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2010

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Chief Joe Pierce, president of the IAFC Fire and Life Safety Section, Gary Keith, Chief Timothy Solobay and Peg Paul following the award presentation.

 

Chief Timothy Solobay of the Cannonsburg (Pa.) Volunteer Fire Department was the first recipient of the Bringing Safety Home Award.  The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) and the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Fire Sprinkler Initiative have joined forces to recognize the efforts of fire chiefs who use HFSC’s educational materials and the resources of the Fire Sprinkler Initiative to ensure decision makers have accurate information as new or updated residential fire sprinkler codes are considered.


Peg Paul, communications manager for HFSC and Gary Keith, president of the HFSC Board of Directors NFPA vice president of field operations presented the award to Chief Solobay at Fire-Rescue International, in Chicago.  The presentation took place during the Fire and Life Safety Section meeting.

“We are very pleased that the inaugural Bringing Safety Home Award goes to a fire chief who has demonstrated such a longstanding personal commitment to increased home fire sprinkler protection,” says Keith, speaking on behalf of both HFSC and NFPA.  “I wish every community had the benefit of a sprinkler advocate as knowledgeable, resourceful and committed as Chief Solobay.”

 

Materials available for use in local efforts can be found at www.firesprinklerinitiative.org  and www.homefiresprinkler.org .

[Lorraine Carli | mailto:lcarli@nfpa.org]

 

MariaFigueroa 
NFPA's Maria Figueroa spreads the word about the life-saving capabilities of home fire sprinklers at the Fire-Rescue International Conference in Chicago. Maria and other NFPA staff at the Fire Sprinkler Initiative booth are providing members of the fire service and other safety advocates at the conference - who are a unique position to influence the legislative process as leaders in their communities - with information and resources about home sprinklers.

Performance of residential sprinkler systems with sloped or sloped and beamed ceilings The Fire Protection Research Foundation has published a new, two-part report on the performance of residential sprinkler systems with sloped or sloped and beamed ceilings. Current test and design criteria for home fire sprinklers in one and two family dwellings (UL 1626 and 1626A) are limited to smooth, flat ceilings and sloped ceilings in specific limited configurations. Local authorities have limited available design guidance for the large number of one- and two-family dwellings that are constructed with ceiling geometries that fall outside the scope of the current listings. This report describes the results of an experimental and analytical study of the performance of residential sprinklers in home fires with a range of typical ceiling geometries. Its purpose is to provide the technical substantiation for design guidance in NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One and Two Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes.

- Mike Hazell

On August 4, NFPA President Jim Shannon sent a letter to Lou Biacchi of the Pennsylvania Builders Association (PBA), asking him to clarify or omit misinformation on the PBA website about the effectiveness of smoke alarms.

"As currently portrayed, the numbers you are using on the site to make an argument against requiring the use of home fire sprinklers in new one- and two-family homes are misleading," wrote Mr. Shannon. "Fire sprinkler opponents have been using a statistic of 99.45 percent to illustrate the effectiveness of smoke alarms in reducing home fire deaths. This NFPA statistic estimates the likelihood of surviving a home fire when a working smoke alarm is present. Taken completely out of context, a number like 99.45% sounds very high."

- Mike Hazell

August 2010 FSI newsletter The August 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 feature important news from the NFPA Standards Council, which has banned the use of antifreeze solution in residential fire sprinkler systems for new construction until further action by NFPA consensus standards committees. We also link to our updated "Safety Alert" that provides guidance on the use of antifreeze in new and existing residential sprinkler systems.

- Mike Hazell

The NFPA Standards Council has banned the use of antifreeze solution in residential fire sprinkler systems for new construction until further action by NFPA consensus standards committees, and NFPA has issued a follow-up to its July 2010 safety alert to provide updated guidance on the use of antifreeze in residential fire sprinkler systems. The council action and updated alert follow new research that was conducted after a fire incident raised concerns about antifreeze solutions in residential fire sprinkler systems. The incident involved a grease fire in a kitchen where a sprinkler with a high concentration of antifreeze deployed. The fire resulted in a single fatality and serious injury to another person.

“Fire sprinklers are one of the most effective ways to save lives and property from fire,” said NFPA President Jim Shannon. “We have acted quickly to conduct additional research in order to provide the public and our technical committees with as much information as possible regarding the use of antifreeze in sprinkler systems.”

