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There's growing concern pertaining to chemical flame retardants used in upholstered furniture. While aiming to improve fire safety at home, these chemicals have gotten the attention of health advocates, who highlight research linking these chemicals to cancer and other ailments. Striking the right balance between fire safety and health concerns is key, but there's another solution that must be brought to the table: home fire sprinklers. 

 

That's the stance of Meghan Housewright, director of NFPA's Policy Institute. In her latest column appearing in NFPA Journal, she points to extensive research on fire's devastating impact on homebuilding materials; homes with large, open floor plans; and upholstered furniture filled with synthetics that some safety advocates have described as "foam gasoline."

 

"The search for a path that won't compromise fire safety or health should lead policymakers straight to an existing, toxin-free solution: home fire sprinklers," says Housewright. "As policymakers contend with the health ramifications of the flame retardant chemical debate, they cannot lose sight of the very real fire problem. 

 

"[Outside of Maryland and California], nowhere else do statewide directives exist to follow [a model building code requirement to fire sprinkler new, one- and two-family homes], meaning the vast majority of the country's homes are built without fire sprinklers."

 

Read Housewright's column in NFPA Journal for more information. 

On the Hawaiian island of Oahu, fire safety measures appear to have been prioritized following last year's high-rise fire at the Marco Polo building in Honolulu. Killing four people and injuring others, the fire received international attention since it occurred soon after the devastating Grenfell Tower fire in London. Hawaiians impacted by the Marco Polo fire have taken action in some unique ways. 

 

Earlier this year, the building's condo owners voted to install fire sprinklers in their units, a move praised by city officials. "Even if you upgrade everything--your elevators, your doors, your alarm system--and you get all the bells and whistles, but if you don't get a fire sprinkler system, when that building catches fire, it's still going to burn," Captain Scott Seguirant with the Honolulu Fire Department told Hawaii News Now. A paramedic interviewed for the story agreed, saying that any technology ensuring the safety of the public and emergency responders is a good thing. 

 

A new Hawaiian law passed after the fire now offers financial incentives to condo associations for fire sprinklering their homes. It also requires fire safety evaluations to buildings 10 stories or higher within three years, reports Hawaii News Now. 

 

The victims' families have also been busy, establishing the Community Kokua Foundation for Fire Prevention and Recovery. The nonprofit's mission is to push fire prevention and assist survivors emotionally or physically impacted by the Marco Polo fire. 

 

Similar to what's occurring in Honolulu, all communities must work together to help solve its fire problem. Please read this commentary from NFPA President Jim Pauley on how breakdowns in the fire prevention and protection system contribute to the global fire problem. 

Safety advocates are taking their sprinkler education and advocacy on the road, literally. 

 

Members of the Oregon Fire Sprinkler Coalition developed this bus ad promoting home fire sprinklers that includes the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) website. The Oregon coalition tells NFPA that the ad was funded via a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency administered to the City of Medford Fire-Rescue and Ashland Fire and Rescue.  

 

Lacking funds or creativity to create a public awareness campaign on fire sprinklers? You don't need to reinvent the wheel. Download these effective public service announcements from HFSC, for print and web, including this PSA that dispels one of the biggest Hollywood myths on fire sprinklers:

 

Members of the Maine Fire Sprinkler Coalition recently participated in a town council workshop that discussed strengthening the town of Gorham's fire sprinkler requirement. According to an news story, Gorham subdivision homes must include fire sprinklers if not served by "an approved fire pond or public hydrants" or rest on long, dead end streets. More than 260 of these homes have sprinklers, but fire officials want this technology included in all new homes.

 

In a town with a six- to eight-minute response time, the proposed ordinance to sprinkler all new homes is like  "putting a fully staffed fire truck in each home with a one-minute response time at zero cost to taxpayers," Fire Chief Robert Lefebvre told the news outlet. 

 

Not only will the ordinance's expansion help reduce home fire injuries and protect the town's fire service, it will also help reduce homeowner insurance costs. "What we're talking about is long-range planning," Lefebvre adds. 

 

This month, the town council will discuss the ordinance, which will be addressed at a public hearing before possible adoption, states the story. Check this blog for any updates to this story. 

