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Unsure how to join the many safety advocates taking action during North America's first Home Fire Sprinkler Day? Don't fret. Whether planning a citywide event or simply alerting your social media contacts about the day, your participation will be a crucial component to Sprinkler Day's success. If you haven't yet planned an event for Saturday, May 19, here are some ideas: 

 

 

Please join us in taking action for this important event. If we can offer any additional assistance, please let us know.

Here is today's disturbing fact: forty percent of people recently surveyed believe they are more likely to win the lottery or get struck by lightning than experience a home fire. 

 

This finding was one of many underscored by the American Red Cross in a new survey of more than 600 American adults. The results underscore a public woefully underprepared for a home fire and mistaken on the realities of these incidents. 

 

Per NFPA's research, seven people die every day from home fires. These frequent incidents represent the majority of the nearly 64,000 disasters that the American Red Cross responds to each year, according to a news release on the survey. About 40 percent of survey takers admitted to actions that could contribute to a home fire, including forgetting to turn off a stove or oven. Despite these facts, a small percentage think they will ever experience a home fire in their lifetime. 

 

Moreover, the majority of respondents believe everyone knows what to do in the event of a smoke alarm activation, but less than half have a home fire escape plan in place. Of those families that have developed a plan, only half of them practice it. (NFPA recommends practicing your escape plan twice a year.) Even more disturbing is the finding that the majority of survey takers feel they would have ample time to escape a burning home. In reality, home fires can become deadly in as little as two minutes. 

 

If we are to convince decision makers on the necessity of fire sprinklers in new homes, we need to first educate them on the problem. Please use these new facts from the Red Cross during your outreach efforts.  

 

 

NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition have created a proclamation declaring Saturday, May 19 Home Fire Sprinkler Day. Have your city or town's official sign the proclamation to acknowledging the event and any local activities associated with it. 

 

Download the proclamation (we even have a Canadian version) and our other free resources aimed at making your Sprinkler Day event a successful one. 

Photo: Twitter

 

Tragedy has once again placed a national spotlight on fire sprinklers.  

 

A recent fire at New York City's Trump Tower claimed the life of 67-year-old Todd Brassner and injured six firefighters, reports ABC News. The 50th-floor residence had no working smoke alarms or fire sprinklers. The fire's cause is believed to be accidental. 

 

Completed in 1983, the building was constructed prior to the passage of a 1999 city law requiring sprinklers in new, residential buildings with four or more units. The law also applies to existing residential buildings that "undergo renovations costing 50 percent or more of the building's value," reports ABC. 

 

According to one safety advocate in New York, this and subsequent state laws don't go far enough to protect the public. In an interview this week on ABC's "Good Morning America," Jerry DeLuca, executive director of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs, said fire sprinklers must be required in all settings and homes. For years, he and others have championed for a sprinkler requirement for all New York homes, but the state's building code council has chosen not to adopt the model building code requirement for sprinklering new, one- and two-family homes when updating its building and fire codes. "Fire sprinklers absolutely save lives by giving people time to escape a fire," DeLuca, also a member of the New York Fire Sprinkler Initiative, told ABC. "They might not always put out the fire, but they allow residents time to escape."

 

The story's reporter also cited NFPA's statistic on sprinklers reducing the risk of dying in a fire by 80 percent.  

 

Always the vocal safety advocate, DeLuca is constantly championing for safer homes. Read the commentary he submitted to NFPA last year following two home fires in two days that killed eight people. Please join him by becoming a vocal advocate for sprinklers in your region. 

Phil Egan begins his commentary for the North Bay Nipissing News with this heartbreaking line: "On the cold, winter night that my 24-year-old sister Frances lay down to sleep, she never realized she had spent her last day on earth."

 

Living only a three-minute "run" from the nearest fire station, Frances did not survive a fire at her home, which had no working smoke alarms, states Egan. Since the 1984 fire, Egan has become a safety advocate; he explains the fire threats in new homes that weren't there at the time of his sister's fire; he underscores fast-burning, synthetic furnishings filling our homes; and he embraces the answer to lessening fire's damaging impact at home. 

 

"The statistics [on home fire sprinklers] are impressive," he states in his commentary. "According to NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative, fires were kept from spreading beyond the room of origin 97 percent of the time when home sprinklers were present. These numbers represent a significant saving in lives and property." 

 

As for installation costs, he adds, "Well, it's certainly far less of a burden than the irreplaceable loss of Frances." 

 

Do you have a home fire story? Humanizing the impacts of home fires is a powerful way to convince decision makers to require home fire sprinklers. Join our many other Faces of Fire subjects and please share your story in the comments section or send us an email. 

On Saturday, May 19, you and others will get the chance to take collective action to help solve North America's home fire problem. Participating in Home Fire Sprinkler Day will send a powerful message to your local decision makers, residents, and the media that fire sprinklers in new homes should be embraced. Here are some tactics for taking action on this important day. (And don't forget to add your event to our map!)

