklers have resulted in similar tragedies in one- and two-family settings. (Research has consistently countered these myths.) Please read NFPA President Jim Pauley's commentary on the London fire and how today's fire problem is the result of a "broken system." 

Fire chief Keith Brower was en route to a home fire when mayday was called. "I was approximately seven to eight miles out, and my heart stopped,” Brower says. “It literally froze me. It was chilling.”

 

Fortunately, four firefighters escaped the burning home, but one sustained serious burns. His injuries forced him to retire. “When I see this firefighter, I don’t know what to say,” Brower says, “I really feel awkward saying, "Hey, how’s it going?‟ because I know how it’s going. He’s partly incapacitated. He can’t do the job he loves."

 

Brower has been a vocal advocate for home fire sprinklers since the 2008 fire, often wondering why such a life-saving device has such equally vocal opponents. "We used to have a saying that we could fight fire in a building for eight hours," he says. "The building would burn down before it would fall down." With newer home environments, he adds, that's not the case. 

 

People from all walks of life are impacted by home fire. Please watch and share Brower's story, one in a series of NFPA's Faces of Fire campaign: 

 

Showcasing North America's growing support for home fire sprinklers, the province of British Columbia initiated Canada's first fire sprinkler coalition this month. 

 

NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative has updated its sprinkler coalition map to include the country of Canada, the new coalition (which advocates are calling the British Columbia Fire Sprinkler Initiative), and the 30, state-based coalitions. Prior to the official launch of the coalition, Canadians have voice their support for sprinklers in unique ways. For instance: 

 

  • The Co-Operators, a Canadian insurance company that vocally supports home fire sprinklers, has partnered with NFPA to produce this stellar video on this technology: 
  • A new study by Canadian researchers determined that home fires have cost the Canadian economy $7.6 billion

 

Visit the new British Columbia Fire Sprinkler Initiative page for more information on Canada's efforts to promote home fire sprinklers. 

I recently had a chat with a number of fire and life safety educators, and the majority of them said the public is vastly unaware of home fire sprinkler operation or the necessity of this technology. Hollywood's portrayal of fire sprinklers, they added, doesn't help.  

 

You, our fire sprinkler advocates, can be a valuable mythbuster. The more times you're able to set the record straight about home fire sprinklers, the more informed the public will become on this technology.

 

  • If presenting on home fire sprinklers, please differentiate the myths versus the facts. Use our new PowerPoint presentation to help you.
  • Each week, share a new sprinkler myth vs. fact on social media. (How about Sprinkler Myth Mondays?)
  • Write letters to the editor underscoring the truth on sprinklers, especially if you've read or seen anything that's inaccurate. "Sprinklers, once activated, will flood your home" or "smoke alarms are adequate fire protection in your home" are myths that always need a dose of reality. 

 

Take, for instance, the latter myth. NFPA's research notes that the percentage of fire fatalities in homes with working smoke alarms is increasing. Twenty years ago, about one of every five home fire fatalities occurred in homes with a working smoke alarm. That figure today is about one in every three. While this trend could be attributed to more homes being equipped with the device, it does indicate that smoke alarms should only be a component to home fire safety. Home fire sprinklers reduce your risk of dying by 80 percent. Smoke alarms alone cut this risk by half.

 

Our research also points to a 99 percent survival rate from fire in homes with working smoke alarms. Our opponents love to highlight this statistic since, they feel, it captures the device's effectiveness in saving lives. But consider this: 

 

  • Each year, approximately 2,500 home fire deaths occur in more than 365,000 reported structure fires. Therefore, the likelihood of surviving a home fire is approximately 99 percent without regard to the presence of smoke alarms or any other fire safety provisions. Does that mean 2,500 deaths are acceptable? Most people would say no.
  • Each year, there are an estimated 12,000 deaths due to falls in homes and an estimated 11 million fall injuries in the home. The likelihood of surviving a fall is therefore 99.9 percent. Does that mean 12,000 deaths are acceptable? Most people would say no.

 


Please educate yourself on the facts and become a local mythbuster on home fire sprinklers. Use these responses to aid you. 

A new residential subdivision will likely include home fire sprinklers following a pitch by a code official. 

 

In order to forego an extremely wide boulevard entrance for the new development that's meant to accommodate emergency vehicles, a town director of building and codes convinced the developer, Pete Belmonte, to fire sprinkler the homes. "The fire sprinklers give better protection than a wider road," Town Director Steve Myers told CNWeekly.com. "It's really a minor cost to building a house, and [the developer] will get a good price on the sprinklers and the labor with all the volume."