Residential fires have already killed more than 40 people in South Carolina this year. Fire sprinklers can help end these tragedies in new homes, but the state lacks a requirement to sprinkler these dwellings. That's not stopping one advocate recently interviewed on a TV news station. Trying to sell sprinklers to potential homebuyers (and hopefully getting the attention of state decision makers) is one advocate who adequately answered the question, "If I fire sprinkler my new home, what's in it for me?" 

 

"Some insurance agencies offer [financial] incentives," Kyle Minick, executive director of the South Carolina State Firefighters' Association and member of the South Carolina Fire Sprinkler Coalition, told an NBC news affiliate. (Minick was also a recipient of a Bringing Safety Home Award, distributed by NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.) "I know [my insurance agency] did ... I got a reduction." (Download NFPA's fact sheet on home fire sprinkler discounts.)

 

Minick added that local homeowners can also write off 25 percent of expenses related to the system on their property and income taxes. And there's the life-saving aspect of fire sprinklers; NFPA's "U.S. Experience With Sprinklers" report notes that: 

 

  • the civilian death rate was 81 percent lower in homes with fire sprinklers than in homes without them
  • the average firefighter injury rate was 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

 

When promoting fire sprinklers to the public, please make sure you're promoting these incentives, and any other local discounts. 

Photo: GoFundMe

A devastating fire in Middletown, New Jersey, took the lives of an 18-year-old girl and her pet dog. Aubree Larusso, recent graduate of Middletown North High School, was trapped in her bedroom when the fire started. Also home during the fire were her mother, brother, and a family friend, but all escaped unharmed, according to the Middletown Patch.

"Her bedroom was off of the living room area, and the fire originated in or near the living room. The fire blocked her access to leave the home," Chris Swendeman, a spokesman for the local county prosecutor, told the Patch. The cause of the fire was deemed accidental.

Aubree’s cousin, Casey Kwiatkowski,  created a GoFundMe page for the LaRusso’s recovery efforts. The town’s high school has also been offering counseling for those grieving. Friend and neighbor Bethany DePalo told NFPA, “It’s crazy to think she’s gone. I feel like everyone in the town is affected by her passing. Word spread very quickly, and in a way this unbelievable tragedy is actually bringing people closer together.”

Another New Jersey fire recently made headlines this month when five children from Union City were killed in a residential fire. New Jersey legislators have introduced home fire sprinkler bills this year in an attempt to prevent these disasters from happening in the future. For more information on additional sprinkler-related efforts in New Jersey, visit the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Coalition page.    

While constantly promoting the aesthetics of homes with open-concept designs, popular home improvement shows rarely (if ever) discuss its fire concerns. We underscore this issue in the latest edition of NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter. Watch a news clip underscoring how fire sprinklers mitigate the fire risks in these settings.

 

The newsletter also features stories on:

 

  • a New Jersey tragedy involving five children
  • our podcast series that is reaching new audiences via national recognition
  • an anti-sprinkler TV ad, and how advocates are fighting back

 

Take 30 seconds to become a better advocate for home fire sprinklers; sign up to receive our free, monthly newsletter today.

Aftershocks from a catastrophic fire in San Francisco's Mission Hill neighborhood are still felt throughout the city; some of the nearly 60 residents are still displaced following the 2015 fire that occurred in a mixed-use building. The fire killed one resident and injured six others. According to reports, the unsprinklered building had repeated safety violations. And one lawmaker is telling repeat offenders with similar violations that enough is enough. 

 

San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen has introduced legislation requiring landlords with buildings constantly flagged with safety violations to upgrade or install fire sprinkler and alarm systems. California's new homes currently require fire sprinklers. The new law would give the city's Department of Building Inspection and Fire Department the authority to order a building owner in an existing, unsprinklered residence with at least two fire safety violations to make these upgrades. Moreover, the upgrade costs cannot be passed on to the tenants, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. 

 

The news outlet also reports that between 2004 and 2016, the city experienced more than 250 residential fires that were two alarms or more. This legislation is "another tool for the city to use so tenants have a level of safety," Tommi Avicolli Mecca with the city's Housing Rights Committee told the Chronicle. “There is a problem with buildings that have violations that could lead to fires, and sometimes they go years without being abated. There’s got to be a way that we can protect people when you’ve got these bad actors."