 

  • Join forces. If your state or province has a fire sprinkler coalition, check with them to see if you
    can support their efforts. Visit the sprinkler coalitions page on the Fire Sprinkler Initiative site.
  • Alert the media. If hosting an event, customize and distribute one of our templated news releases to
    local media a week before the event. Follow up (preferably by phone) a day before the event
    with reporters and newsrooms and check if they can cover the event.
  • Create some buzz. Generate awareness of your event via social media. Use our customizable social
    media posts and images before and during the event. 
  • Smile for the camera! Take photos during the event, and share them with NFPA and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition so your efforts can be highlighted throughout North America. Send photos and a brief write-up of
    the event to FireSprinklerInitiative@nfpa.org.

 

There's still plenty of time to either plan an event or lend your support to an event in the works. Either way, please take some form of action on Saturday, May 19. Visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Day page for more information. 

A three-alarm, residential fire in January displaced Iowa residents, one of them being Jake Vanderslice. Seven weeks after the fire, a TV station checked in with him at the scene of the incident. He was finally able to enter the residence and witness the extent of the damage while grabbing some personal items. Since the fire, he's been living with family and friends. 

 

"I have a lot of water and smoke damage," he told a local ABC news affiliate. "Luckily I was able to get a lot of my personal and sentimental items."

 

Had fire sprinklers been inside his home, the outcome might have been different. West Des Moines Fire Marshal Mike Whitsell told another TV station that the residence lacked this technology. A growing metropolitan population, he says, may be to blame for a recent spat of fires in his town. "It just seems we're winning that lottery, so to speak. It's a lottery we don't want to win." 

 


If interacting with the media about a home fire, please make sure you're mentioning whether or not it had working smoke alarms and home fire sprinklers. Use our talking points document as a guide. 

Two surveys are shedding light on an apparent disconnect among the fire service and home developers. One of these surveys conducted for the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) found that 55 percent of developers interviewed stated they are interested in incorporating fire sprinklers in their new homes if offered an incentive or trade up. However, only six percent were offered them. 

 

Moreover, a fire service survey found that the vast majority of respondents are from jurisdictions that do not offer sprinkler incentives. (Download our 14-page guide that includes information on these incentives.)

 

"These two surveys show there is interest from both developers and the fire service to pursue incentives," says Lorraine Carli, HFSC's president and NFPA vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. "With incentives, there is a great opportunity for the fire service to grow the use of home fire sprinklers in their communities. For developers, there are financial opportunities afforded by incentives. It's a win-win."

 

Read HFSC's story on the surveys and how fire sprinklers are a key component to community risk reduction. 

Following London's Grenfell Tower fire last year that killed 71 people, an English fire safety committee is demanding fire sprinklers in all homes.  

 

A new report by the London Assembly underscored the life-saving abilities of sprinklers and called on new building regulations for this technology, reports The Independent. The Grenfell Tower was not equipped with sprinklers. While the report's committee recommended retrofits in existing buildings, its findings are also the "first steps on a 'road map' towards making sprinklers mandatory in all homes in England," states the article. 

 

"It is crucial that we use the outrage and the lessons of this fire to ensure that every Londoner is better protected from fire in their homes," London Assembly member Navin Shah, who led the investigation, told the publication. 

 

The committee isn't the first to demand fire sprinklers in England's homes since the Grenfell fire; Dany Cotton, London's fire commissioner, has advocated for sprinkler laws, and the Royal Institute of British Architects also demanded sprinklers in all new housing. 

 

As we continue our push for sprinkler requirements for new, one- and two-family homes here in North America, we salute the efforts of our safety advocates overseas. 

NFPA and others have been hard at work making sure your Home Fire Sprinkler Day event goes off without a hitch. To help raise awareness of your local events and this North American endeavor, we've created a series of social media cards that work perfectly in a Facebook post, tweet, or elsewhere. Download the following for your use:   

 

 

If you're looking for text to accompany these images, we have you covered. Visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Day page and download our sample social media posts document under "Event Resources." Don't forget the hashtag: #HomeFireSprinklerDay.

 

Even if you won't be participating in a Sprinkler Day event, please start sharing these social media cards before and during the big day to help highlight this endeavor. 

The following commentary was written by Michael Lowe, senior instructor at the Delaware State Fire School and member of the Delaware Fire Sprinkler Coalition:

 

I would like to express some thoughts regarding the recent fire that took place on Sand Dune Drive, in Rehoboth Beach, which destroyed two homes. I have friends whose lives were at risk the morning of March 13th. Why? Because of the belief that a tragedy would happen to someone else. Why? Because someone bought into the myths that residential sprinklers are expensive, not necessary, cause damage, and other misconceptions brought about by opponents of residential sprinkler installation. 


According to NFPA, in 2016, 475,500 structure fires occurred in the U.S., resulting in 2,950 civilian deaths and causing $7.9 billion in damage. Despite these statistics, the American public ignores the dangers and fails to take proper precautions to prevent these tragedies from occurring. Part of this attitude is a result of what experts determine as “the American Paradigm." This is primarily the belief that the incident will always happen to someone else. Secondly, there's the belief that fires are an unfortunate circumstance when they occur and cannot be prevented.


