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2009

 
It was a great day in Baltimore yesterday as a sea of residential fire sprinkler proponents gathered to support the position to leave the requirement in the IRC. The vote was soundly in support of the requirement; both from the committee and the floor.

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The NAHB used NFPA's 99.45% survival rate statistic as the main reason why sprinklers should  be left out of the code. Our own Gary Keith, VP of Operations did an excellent job rebutting this argument by explaining why that statistic is being used out of context because it includes all fires, even very small fires. He followed it by comparing the similar survival rate in motor vehicle crashes and the need to have safety features in cars to avoid deaths.

The IAFC, the USFA, and other important organizations joined NFPA in providing testimony supporting home fire sprinkler requirements. It was important to have the support of Habitat for Humanity of Texas.

The discussion from the committee members, after the motion was made to reject the change, was overwhelmingly in support of fire sprinklers in the home. Committee member Hellen Kessler said that she worried about the aging of America and the number of elderly and disabled people who need this protection in their home. Committee member Donald LeBrun declared that it is important to represent their members and keep the requirement in the code. He followed it by saying that it will continue to be "a long uphill battle to fight and I encourage you to do it." Committee member Roger Robertson indicated they should "leave it in the code, and let it play out." After the committee voted 7-4 against the proposed change, the NAHB asked for a floor vote, and to quote a floor participant; "it went down hard." The floor vote overwhelmingly affirmed the committee's vote and loud cheers could be heard. The moderator ended with "that motion clearly fails."

It is now up to the policy makers in the states and communities to promulgate the requirement. We must work extremely hard and follow through to make sure that this is accomplished.

(Photo Courtesy of Dan Gengler)

Maria Figueroa

Rockyridge A fire in a Missouri nursing home was contained to one room, thanks to the facility's sprinkler system.

According to a report on KY 3.com, a fire at Rocky Ridge Manor in Mansfield was sparked by an exhaust fan in a medication room. The facility's staff safely evacuated all 38 residents: some in beds, some in wheelchairs, some who needed assistance with their walkers, according to the report.

"The sprinkler system did activate and pretty well extinguished the fire before the fire department arrived," said Fire Chief Byron Clark, adding that fire damaged just one room, and that smoke damage was minimal.

This fire serves as a good reminder: are there people in your home who are at greater risk of fire because they cannot get out by themselves or would need extra time to escape: young children, older adults, or people with disabilities?

Consider this: while a person had approximately 17 minutes to escape a home fire before flashover in the 1970's, today that time is reduced to approximately 3 minutes. Long before the first fire suppression unit applies water to the fire, the atmostphere has most probably become untenable, and the chances of survivavility have significantly decreased.

Home fire sprinklers extinguish or slow the growth of fire, giving people more time to get out or be rescued.  If you have a reported fire in your home, the risk of dying decreases by about 80 percent when sprinklers are present. People in homes with sprinklers are also protected against significant property loss—sprinklers reduce the average property loss by 71% per fire.

Take a look at our interactive map of U.S. communities with home fire sprinkler requirements.

- Mike Hazell





The fire chief of Thunderbolt, GA, says home fire sprinklers would have made "a significant difference" in a fire last Friday that heavily damaged a townhome and killed two family dogs.


 

According to a report on WSAV News 3 , Chief Carl Smith says sprinklers “...would’ve stopped the fire wherever it started and contained it to the kitchen. The smoke damage would’ve been very minimal and the 2 dogs that perished would not have died. There’s no doubt about that,“ he Smith.


“I look at them like a seatbelt for a house. To where people are driving around, we do things like seatbelts and air bags now in cars. Sprinklers should be in every home,“ said Smith.


“Instead of putting sprinklers in your grass to make sure it stays green, put sprinklers in your home. I mean they will save your life, they save your belongings, they save your family,“ said Smith.

 

Please read about the new report released today by NFPA. This new report dispels the "water issues" argument and is a must read. An excerpt from the NFPA press release follows:

New study shows ease of integrating home fire sprinklers with local water supply systems
No design issues or significant cost issues found

October 22, 2009 – Home fire sprinklers can be integrated with local water supply systems with ease according to a new study - Integration of Residential Sprinklers with Water Supply Systems(PDF, 842 KB)  - released today by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The study, conducted by Newport Partners of Maryland, looked at detailed information for 20 US communities with a residential sprinkler ordinance and concluded that water supply integration requirements have been put into place, and there are no examples of insurmountable problems or issues. Neither design problems nor significant added costs were found in the communities surveyed.