The Massachusetts Legislature is debating if local communities can require national fire safety measures in new home construction, particularly, requirements for home fire sprinklers. Currently, these communities don't have that option. The bill, H2481, is intended to allow local communities to create their own fire sprinkler requirements, thereby protecting Massachusetts families and firefighters. 

 

The Massachusetts Fire Sprinkler Coalition is urging legislators to act on this bill, which is currently in committee. Their reason is clear; there were more than 57,000 fires in one- and two-family homes in the last decade. Moreover, these fires caused more than 200 deaths and close to $830 million in property damage. 

 

There is broad-based support for this measure; organizations supporting the bill include the Fire Chiefs Association of Massachusetts, the Fire Prevention Association of Massachusetts, and the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. The coalition is urging Massachusetts residents and safety advocates to contact Representative Jeffrey Sánchez, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, 617-722-2990, and ask him to support H2481. Please take this important step for a bill that would give communities the option to enact their own home fire sprinkler requirements. 

Photo: GoFundMe

 

The town of Union City, New Jersey, is in mourning following a residential fire on July 13 that claimed the lives of five children. Ranging in age from 2 to 13, the children were from the same family and were sleeping when the fire started, according to news reports. Adults and firefighters were also injured in the five-alarm blaze.


According to a story on NJ.com, the cause appears to be from a faulty, electrical outlet, though the investigation is ongoing. (Please follow NFPA’s tips on electrical safety in the home.) The building's owner has been cited with code violations, including failure to maintain smoke alarms and failure to "comply or maintain a fire escape," states another story on NJ.com. 

 

Union City’s mayor’s office has established a victim's fund via a GoFundMe page. “NFPA sends its heartfelt condolences to the family, the victims, and to the entire Union City community,” says NFPA President Jim Pauley. “This incident is a heartbreaking reminder of the devastating and frequent toll of today’s home fires. As far as our country has come in reducing losses associated with fire, home fires remain a major problem that we can no longer ignore.”


NFPA’s research underscores this problem; home fires, on average, kill seven people each day and injure 13,000 annually. Equally alarming is the fact that if there is a reported fire in your home today, you are more likely to die in that fire than one nearly 40 years ago. Life-saving technologies reduce the risk of death or injury from home fires, but aren’t always embraced by state decision makers. For instance, the home fire death rate in homes with hardwired smoke alarms and fire sprinklers is 90 percent lower than homes without them, per NFPA. In New Jersey, legislative bills requiring sprinklers in new, one- and two-family homes have made it to then Governor Chris Christie’s desk twice, which he vetoed both times. The state’s Assembly and Senate have once again introduced similar sprinkler bills this year.


“NFPA joins local safety advocates in supporting any legislation in New Jersey that bolsters fire sprinkler protection, especially in new homes,” says Pauley. “Preventing future generations from experiencing a tragedy similar to what occurred in Union City is why NFPA is fully committed to fire sprinkler requirements.”

New York TV stations are airing an ad downplaying the necessity of fire sprinkler requirements, but safety advocates are fighting back. 

 

A bill introduced in Albany County would require fire sprinklers in its new homes. According to a recent news story, if passed, Albany County would be New York's first county to require this technology. Contractors who don't install fire sprinklers in new homes could face a fine of $250 a day if this measure is passed. The bill is currently in committee, but will be debated during a public meeting in August. 

 

Opposing local requirements for this life-saving bill is the New York State Association of Realtors, which have funded a TV ad downplaying the necessity of fire sprinklers. "This should remain a consumer choice, not a mandate,” Susan Summers, president of the Greater Capital Association of Realtors, told a local news station. Advocates have long argued that fire sprinklers are a U.S. model building code requirement. When jurisdictions go through building code updates, not adopting the full version of the code and cherry-picking what to include and not include from the code is a dangerous act. If a new home is lacking fire sprinklers, it is not adhering to model building code requirements and should be considered substandard. 

 

As he's done many times this year already in front of TV cameras, Jerry DeLuca with the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs discussed the necessity of sprinklers during the news broadcast. (Check out NYSAFC's new sprinkler PSA.) He conduced a brief show-and-tell using an actual sprinkler. 

 


Please bookmark our blog and check it often for updates to this story. If you'd like to snag your own fire sprinkler prop for educational and media-related purposes, please request one from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

Do you live somewhere that prohibits home fire sprinkler requirements statewide or locally? Do you feel like your hands are tied by laws that actually prohibit a safety feature known to save lives? While these laws may be in place throughout the U.S., they don't ban you from giving your community doses of fire sprinkler education. Or even calling out laws that could impact their safety. 