According to NFPA, the home is the place where most fire fatalities occur, and when sprinklers are present, the risk of dying in a home fire decreases by 83%.

Mr. Shannon said the key findings from the new report were:

  • Antifreeze solutions with concentrations of propylene glycol exceeding 40% and concentrations of glycerin exceeding 50% have the potential to ignite when discharged through automatic sprinklers.
  • Both the 40% propylene glycol and 50% glycerin solutions demonstrated similar performance to that of water alone for fire control throughout the series of tests.
  • Based on the results of this research, antifreeze solutions of propylene glycol exceeding 40% and glycerin exceeding 50% are not appropriate for use in residential fire sprinkler systems.
  • Consideration should be given to reducing the acceptable concentrations of these antifreeze solutions by an appropriate safety factor.

Read NFPA's news release and updated Safety Alert on this topic.

On August 19th, the USFA, an entity of the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released a special report - Fatal Fires in Residential Buildings, examining the characteristics of these fires from 2006-2008.

The USFA informs that this document is “further evidence of FEMA's commitment to sharing information with fire departments and first responders around the country to help them keep their communities safe.”

Important findings:

  • An estimated 1,800 fatal residential building fires are reported to U.S. fire departments each year and cause an estimated 2,635 deaths, 725 injuries, and $196 million in property loss.
  • Fatal residential building fires tend to be larger, cause more damage, and have higher injury rates than nonfatal residential fires.
  • Smoking is the leading cause of fatal residential building fires (19 percent).
  • The leading areas of fire origin in fatal residential building fires are bedrooms (27 percent) and common areas such as living and family rooms (23 percent).
  • Fatal residential building fires are more prevalent in the cooler months, peaking in January (13 percent).
  • Fatal residential building fires occur most frequently in the late evening and early morning hours, peaking from midnight to 5 a.m. One-third (33 percent) of fatal residential fires occur during these 5 hours.

“Residential buildings” in the report include; one- and two-family homes,multifamily homes, boarding/rooming houses, hotel, motels, and other residential buildings. However, it is important to note that 80 percent of fatal residential fires occured in one- and two-family homes.

The report is a “must read” and one more tool in the arsenal of information regarding fire death, injury and property loss in residential buildings; especially as it refers to one- and two-family homes and the demonstrated need for home fire sprinklers as the next step in reducing home fire death and injury risk.

Maria Figueroa

A recent edition of The Advertiser News, a community newspaper in Spring Hill, TN includes commentary on the importance of fire sprinkler systems in new homes by Spring Hill Fire Department Chief Jim Swindle.Recesssedpendent

The chief covers most myths associated with home fire sprinkler systems and makes an excellent case for the need to have fire sprinklers in the home. He is most concerned about “people living outside the city that may not even have fire hydrants or any fire protection at all.”

A Harris Interactive poll revealed that firefighters ranked as the most trusted profession in the United States with 61% percent of respondents finding them trustworthy, and holding “high regard” for them. Based on this, firefighters have won half the battle with regards to the home fire sprinkler initiative.

If every fire chief wrote an opinion/editorial piece emphasizing this important life safety message and submitted it to their community newspaper for publication it would greatly increase community awareness of the issue.

It is painfully understood that fire chiefs and other fire service professionals face political realities. It it just as imperative “do the right thing” for the community. They need to hear from you because you are the ones they trust with their lives.

PubEdKit The tools you need are available here. The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition also provides free materials to educate your community.

I leave you with this inspiring quote: "In the long run there is no more liberating, no more exhilirating experience than to determine one's position, state it bravely and then act boldly."

Maria Figueroa

In an editorial piece published by The Tribune Democrat on August 8th, Larry Christy, Butler Township (Butler County) fire marshal and a member of the Pennsylvania Residential Fire Sprinkler Coalition opines; “the Pennsylvania Builders Association (PBA) is putting its profits ahead of the safety of residents and fire service professionals in Pennsylvania.”

Pensylvania was one of the first states to adopt the 2009 IRC with the one- and two-family homes and townhomes fire sprinkler requirement intact. Since then the PBA has filed and injunction and a lawsuit to block its adoption.