 

Noting that fire sprinklers will lead to a "better project," Belmonte added that reducing the development's black top would make it more environmentally sensitive. "What we save on asphalt will just go into the sprinklers."

 

A big tip of the hat to this developer for embracing life safety in his new homes and business-booming trade-ups.

 


Is there a new development under construction in your town? Please make sure you alert the developer or homebuilder that they can benefit from a series of trade-ups if they install home fire sprinklers.  

Fire sprinklering all of Sin City's new homes could be a reality, if certain safety advocates have their say. 

 

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a proposal to sprinkler new, one- and two-family homes in Vegas has advanced and will be voted on by Vegas' city council as soon as this month. 

 

"Where the people are dying, where they're affected by fire most, is where we want to concentrate our resources,” Las Vegas Fire Marshal Robert Nolan told a local NBC affiliate. "[Homebuilders] do want to build safe homes. Automakers want to build safe automobiles, but they didn't put seatbelts in cars until they were mandated. They didn't put airbags in cars until they were mandated. The homebuilders put smoke alarms in homes when they were mandated."

 

NFPA obtained a copy of a 2016 study on residential fire suppression by the University of Las Vegas commissioned by the Las Vegas Fire and Rescue Department. The report, "Residential Fire Sprinkler Cost Benefit Analysis for the City of Las Vegas (NV) Fire and Rescue," concluded that for a 2,000-square-foot home, the cost benefit analysis placed installation costs for a new tract home in Las Vegas at under a dollar per sprinklered square foot. Fire sprinklers, the study determined, would eventually pay for itself. While listing a series of homebuilder trade-ups that could lower construction costs if fire sprinklers are installed, the report also recommends the town's city council to "immediately pass the ordinance mandating fire suppression for all new, single-family residential home construction."

 


Other towns have successfully passed ordinances to fire sprinkler their new homes. Read the benefits of these ordinances by downloading our reports on this issue. 

The dedication and passion that our advocates for home fire sprinklers possess is nothing short of admirable. Those attending NFPA's Conference and Expo in Boston this week got the chance to share their passion with other members of the now 30, state-based coalitions and Canadian advocates during an informal meet and greet. Public educators were also in attendance. 

 

During the event, NFPA President Jim Pauley warmly thanked the advocates for their on-the-ground efforts and relentless persistence in promoting home fire sprinklers, despite the opposition they might be experiencing. Through informal conversations, they shared tactics and made new connections. 

 

As pictured above, coalition members proudly wore new NFPA Fire Sprinkler Initiative hats given out during the event. Download some of our newest advocacy materials by visiting the initiative's site. 

 

Spearheading legislation to require fire sprinklers in all new homes in Wales, NFPA honored Ann Jones during its Conference and Expo in Boston. Jones received the James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal, established in honor of NFPA's former president, a dedicated advocate for fire sprinklers who helped launch NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative. 

 

In 2007, Jones headed a legislative proposal that would give Wales authority to ensure that all new homes are fitted with automatic fire sprinklers. She worked diligently to get cross-party support for sprinklers, sought out skeptical legislators, educated them on safety benefits, and won over the fire and rescue service with her enthusiasm and belief. The sprinkler law passed in 2011, making Wales the first country to pass a nationwide requirement and providing a model for all jurisdictions to follow.

 

Jones is from Rhyl, a town on the northern coast of Wales. She worked for more than three decades in the Rhyl Fire Service emergency call center, skillfully handling emergencies with compassion and composure. Over the years, Jones also held a number of key leadership positions with the Fire Brigades Union, was a town councilor, county councilor, and town mayor. In addition, she has been a member of the National Assembly for Wales since 1999, and currently serves as the presiding officer. Her devotion to safety, education, disability issues, and women in public life is highly regarded throughout Wales and beyond.

 

Jones currently holds chair positions with the National Assembly, and participates as an active member of various committees. She leads meetings at the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, and is vice president of the Assembly’s Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

 

NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative team warmly congratulates Ann for her dedication to life safety, and for her role in passing sprinkler legislation!

Following pointed comments to the media about Pennsylvania's lack of fire sprinkler laws, another safety advocate has come forth with an urgent plea to change the status quo. 

 

Pittsburgh Fire Chief Darryl Jones is also calling for the increased use of this technology in many settings, including homes. "I'm hopeful there can be some legislation that comes up with that," he recently told a news outlet following a local, high-rise fire that killed a 75-year-old woman. 