 

For example, Georgia safety advocates attracted the media during a side-by-side fire demonstration last month. In a video that appears to be from the same event, State Fire Marshal Dwayne Garriss hits all the key points in front of news cameras. (Download our media talking points guide to make sure you are, too.)

 

"Sprinkler technology...can save lives, save firefighters' lives, can slow down response emergencies," he said. "There is a national code that says you are to have [sprinklers] installed [in new homes]. The biggest problem we have is that a legislative body here has basically said that the state cannot adopt a code that mandates that into a one- and two-family dwelling. In that case, we're just trying to educate people on the benefits of fire sprinklers."

 

Via NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative website, we offer an array of ways to take action even if your state prohibits fire sprinkler requirements. Please do what you can to support home fire sprinklers. 

Here's a unique fire sprinkler save from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Firefighters there were called to an early-morning, residential fire. Residents told them the fire was inside a vacant apartment. Upon entering the unit, they noticed that the fire sprinkler activation had kept the fire tenable. To fully extinguish the fire, firefighters simply stomped it out with their boots, according to the Times Free Press. There were no reported injuries or deaths from the fire. 

 

The fire sprinklers did what they were intended to do. According to NFPA's research on fire sprinkler activation:

 

  • when sprinklers were present during a fire, the fire was kept to the room of origin 97 percent of the time.
  • Roughly 85 percent of the time, just one sprinkler operates during a fire.

 


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.

Photo: Twitter 

 

Proving fire can happen anytime and impact anyone, a Maryland couple and their family fled their home during a fire  the morning of the couple's wedding. 

 

According to news reports, the fire began around 2:30 a.m. at the bride-to-be's family home in Maryland. Seventeen family members and wedding party guests were home when the fire started. “I woke up, I woke my wife, and I’m like, something is burning,” one of the wedding guests told a Washington, D.C., ABC news station. “In five minutes, the whole thing was like in flames. Five minutes, the whole thing.”

 

The groom, Matthew Denakis, says he heard his mother-in-law screaming about the fire. Fortunately, everyone escaped safely and nobody was hurt, but the fire caused about $400,000 in damage to the home. Smoking materials may have been the culprit, according to authorities. 

 

Firefighters were able to collect Denakis' Army uniform and shoes for the wedding. The wedding dress was safe since Coral, the bride, had stored it in Denakis' car the night before the fire. Rather than dwell on the negative, the couple decided to continue with the ceremony as planned. "My wife was gorgeous and breathtaking, and my uniform was cleaned," Denakis told the news station. "Decorations that were saved were amazing. It was a nice ending to a rather horrendous beginning."

 

Every home fire has a story. Hear ours by visiting the "survivor stories" page on NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative site.

Set to vote on a requirement to sprinkler its new homes, the Palatine, Illinois, Village Council decided to postpone the vote after local builders argued they "were given little advance warning about the vote" and could "improve fire safety [in new homes] using cheaper methods," according to a recent news story.

 

The Illinois village had considered a sprinkler ordinance in 2011, but it was rejected following concerns that it would deter new construction projects. Now that neighboring towns have had success in adopting their own fire sprinkler requirements, the vote is back on the table, reports the news story. 

 

Local homebuilders were quick to question Palatine's proposal, stating fire sprinkler requirements would spike home prices, drive up insurance costs, and ignore more affordable--and equally effective--fire prevention methods. However, extensive research has proven the affordability of fire sprinkler installation, particularly in communities that have embraced fire sprinkler ordinances. Moreover, no other technology responds to and helps extinguish a fire as rapidly as fire sprinklers. "[With] sprinklers, you can afford people opportunities to get out," local Fire Marshal Jay Atherton told the publication. He also informed the council that fire sprinkler installations lead to insurance discounts.

 

The council tabled the vote until August so the local homebuilders can submit their input. However, a councilman offered a bit of good news to safety advocates. "I don't want to [be] ambiguous at all--sprinklers are going to be part of our code," said Councilman Scott Lamerand, according to the news story. "Certainly in townhomes and maybe some portion of single-family homes."

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