This is a dangerous way for our society to exist. There are victims everyday that have their lives devastated because of fire. Also, fire is not always an unfortunate circumstance that just happens; they can likely be prevented or at least have the significance of the incident be reduced. Improvements can be made by changing attitudes and behaviors.

 

It all starts with preparation. Having working smoke alarms (and regularly checking them) along with practicing escape planning will greatly reduce your chances of dying in a fire. The use of home fire sprinklers dramatically reduces fire's risks of death and property loss, despite misinformation being circulated by opponents of this technology. For instance,

the home fire death rate was 90 percent lower when fire sprinklers and hardwired smoke alarms were present, according to NFPA.


Considering all these facts, I find it totally irresponsible that a residential fire like the one on March 13 at Rehoboth Beach could have taken place with today’s resources available. Home fire sprinklers may have contained the fire to a small area. To think this would have prevented the loss of two homes and damage to others tells me this is not an unfortunate act of God but a preventable occurrence.

 

I plead with my fellow citizens: stay informed, take responsibility, and help future prevent incidents from occurring. 

 

This commentary was edited and condensed.

NFPA has unveiled a startling statistic when comparing today's home fire death rate with the rate nearly 40 years ago. And it's one every fire sprinkler advocate and decision maker should know.

 

For more information on this statistic, read the latest edition of NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter. There's also stories on: 

 

  • how Las Vegas and Rock Island, Illinois, are both celebrating key fire sprinkler victories
  • new resources to make your Home Fire Sprinkler Day event a success
  • TV's "This Is Us" prompts PSA on home fire sprinklers

 

Not getting this monthly newsletter in your inbox? We can fix that. Contact our Fire Sprinkler Initiative team and tell us you'd like to start receiving this publication. 

Pam Elliott doesn't remember the flames or smoke. She can't recall feeling any immediate pain from the third-degree burns that resulted from a fire at her home in 1959. What she does remember is a stranger entering her burning home and whisking her to safety. 

 

The real pain occurred years later in college, when the teasing and tormenting began. She had her heart set on becoming a physician’s assistant, but Elliott was told by medical personnel that her appearance “would instill in patients a deeper fear” of doctors, she told NFPA Journal in 2016. “Honey, what happened to you?” was a common query while she attended Piedmont International University. “That’s when I became acutely aware of my appearance,” says Elliott. “I became an angry, snotty, bitter woman."

 

After some soul-searching, Elliott discovered a newfound purpose and has learned to embrace her injuries and life's path. She's now a registered nurse and offers her support to burn survivors nationwide. This year, the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors honored her with its Advocacy Award, which recognizes individuals whose actions have brought greater awareness to the burn community.

 

Elliott has also been a vocal advocate for home fire sprinklers in North America; last month she shared her story at British Columbia's first residential sprinkler summit in February and has lobbied legislators to pass sprinkler requirements. 

 


NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative team congratulates Elliott on her accolade. Check out the "survivor stories" section of our website for more inspirational stories of those impacted by home fire. 

It's not too surprising that Peter Simpson likely irked the fire service. As the former head of two Canadian homebuilding associations, he admits to constantly battling safety advocates who pushed for home fire sprinklers. At city council meetings, he would slam sprinkler requirements, citing his industry's long-held belief that this technology is too costly.

 

"Never did I — or anyone who knew me, for that matter — ever imagine me writing this next sentence: Automatic fire sprinkler systems save lives, protect property, and preserve the environment," Simpson stated in a recent commentary appearing in the South Shore Breaker. 

 

Joining a volunteer fire department was the catalyst for Simpson changing his tune. Literally and figuratively stepping into a firefighter's shoes--"I can’t imagine what goes through their minds following a fire scene where there are fatalities," he states--has prompted a newfound respect for a fire sprinkler's role. 

 

Read Simpson's column. NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative team commends him for becoming a vocal ally and advocate.

Members of the real estate industry might have not-so-positive views on home fire sprinklers based on what they may have heard or seen. With its long list of inaccurate portrayal of sprinkler activations, Hollywood certainly doesn't help our case. The reality is that home fire sprinklers can be a strong selling point of a home.   

 

Helping to set the record straight is an article on sprinklers catered to this industry. Titled "House fires: less than two minutes to survive," a 2017 story in the Realty Times accurately discusses how home fire sprinklers combined with working smoke alarms and escape planning can be a resident's best defense against the damaging effects of home fires. 

 

"What do you know about home fire sprinklers that you are positive is true?" the article states. "Hollywood has mislead us again. We've seen movie heroes hold a flame to a sprinkler head to set off all the sprinklers on the floor or in the building. Big myth." (Here are others.)

 

Another potentially unclear aspect is when fire sprinklers are required in new homes. Though a provision in all U.S. model building codes, "the unfortunate reality is a number of jurisdictions have removed the provision for home fire sprinklers in their adoption process for their building code," NFPA's Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy, said in the article. "The model code is the minimum level of safety and a jurisdiction that decides to take that [sprinkler] requirement out is in fact allowing substandard homes to be built in that community."

 

Please help members of your local real estate industry learn how they can market home fire sprinklers. Forward them NFPA's information on the benefits of this technology and additional information from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

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