 

Responding to the fire, the Pennsylvania Builder's Association offered a statement to the news station that did not address residential sprinklers. "We firmly advocate for working smoke detectors and fire extinguishers as a frontline defense against fire fatalities in residential dwellings," the statement said in part. 

 

Similar to Pennsylvania's safety advocates, please keep your local home fire problem and the solution--home fire sprinklers--on the media's radar. Pitch this story to reporters who may have covered home fires in the past, and if chatting with them, use these talking points in our media guide.

If you're heading to NFPA's Conference and Expo at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center this year, take note of the these two education sessions sure to perfect your pitch for home fire sprinklers, a necessary technology in all new homes: 

 

Getting the Message Across: A Guide to Pitching Fire Sprinklers as the Tool to End Our Fire Problem
Sunday, June 4, 2017, 10-11:30 a.m.
Location: Room 256

 

The risk of dying in a home fire has not changed in nearly four decades, though the technology to reduce this risk exists. Panelists from NFPA, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, the National Fire Sprinkler Association, and Viking Group will explain how to effectively promote fire sprinklers to the public and media as that technology. Methods to be presented include crafting compelling messages using new research and resources from NFPA; pitching this life-saving technology to news reporters, efforts that have led to a better informed public and a defeat of anti-sprinkler legislation; amplifying the voices of fire and burn survivors; using and localizing props, graphics, and video footage; using social media to create widespread awareness; and communicating fire sprinkler saves (or success stories) to the media.

 

Home Fire Sprinklers: Stakeholder Perceptions in Mandatory Requirement States

Monday, June 5, 2017, 8-9 a.m.

Location: Room 256

While more and more states and jurisdictions continue to debate the adoption of code requirements for home fire sprinklers, a project was undertaken to gauge stakeholder perceptions in states with widespread adoption. This session will present the findings of a market research study conducted in two states, Maryland and California, that have required home fire sprinklers in single-family residences. The study included a survey of homeowners and local government officials and interviews of water purveyors in both states. 

 

Also, don't forget to swing by NFPA's booth on the expo floor to talk fire sprinklers with our regional sprinkler experts!

It's a good year to be a Canadian advocate for home fire sprinklers. 

 

First, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) recently launched a new website targeting Canadian fire service and other stakeholder groups interested in home fire sprinklers. Second, HFSC's popular stipend program that gives American fire departments dollars to further sprinkler education efforts has now made its way into Canada. 

 

Outlined in a recent article penned by NFPA's Canadian Regional Director Shayne Mintz, HFSC will select 10 Canadian fire departments that will each receive $1,000 to conduct live burn/fire sprinkler demonstrations in their regions. Applicants must either be or become a Built For Life fire department, which pledges to incorporate fire sprinklers into their public education and outreach activities. (If you're a Canadian department, apply here to become a Built For Life department.)

 

"The goal of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition-Canada is to enlist as many stakeholders as possible to engage with their communities and develop regional or provincial sprinkler coalitions in Canada," states Mintz. 

 

Visit the HFSC Canada site to apply for this important stipend. 

Attention film lovers: tired of Hollywood misrepresenting fire sprinklers? Do you get irate when a character willingly sets off a fire alarm, only to activate every fire sprinkler in the process? (I'm looking at you, Tim Meadows.

 

Our friends at the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) are taking action to set the record straight on sprinklers. In a recent article that appeared in their member magazine, Sprinkler Age, AFSA highlights a handful of movies that perpetuate the popular myth that if one fire sprinkler activates, they all activate. The article also points to the website Films on Fire that has compiled an impressive list of fire sprinkler activations in movies that wouldn't occur in the real world. 

 

AFSA is also alerting Hollywood to these inaccuracies. "For every Hollywood inconsistency that [AFSA] is made aware of, it will draft a letter to the studio that produced the film, explaining what was done incorrectly and asking them to be more diligent in the future," states the recent article. "The letters include detailed descriptions of the scenes in which sprinklers are misrepresented, as well as clear explanations of what was wrong with the scene, and why it matters. Often the letters will include the phone number of the studio head's local fire official, encouraging them to contact that person and further educate themselves."

 

Have you seen a recent Hollywood sprinkler activation that didn't make sense? Let AFSA know. And let us know the movie by responding directly to this blog post!