“This is another critical piece of substantiation against the myths that abound about home fire sprinklers,” said Jim Shannon, NFPA president. “It is simply not true that sprinklers cannot be integrated with public water supply or significantly adds to cost. What is true is that home fire sprinklers save lives and should be required in new construction of one- and two-family homes.”

Key findings from the report
While sprinklers are still a fairly recent development in all of these communities (average ordinance age is about 3 years), water supply integration requirements have been put into place, and there are no examples of insurmountable problems or issues. Neither design problems nor significant added costs were found in the communities surveyed. Findings included:

  • Nearby communities, such as those in the same state, generally adopt consistent provisions on issues such as water metering requirements; making compliance more uniform and predictable.
  • More unusual design requirements, such as dual water service lines or dual water meters, are rare and typically driven by a local issue which would not apply in most other areas
  • In more than half of the communities, no cost impact resulted from sprinkler-induced changes to water meter size, the need for additional water meters, or changes to tap size. These communities also did not have higher monthly service fees from the water supplier for homes with sprinklers. (In those communities where one or more of these factors did add cost, the average added cost was about $400.)
  • Administrative issues such as concerns about water shut-off and larger, less accurate meters are not viewed as significant issues. In those communities where system inspections are required, communities are adopting a variety of practical strategies.

Overall, water suppliers, building departments and fire service have developed practical approaches to accommodate both home fire sprinklers and the local water supply.

Study Background
In-depth interviews were conducted with 20 U.S. communities with a residential sprinkler ordinance to better understand how sprinklers are integrated with the local water supply systems, including any added costs related to meters or tap fees. Participants included local water providers, building departments and fire service staff. The interview questions were based on a literature review of fire sprinkler/water supply integration issues, and were conducted by phone after first screening a community to make sure it had an ordinance covering all new single-family construction that had been in effect subsequent to 1999. This research was conducted in Spring/Summer 2009.

This new tool in the arsenal is an important one as we continue to dispel the myths associated with the adoption of the one- and two-family home fire sprinkler requirement.

Maria Figueroa

JimShannon Jim Shannon, President/CEO of NFPA, was named "2009 Person of the Year" by the Society of Fire Protection Engineers at the group's annual conference in Scottsdale, AZ, on October 19.

Mr. Shannon was honored for establishing NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative, a coordinated effort to provide resources for the fire service and other sprinkler advocates who want to demonstrate the need for home fire sprinklers in their community. He also organized the Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes, a national group committed to saving lives and preventing injuries by reducing the threat of cigarette-ignited fires. As a result of the Coalition's efforts, 99.8% of the U.S population is now or soon will be better protected from cigarette fires.

“Shannon has shown great leadership in the development of coalitions and initiatives that are focused on protecting people, property and the environment from fire,” said SFPE Engineering Program Manager Chris Jelenewicz. “These efforts, in addition to NFPA’s standards and education efforts, have made significant contribution to improving fire safety throughout the world,” he said.

In a commentary posted on Newsroom Jersey on October 13, 2009, David Kurasz, executive director of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, stands up for proposed regulations that would mandate the installation of automatic fire sprinklers in all new homes beginning in 2012.

"These safety measures will not be adopted if the home builders have anything to say about it," he writes. "Through the years, the home builders have refused to work with the State and fire protection advocates to understand the growing fire problem in New Jersey and to find solutions that effectively protect the lives and property of homeowners. Instead, they continue to sell expensive upgrades, such as granite countertops, to home buyers, yet they claim automatic fire sprinklers, which wouldn't cost more than new carpeting to install, are too expensive for the home buyer."

"In fact, the cost is estimated at $1.61 per square foot, which is approximately 1% of the value of the home, according to the FEMA benefit-cost analysis on residential fire sprinklers." (Editor's note: Read the "Home Fire Sprinkler Cost Assessment" study published by the Fire Protection Research Foundation, PDF, 634 KB). "When the cost is spread over a 30-year mortgage, it comes down to less then the price of a cup of coffee per week," says Mr. Kurasz. "This is a small price to pay when it comes to saving lives."

Read Mr. Kurasz's entire commentary.

A recent mishap at a side-by-side demonstration highlights three things; the importance of following the recommendations of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition's (HFSC) side-by-side kit, the inherent dangers that firefighters face when performing their jobs, and the need to implement safety practices during the demonstration.

According to the statement from HFSC, "firefighters extinguishing the non-sprinklered side entered the burning demonstration unit instead of fighting the fire from a few feet back. Burning acrylic from the smoke barrier dripped down onto them and one received minor burns. Dramatic images of the firefighters' protective clothing catching fire have received widespread media attention."

