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Officials in Wilmette, Illinois, have passed the village’s first residential fire sprinkler ordinance requiring fire sprinklers in all new homes that are being built with lightweight construction. With the passage of this ordinance, the village becomes the 67th jurisdiction in Illinois to pass residential fire sprinkler legislation.

According to a news release published by the Northnern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, Wilmette’s residential fire sprinkler ordinance is the first occasion that a municipality or fire district has passed such an ordinance specifically over concerns with lightweight construction. For years, Wilmette has required lightweight construction commercial buildings to post placards that alert firefighters to the presence of engineered-wood trusses and joint assemblies.

For years, members of the fire service and fire safety organizations voiced their concerns about fires in homes built with lightweight construction. In 2008, Underwriters Laboratories® (UL) conducted a study to understand the hazards to firefighters posed by use of lightweight wood trusses and engineered lumber in residential roof and floor designs. The findings indicated that dimensional lumber construction withstood the fire tests longer than lightweight engineered wood systems. Therefore, firefighters who may expect 30 minutes of structural integrity with dimensional wood structures will face potential peril in lightweight structures. Additionally, the study found that the synthetic construction of today’s home furnishings add to the increased risk by providing a greater fuel load.

FSI newsletter May issue The May issue of Fire Sprinkler Initiative Update, our monthly e-newsletter, has hit the streets. (Read the issue or subscribe today - it's easy and free!)

In this issue, we report how groups of advocates -- fire chiefs, the fire service, and burn survivors -- are rallying to educate lawmakers, homebuilders, and consumers about the life-saving potentional of home fire sprinklers. Also read about a side-by-side sprinkler demonstration held recently in Concord, NH.

- Mike Hazell

In recent letters to the governors of Florida and Georgia, and to members of the New Hampshire Senate, NFPA President Jim Shannon is calling for the rejection of bills that would prohibit the inclusion of home fire sprinkler requirements.

"In 2006, three major NFPA codes were revised to include the requirement for home fire sprinklers in new construction of one- and two-family dwellings," he wrote. "In 2008, the International Code Council voted to add a similar provision to the 2009 edition of International Residential Code. This occurred through a well-established process involving both public and private entities and cannot be influenced by any single special interest group. These codes identify the minimum standards of safety to protect people in their homes."

Mr. Shannon wrote that these anti-sprinkler bills ignore the success of a proven safety technology. "Any proposal that removes this requirement from the code reduces the established minimum standards of safety in one- and two-family homes and equates to substandard housing," he said.

- Mike Hazell

Iafc1209 The IAFC continues to assume a leadership role as a home fire sprinkler advocate. Recognizing that "homes fire sprinklers are a proven way to protect lives and property against fires at home" the May 11, 2010 edition of The Daily Dispatch urges IAFC members to support NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative®-Bringing Safety Home.

The missive by Chief Jeff Johnson, IAFC President and Chairman of the Board, strongly urges members to visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiative website and to sign up for the electronic newsletter. His message concludes by challenging members to "take action in your community to Bring Safety Home"

Maria Figueroa

In preparation for the implementation of the one- and two-family home and townhome fire sprinkler requirement in the State of California the Roseville Fire Department (RFD) has developed a webpage aimed at educating homebuilders.

The webpage contains links to the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, to the press release from the Office of the State Fire Marshal (SFM), directs viewers to the SFM webpage for more information, and contains additional home fire sprinkler educational resources.

The efforts of the RFD should "serve as a model for others to follow" posits Ray Bizal, Regional Manager, NFPA Southwest Regional Office. Indeed they ought to be commended for reaching out to engage and inform a very crucial stakeholder.

Maria Figueroa

VAfire devastating fire in a new home in Stuarts Draft, VA, destroyed most of the home, surprised the homeowner, and provided evidence that newer homes are not safer homes. The home involved in the fire is less than one year old. The homebuyers occupied the home in October, 2009.

How many times have you heard a homeowner say; “I thought it would never happen to me.” What is interesting in this particular fire is that,  according to the story, the homeowner’s statement was “It’s a brand new house. I never thought this could happen to me.”

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.  Age of housing is a poor predictor of fire death rates.  When older housing is associated with higher rates, it usually is because older housing tends to have a disproportionate share of poorer, less educated households.  Statistically, the only fire safety issue that is relevant to the age of the home is outdated knob-and-tube wiring.  Beyond that, age of the home has little to nothing to do with fire safety.

In fact, newer homes are also more likely to include a threat to firefighters in the form of lightweight construction. Lightweight construction has been variously estimated to be used in a half to two-thirds of all new wood one- and two-family homes. Sprinklers can offset the increased dangers posed by lightweight construction and create a safer fire environment for firefighters to operate.

- Maria Figueroa

The April 2010 digital edition of PM Engineer includes several articles on the value of home fire sprinklers. One of the articles titled "As Green as it Gets" highlights the positive impact of fire sprinklers on the environment and cites the Factory Mutual/Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition study. Another article titled "The Fire Sprinklers are Coming…" talks about the opposition against the requirement and how counterproductive it is in the fight against fire loss.

Thank you PM Engineer for your extensive coverage on the issue.

- Maria Figueroa

Thanks to a generous Fire Prevention and Safety grant from FEMA, NFPA will be broadening its outreach to the nation's fire service with important messages about the life-saving impact of home fire sprinklers. The new "Faces of Fire" campaign, set to launch later this year, will include targeted messaging to the fire service via the Fire Sprinkler Initiative Web site, social media channels, and paid advertisements in national publications. The Web site will feature a special toolkit containing media materials, fact sheets, and other content to support sprinkler advocacy at the local level.

The grant will also allow NFPA to offer a one-day training session on home fire sprinklers for representatives from each state fire marshal's office along with a local building partner. Details are forthcoming; watch our Web site for more information.

- Mike Hazell

Joe Palmer, Executive Director of the S.C. State Firefighters Association writes a powerful op-ed piece making a strong case for home fire sprinkler mandates.

Current legislation threatens the enforcement of the home fire sprinkler regulation for new one- and two-family homes recently adopted by the SC Building Code Council. According to Joe; “Given a choice between ensuring the safety of citizens and lining the pockets of the home building industry with profits, South Carolina may be on the verge of giving public safety the back seat.”

Read more here:

Maria Figueroa

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