Mr. Christy says; “the PBA has created a barrage of propaganda and misinformation” including inflated system prices. NFPA's President Jim Shannon wrote a letter to the PBA asking them to "clarify or omit the information contained on the PBA website regarding the effectiveness of smoke alarms." The PBA has been using the 99.45% smoke alarm survival rate statistic out of context, as others have similarly done, to make an argument against the home fire sprinkler requirement. NFPA has consistenly provided  the facts debunking opponents' arguments; but they continue to be used to mislead the public and policy makers into making wrongful decisions.

The battle continues to rage on in PA, pitting builders and the fire service against each other, when they should be standing hand-in-hand suporting this important life safety feature in all new homes. I believe that homebuilders’ insistence and heavy lobbying against home fire sprinklers will create, at the very least, a public relations nightmare for them in the future. It also remains to be seen if they will be cleared of liability when, not if, a new home built under the code that removed the requirement based on their recommendation, misleading tactics, and "red herring" arguments, burns and kills or injures a home occupant or firefighter.

Ours is an extremely litigous society. We expect that the products we buy, including our homes, will include minimum standards of safety. Removing the fire sprinkler requirement from the building code, when all model codes include the requirement, translates into substandard homes being built. One never knows how a jury will act upon hearing about all the homebuilder arguments against installing these life safety devices as unnecessary, and observing the suffering of home fire burn victims and survivors. I am certain that many home fire sprinkler advocates will be there when the time comes to exclaim loudly; "WE TOLD YOU SO".

Maria Figueroa

Alexandra Whiteside, “The Lady Contractor" describes herself as "both a professional interior designer and Virginia Class A building contractor."http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef0133f2e3c24b970b-pi 
 
Alexfacebookpic http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef0133f2e3c4c7970b-piIn a recent blog entry she cites the recent fire in Virginia Beach, VA that I covered here in a previous post to dispel the myth that new homes don't burn and to emphasize the importance of home fire sprinklers. The title of her blog post is "EVERY HOME should have a fire sprinkler system!"

She owns Chelsea Custom Contracting, a Virginia Beach based design-build firm, conducting residential and commercial remodeling and new construction projects, including custom homes and modular homes.

In my opinion, the "tipping point" in the struggle to mandate fire sprinklers in all new homes will only come when more builders like Ms. Whiteside are convinced that fire sprinklers are vital to the protection of life and property in their communities. It is also something that will benefit them in the long run. Having one of your custom built homes touted as being "fire proof"burn to the ground negatively impacts that builder's credibility and image.

Homebuilders are crucial stakeholders in the home fire sprinkler initiative and it is vitally important to reach out to them with education and examples such as the fire in Virginia Beach, along with numerous others happening out there every day.

While writing this blog, I realized that the only encounter most home fire sprinkler advocates have had with homebuilders and their representatives is during code and legislative hearings. These interactions are, for the most part unpleasant and adversarial. I have come to the conclusion that there are many others out there like "The Lady Contractor" who we may not know about and who can become converts to our cause if we just reach out to them.

The HFSC has developed an educational piece for homebuilders. I encourage all field advocates to take advantage of this free resource from HFSC to reach out to the builders in your communities.

I dream of the day when homebuilders and life safety advocates will stand together touting home fire sprinklers in every new home.

Maria Figueroa

To advocate for home fire sprinklers and provide awareness, Cape Girardeau Fire Department conducted a side-by-side burn in two identical living rooms. The video is posted on its website and is also listed as one of the most requested features.

On July 30,2010 the St. Louis Fire Sprinkler Alliance held an NFPA 13D seminar. I was a presenter at this seminar and met Brian Shaffer, Fire Marshall of the Cape Girardeau Fire Department, and many other advocates.

Brian sought me out after my presentation to let me know what his department is doing to increase public awareness and promised to share the information with me. He sent me a link to his fire department web page that features a side-by-side burn demonstration video, important information about the results of the burns, and a link to the HFSC website.

The State of MO opted for a mandatory option, instead of adopting the mandatory requirement at the legislative level. Home builders must offer buyers the choice of having fire sprinklers installed in their new home. Mandatory option has numerous drawbacks; requiring fire sprinklers in new homes is the optimum way to achieve the goal of mitigating home fire deaths and injuries. However, a mandatory option is the best that the fire service was able to accomplish in the current political environment. What Cape Girardeau Fire Department is doing represents an excellent method for increasing community awareness and support for home fire sprinklers.