Hundreds of these demonstrations have been performed with successful outcomes around the country. They offer the best evidence of the need for home fire sprinklers. The acrylic barrier is an important component of this demonstration, as it allows heat built-up within both the sprinklered and un-sprinklered units. This may be otherwise difficult if the units were to be left completely open on one side. There is also no reason to make entry into the units until the fire has been completely knocked down from a safe distance. It is equally important to practice safety, including having a safety line in place.

Maria Figueroa

Fire chiefs in Grand County, Colorado, have joined forces, pushing to keep sprinkler requirements for all new one- and two-family homes in the latest edition of the International Building Code.

According to a report in the Sky-Hi Daily News, each fire chief in the district has signed a statement in support of the sprinkler requirements. "The sprinkler requirement is meant to save lives more than save homes," said East Grand Fire Chief Todd Holzwarth. Today's homes are many times made with lighter materials and engineered woods, which cause them collapse earlier in a fire.

July_august_2009_cover_110x145 See a recent NFPA Journal® article that details the relationship between fire and engineered wood construction assemblies.

The Sky-Hi Daily News article also notes that energy-efficient home designs also cause tighter indoor-air environments, which can more aggressively trap in smoke and heat during a fire. This means occupants have considerably less time before deadly air overtakes the home. The article says that Grand County Commissioners have postponed a decision until Oct. 27 on adopting the 2009 International Building Codes.

- Mike Hazell

PropertyLoss The October issue of Fire Sprinkler Initiative Update, our monthly e-newsletter, was issued today. (Read the issue or subscribe today - it's easy and free!)

In this issue, we highlight a new report that analyzes Prince George’s County’s (Maryland) experience with its single-family dwelling fire sprinkler ordinance over 15 years.

Between 1992-2007 in Prince George's County, there were 13,494 house fires with 101 deaths and 328 injuries in homes that were not protected with fire sprinklers. There were no deaths in the homes protected with home fire sprinklers. The average property loss after a fire with fatalities in an unsprinklered residence was 10 times more costly than a fire in homes protected with a fire sprinkler system.

The study, released by the nonprofit Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC), and produced in cooperation with the University of Maryland, is available as a free download.

- Mike Hazell

Prince George's County has issued a new study, "Benefits of Residential Fire Sprinklers: Prince George’s County 15-Year History with its Single-Family Residential Dwelling Fire SprinklerOrdinance."

 

William Barnard http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef0120a5ea01d7970b-piPartnering with the nonprofit Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC), they held a news conference during a live fire and sprinkler burn demonstration. Partners for the event were Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department, Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute and the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office. The demonstration was conducted at the Maryland Fire & Rescue Institute.

The study, produced in cooperation with the University of Maryland, analyses the experience with the fire sprinkler ordinance over the 15-year period of 1992-2007. The study concluded that the ordinance had a significant impact on life-safety and reduction of property damage. According to the press release, "during the 15-year period, there were 13,494 house fires with 101 deaths and 328 injuries in homes that were not protected with fire sprinklers. There were no deaths in the homes protected with home fire sprinklers. The average property loss after a fire with fatalities in an unsprinklered residence was 10 times more costly than a fire in homes protected with a fire sprinkler system."

It is not surprising that the results of this study contains similarities to the Scottsdale study despite their geographic and demographic differences. We now have one more tool to use to combat opponent's arguments.

Maria Figueroa

<p categorylist.asp?categoryid="282&amp;URL=Research%20&amp;%20Reports/Fact%20sheets/Cooking&quot;" http:="http:" www.nfpa.org="www.nfpa.org">Cooking remains the #1 cause of home fires and injuries .&#0160;We know that cooking fires peak between 5:00 p.m and 7:00 p.m. Frying is the number one activity that causes a home cooking fire. Education is an important part of reducing community risk so that fires don&#39;t start. However, prevention education is only one component in reducing fire risk. Engineering and Enforcement are the two other pieces of the pie to complete the three E&#39;s of community risk reduction. Without all three, we will never win the fight against home fire deaths.


In this blog I will present what I like to call "A Tale of Three Cities." One city is located in Contra Costa County, CA. The other two cities are located in Prince George's County, MD.