In the latest edition of our Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter, read about a new study featured on “Good Morning America” underscoring children’s inability to wake when smoke alarms sound. You’ll also read about:

 

• an undercover investigation revealing homebuilders inflating costs for home fire sprinklers
• another state forming a fire sprinkler coalition, bringing the coalition total to 30
• a senator introducing an anti-sprinkler bill

 

We need your help in getting this crucial content to the right people. Do you know someone who could benefit from a monthly dose of news catered to home fire safety? Please share this blog and our newsletter subscribe link with them. The more people become aware of home fire sprinklers, the more we can increase  acceptance of this technology.

"I don't think anyone has ever asked me, 'Hey, I'd like to put a fire sprinkler system in my home," Illinois homebuilder Tim Koontz told an NBC affiliate during a recent news segment. "Our position has been that [sprinklers] should be customer choices."

 

However, homeowner Ken Sparrow considers this technology "a must" and not an option after hearing about the damage and loss from rural home fires in his area. Some education convinced him that this addition to his new home was worth it. "The people [in the photo] hanging on the wall are the reason we got this and decided to spend a little extra money to buy this system," he told NBC. 

 

The Quincy Fire Department in Illinois hopes recent, educational efforts will have the same effect on others in the market for new homes. Via a live burn/fire sprinkler demonstration that garnered media coverage, the department is raising awareness of this technology and hopes these efforts eventually lead to the consideration of a town ordinance for sprinklering new homes. According to the news story, the Illinois state fire marshal pushed for a statewide, fire sprinkler requirement in 2013, but withdrew the proposal after fierce opposition. An alternative approach that seems to be working in Illinois is having local communities adopt their own ordinance. Close to 100 towns now have one on the books. 

 

Correcting sprinkler myths perpetuated by the opposition is still ongoing in Illinois. Though homebuilder Koontz claims that "the [fire] department is probably a mile away [from one of my subdivisions], so the response time is going to be pretty good," today's home fires can become deadly in as little as three minutes. 

 

[Through these live burn/sprinkler demonstrations,] I hope people...understand that fire burns very rapidly in your house," Quincy Deputy Chief Greg Dryer told NBC. 

 

Utilize all of our free resources catered to homebuilders. Let them know that building without fire sprinklers is building substandard homes. 

Photo: GoFundMe

 

Media reports from across the U.S. underscore a deadly weekend caused by home fires. Here are the incidents and the people impacted by these tragedies: 

 

Lexington, Kentucky
Date of fire: May 20, 2017

 

Four members of the same family died in a Saturday morning fire. Jeffrey and Nancy Brown, 54 and 59 respectively, and their eight-year-old daughter and son, were killed in the incident. Another child was able to escape the blaze. "Jeff and Nancy were just hard-working, honest, salt of the earth people. Nancy was battling cancer. She was going through chemotherapy," Pastor Rick Burdette of Gardenside Christian Church told CBS station WLKY. A GoFundMe page for the family has been established. 

 

According to reports, fire officials suspect there were no working smoke alarms in the home. 

 

Windermere, Florida

Date of fire: May 20, 2017

 

On the same day as the Lexington fire, an elderly Floridian couple, Ken and Susan Ward, were found dead inside their home. According to a story on ClickOrlando.com, initial attempts to check for residents inside the home were near impossible since the home was completely engulfed in flames. A nearby neighbor said the home looked like "an orange fire ball." Trees and foliage near the home hampered entry to the home, the story added. 

 

"Everybody's in shock," resident Lane Rickerson, who spoke to the couple a day before the fire, told the publication. "It just lets you know that life is short. You got to enjoy every day you got because you just never know."

 

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Date of fire: May 21, 2017

 

Another elderly couple lost their lives to fire last weekend. Cliff Hickman, 84, his wife Annie, 70, were pronounced dead at the scene, according to an NBC affiliate. The fire also claimed the life of their 30-year-old grandson, who was from Iowa and visiting the couple. 

 

According to the news report, neighbors could smell the smoke and hear the victim's screams as fire spread inside the home. "Just a great couple," a neighbor told NBC. "Just really sorry. Just really sorry to see them go."

 

Our region's decision makers need to be alerted--constantly--that home fires are a major threat to all residents. If requirements for home fire sprinklers are not embraced, we will likely continue to see these tragedies for decades to come. Please call or write to your legislators, alerting them to the problem and demand they take action in support of the solution. (Use the points found in this infographic to strengthen your case.) If you are able to tie your pitch to a local home fire, all the better. You can be a change-maker in your community. 

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