Does your fire department highlight home fire sprinklers on its website? You may not have the opportunity or resources to conduct a burn in a real home, like the Cape Girardeau Fire Department, but did you know that you have free access to the HFSC side-by-side video for download and post on your website?

The side-by-side visual remains the best tool for educating the community and increasing public awarerenss of the benefits of home fire sprinklers.

If your fire department isn't doing so already, and you are reading this post, I encourage you to advocate for the posting of this video on its website. Perhaps your fire department is already using this tool to advocate for home fire sprinklers. If so, let us know.

Maria FIgueroa
 

Two fires within two weeks of each other in Cheatham County, TN were controlled by fire sprinklers, saving lives and protecting property. Vickie Pritchett, NFSA Associate Director of Public Fire Protection, who provided the information for this post, opines that "fire sprinklers, plus quick action by staff and fire department equals lives saved."


The first fire ocurred at Hillcrest Nursing Home on July 12, 2010. Fire broke out at 1:07 a.m. in a room with two patients. According to Vickie, eighty-two residents were in the nursing home, sleeping soundly. Eighteen of those residents reside on the same wing as the room where the fire started. One sprinkler head activated and extinguished the fire.


 

!http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef013485fb54d7970c-800wi|border=0|src=http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef013485fb54d7970c-800wi|alt=Nursing Home sprinkler head|title=Nursing Home sprinkler head|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef013485fb54d7970c image-full !<span style="FONT-SIZE: 9pt"><font face="Calibri">Photo courtesy of Vickie Pritchett<o:p></o:p></font></span></p>

<p>The second, and most recent fire, ocurred on July 29th, 2010 in a 9,800 sq. ft. single family home. Coincidentally, Chief Shane Ray from Pleasantiview Fire Department, TN, Vickie, and I were participating at a seminar in St. Louis, MO,&#0160;making a presentation&#0160;on the benefits of&#0160;home fire sprinklers, as the incident unfolded. </p>

<p>The home is&#0160;newly built&#0160;and the family that occupies it moved in the last week of May, 2010. The fire started in the basement, due to a toolbox being placed on the stove (button accidentally turned on). The home occupant was outside when he heard the audible alarm and went inside to investigate. One sprinkler had activated and put the fire out. The fire department is dispatched only to replace the sprinkler head and place the fire protection system back into service.</p>

<p>!http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef013485fb572f970c-800wi|border=0|src=http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef013485fb572f970c-800wi|alt=9800home|title=9800home|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef013485fb572f970c image-full !It is crucial that sprinkler saves continue to be documented and covered by the media to increase public awareness on the life saving and property protection benefits home fire sprinklers provide. Click here to view the story online.


These two examples should leave no doubt about "the difference a fire sprinkler makes..."


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

 

An exclusive waterfront mansion in Westbrook, CT., that was built in 2002, was destroyed by fire

According to an article in the New Haven Register  when the house was resold last year the real estate listing read;"“Majestic waterfront masterpiece! This custom home boasts elegance & is in a class by itself! Superior crafstmanship!! Amenities include: private beach, approx. 200’ deepwater dock..." None of these features counted on July 29th when a fire that started in the porch spread to the inside of the house, destroying the mansion. Fire sprinklers could have made a difference.

Luckily the house was not occupied when the fire broke out and no one was injured or died, however; the house which is valued at $3.9 million dollars will have to be demolished. How long will this house stay off the tax rolls? The economic impact of this fire will be felt for some time to come.

NFPA 13D systems are life safety systems and that is the fundamental reason why we must fight for them to become a requirement in all new one- and two-family homes. However, they have also proven to protect property.

The economic impact of fire on the community is not often discussed in the home fire sprinkler debate, but maybe we need to start talking about it.

Fire sprinklers also protect the environment. The environmental impact of this fire include the water run-off with all its toxic chemicals that probably infiltrated the waterway and a large amount of debris that it will contribute to the landfill.

I look forward to the day when real estate brochures boast about the presence of fire sprinklers as a selling feature in new homes. I also look forward to the day we can say that they have made a great impact on saving thousands of lives each year

Maria Figueroa

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