 

The headlines&#0160;of the Contra Costa Times on October 2nd reads like this; &quot;Richmond officials probe fatal fire.&quot; &#0160;On that day, a neighbor watering her plants noticed flames coming out from a second floor window. She dialed 911 at 6:14 p.m. and firefighters entered the house at 6:22 p.m. They carried out a 67 year old who was barely alive and died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. It was a simple pot on the stove fire, so how does it result in a death? The townhouse was not protected by fire sprinklers, the residents were mostly older or disabled adults.


 

Meanwhile, in Prince George&#39;s County, on Thursday, October 1, 2009, two pot on he stove fires ocurred, one in Upper Marlboro, and the other in Bowie. Both fires were extinguished by fire sprinklers.&#0160;There were no injuries or death, and damage was minimal. However, these fires never made headlines. As so eloquently presented in this story; &quot;these home fires won&#39;t make headlines...they won&#39;t make the TV news...No one thinks twice about these two incidents.&quot; Prince George&#39;s County has had&#0160;a home fire sprinkler requirement on the books since the early 1990&#39;s. As a result, the sprinklers did their job in keeping occupants and firefighters safe. Prince George&#39;s County Fire Chief Eugene A. Jones stated; &quot;We are extremely fortunate that Prince George&#39;s County mandates...residential fire sprinkler in any new contruction. Our former leaders had the foresight to have these laws passed to protect citizens, residents, visitors, and our firefighters...&quot;


Very different outcomes in these three cities. This happens every day in America. On average, eight people die in home fires everyday across our nation. Will your leaders have the foresight to implement the three E's of community risk reduction by adopting home fire sprinkler requirements? We all certainly hope so.


 

!http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef0120a61b9693970c-800wi|border=0|src=http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef0120a61b9693970c-800wi|alt=Sprinkler activation|width=128|style=WIDTH: 120px; HEIGHT: 86px|title=Sprinkler activation|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef0120a61b9693970c |height=116!


 

Home Fire Sprinklers Save Lives!


[Maria Figueroa | mailto:mfigueroa@nfpa.org]

 

Chris Wieczorek, Senior Research Specialist at FM Global discusses how the test burn on October 1 will help researchers quantify the environmental benefit of sprinklers.

Gary Keith, Vice President of Field Operations for NFPA, and President of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC), answers questions about the burn demonstration at the FM Global Research Facility in West Glocester, Rhode Island, on October 1, 2009. The burn was part of a new research project, a collaborative effort of the HFSC and FM Global, that's looking at the environmental impact of home fires.

Photos from FM Global test burn 

See our complete set of photos from the FM Global test burn on October, 1, 2009. The burn was part of a new research project, a collaborative effort of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and FM Global, that's looking at the environmental impact of home fires.

Mike Hazell, NFPA Web Publisher 

Two 15x20 foot living rooms, each furnished with a flat-screen television, comfortable furniture, and bookshelves and family photos, were set on fire today in West Glocester, Rhode Island, as part of a groundbreaking research project that's looking at the environmental impact of home fires.

The project, a collaborative effort of FM Global and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, is studying:

  • the types, quantity and duration of air and water pollutants released from a home fire as well as the water usage from fire sprinklers and firefighters’ hoses

  • the environmental impact resulting from burning household furnishings and finish materials as well as disposing the fire-damaged contents of a home

  • the carbon footprint associated with rebuilding a burnt home

The two living rooms in today's study, conducted at FM Global's 1,600-acre research campus, were nearly identical. The only difference was that one room was outfitted with a quick-response sprinkler. In both tests, firefighters ignited a blaze in a magazine rack near the corner of each room and stood-by to respond in 10 minutes (based on a typical response time that includes alarm notification, arrival, and set-up).

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The two living rooms used in today's test as FM Global in in West Glocester, RI.

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Attendees were given a tour of the FM Global facility before the fire tests began.

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The fire in the first living room, protected by a quick-response sprinkler, was called "all-out" shortly after the arrival of the hose crew.

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In the second living room, not protected by a sprinkler, flames can be seen in the window near the source of ignition.

 

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Attendees in the viewing gallery, as well as film crews and firefighters on the floor watch as flames engulf the second living room.

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At the ten-minute mark, firefighters prepare to enter burning living room.

The final results of today's tests, including data on the timing of sprinkler activation, time to "flashover" (when all combustibles in the room ignite), estimated room damages, and the amount of pollutants released will be released in a free report in early 2010.

 

If you were at today's test at FM Global, we'd like to hear from you and see your photos. You can leave a comment below (just click on "comments" below, enter your name and e-mail address, type in the white box, then select "post") or e-mail your photos directly to me.

 

 

 

 

 

- Mike Hazell, NFPA Web Publisher

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