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2009

Nearly 3,000 Americans die each year in house fires, and it's estimated you could have as little as three minutes to escape a home fire should one occur.

On Tuesday, the Plymouth (MA) Fire Department hosted a vivid demonstration that showed the life-saving difference home fire sprinkler systems can make. The city's fire officials were joined by the Massachusetts State Fire Marshal, Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, and NFPA at a live demonstration showing how quickly home fire sprinklers work to subdue heat, flames and smoke in a very dangerous situation. Read more about the event and watch the demonstration below.

 

An NFPA report titled U.S Home Structure Fires , by Marty Ahrens, published in January 2009 concludes that 63% of reported fire deaths from 2003-2006 resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarm or no working smoke alarms. Residential fire sprinkler opponents are certain that this proves their case that smoke alarms are enough to eliminate the fire problem in North America. What they won't tell you is that the other 37% of people who died in homes, did so in homes equipped with smoke alarms, both battery operated and hardwired.


Persons dying in these fires were more likely to have been in the area of origin, were trying to fight the fire themselves, or were at least 65 years old. Children under 5 and older adults face the highest risk of home fire death. Alcohol or other drugs, disabilities, and age-related limitations are all factors contributing to risk. Persons in these high risk groups are specially likely to have difficulty espacing a fire. What about these lives? Maybe this question should be posed to the families of the victims. Not one more needless death should be the mantra that drives this policy decision. 


 

NFPA analyses have concluded that there are tremendous benefits achieved by sprinklers on top of the benefits already achieved by smoke alarms. According to the [U.S. Experience with Sprinklers and Other Automatic Fire Extinguishing Equipment | http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files//PDF/OSsprinklers.pdf] report, by John R. Hall, Jr, +a home fire sprinkler system provides an 80% reduction in the fire death rate, +a considerable reduction in addition to the large reduction provided by smoke alarms.

The discussion forum of the Fire Sprinkler Initiative has gone live. Please take a moment, if you haven't already done so, to register and participate. To do so, you must complete the "Get Involved" online form and check on the box to have access to the discussion forum. In about a day or so, you will be sent an e-mail with instructions on how to register.

The forum is a tool for great discussion and exchange of ideas to take place. You never know what your contribution to the discussion forum will mean to another forum participant. Each community is different but some of the challenges are similar. Water issues, incentives/cost issues, inspection, certification, I could go on. Many "have been there, done that" and can share their experience. Others can offer fresh new ideas. 

I have learned a lot from traveling the country and meeting with different task groups and coalitions working on the implementation of residential fire sprinklers in their communities. Everyone can do the same here, from your computer. I look forward to seeing all of you there.

Maria Figueroa

I was invited to speak recently at the meeting of the Federation of State and Provincial Professional Fire Fighters about the attempt of home builders to block residential sprinklers. We have seen these bills pop up in several states in the last few months. I was grateful for the invitation to meet with this key group of fire safety advocates, and heartened by the concern that they showed at what was happening.

One of my worries is that since the states are in fiscal crisis, the legislatures and the fire service organizations will be so occupied with issues like taxes and layoffs that residential sprinkler opponents will be able to slip these bills through without anybody noticing. I want to make sure that everyone in the fire service knows what is going on and is vigilant. We have had some setbacks in states including North Dakota, Idaho and Utah where the Governors have signed anti- sprinkler bills into law. But we have also had some victories in Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania. 
 
We are in the thick of the fight now, and I was very happy at the response from the State and Provincial Professional Fire Fighters. I spoke after they had heard from IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. Harold Schaitberger is a force in the country in all matters that concern the well being of fire fighters and their safety, and the Federation includes some of the savviest people in the fire service so I knew it would be a great audience to reach on this issue right away.
 
My discussions with those in attendance confirmed for me how important this issue is to the fire service and how committed they are to work with us not just to kill these bills but to get the legislatures to support affirmatively sprinkler requirements. All of the members of this group were fire fighters so they know firsthand how many tragedies would be prevented by residential sprinklers. They have answered calls where families have perished needlessly and gone to too many fire fighter funerals, so nobody has to convince them about the value of sprinklers.
 
But they also understand what an outrageous overreach this is by a special interest and what a horrible precedent it sets. If the home builders succeed at this there will be no stopping other groups that might see it in their economic interest to block important safety requirements including reversing hard earned provisions that protect fire fighters like those in NFPA 1710.
 
The key to our success is to make sure that the entire fire service makes its voice heard when state legislatures are at work. That’s why we are going to be spending a lot of time in the coming months with all of our friends in the fire service sounding the alarm.

- Jim Shannon

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