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2009

We all woke up with some very good news this morning when we learned that New Jersey bill S2962, prohibiting the installation of fire sprinkler systems in one and two-family homes may be withdrawn by its sponsor.

This is a testament to the good work of the New Jersey coalition working to get ready for the upcoming code change and the quick response by the fire service. It undescores the importance of education.

The bill's statement follows:

"Requiring sprinklers to be included in a newly constructed home, or the installation of sprinklers in an existing home, would be expensive, potentially adding thousands of dollars to the cost of a home, which would be borne by the owner or purchaser of the residence. In addition, it is the understanding of the sponsor that requiring sprinklers in these homes would place an enormous burden on municipalities because of the standby water supplies required for a dedicated fire service water line."

 

If you have been on top of the home sprinkler issue I'm certain that you will be able to discern the underlying misinformation in the above statement as follows:

  1. Cost - The cost of home fire sprinkler systems is grossly inflated by the oposition.
  2. The installation of sprinklers in existing homes -The code excludes retrofitting.
  3. The burden of a dedicated water line - Home fire sprinkler systems do not place additional burden on communities' existing domestic water supply.

As my friend Ozzie Mirkhah said; "This also shows that we must be more proactive in educating or elected officials now..." He posits this is better than taking corrective measures afterwards. I agree that we must pay more attention and focus our energy on educating legislative officials, and that these efforts must begin now.

This "time before the storm" is when the fire service needs to prepare itself. Educating policy makers, legislators, and the public must become the priority. This will ensure that everyone is informed on the facts behorehand. Reacting to it later means racing against the clock. It also means that some legislation may "fly under the radar." Overturning legislation may be nearly impossible.

Take advantage of the great public education pieces that you can obtain by visiting the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition. Also visit this site often, as we continue to update information.

 

 

Maria Figueroa

 

 

 

Opponents of residential fire sprinkler systems like to boast that newer homes are safer homes and that the fire and death problem is limited to older homes. However, newer homes may pose an extreme threat to the lives of firefighters. This message has mostly been lost, but must be shouted from all corners of the battle.

An article written for Fire Engineering by Ozzie Mirkhah and David Comstock, Jr. clearly identifies this danger. The article presents a vivid example of a needless firefighter death in a newly constructed home. According to the article, ..."in 2007 a 24-year-old male volunteer firefighter died at a residential structural fire involving lightweight wood trusses. The home was built in 2004 and was a two-story, single-family residence of ordinary construction that encompassed approximately 2,200 square feet of living area above grade and 2,200 square feet below grade. The floors of the structure consisted of a lightweight wood truss system of engineered wooden I-beams, which were formed with a 2- × 3-inch or 2- × 4-inch top and bottom chord with a sheet of plywood or particleboard vertically sandwiched in between as a web. Firefighting crews were attempting to conduct a search in zero visibility when the floor collapsed without warning, sending the firefighter into the basement. Rescue efforts were unsuccessful, and the firefighter died of smoke inhalation."

The authors note that the risks firefighters face as a result of this type of construction are only likely to get worse because, they say, at least 65 percent of all new construction in the United States now uses lightweight wood trusses.

Because it is unlikely that these construction methods will cease to exist because they are economical; isn't it time to demand that newer homes be protected by fire sprinkler systems as an offset? Needless firefighter deaths must be stopped.

Maria Figueroa

Burnblog If you'll be joining us in Chicago for NFPA's Conference & Expo, here's your chance to see a home fire sprinkler system in action.

On Wednesday, June 10, at 12:30 pm, a side-by-side fire and sprinkler burn demonstration with two furnished 8 x 8 foot rooms (one will be protected with a home fire sprinkler) will be held outside the East building (Lakeside) at McCormick Place. The demonstration will show the tremendous speed of a typical home fire and its potential for deadly destruction in one room and how quickly a home fire sprinkler system controls a fire and can save lives and reduce property damage in the other room.

Hosted by NFPA, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, and ROC Exhibitions, the demonstration will be conducted by Thomas Lia, of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board.

On May 26, a similar demonstration was held in Plymouth, MA. Watch a video of that dramatic event.

Because  more than 80 percent of all fire deaths occur in the home, NFPA believes that residential fire sprinklers are the next generation in home fire safety. Each fire sprinkler is individually activated by heat, only the sprinkler closest to the fire activates. Fire sprinklers control a fire in its early stages and often extinguish the fire before the fire department arrives. Fire sprinklers also protect firefighters from injury and death. All model safety codes now require the installation of sprinklers in new one and two family homes.

Learn more about NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative.

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