Something is Better than Nothing: Is it?

Blog Post created by ryan.quinn Employee on May 14, 2011



Fire Chief online featured a post on its Mutual Aid fire chief's blog titled "Something is Better than Nothing in the Battle for Residential Fire Sprinklers."The following comment submitted for posting on the website represents NFPA's position in response:


Why is the fire service currently losing some of the battles for fire sprinklers in new home construction? Because the fire service is clearly outnumbered by political muscle, yielded by well funded lobbying efforts of the opposition.


<span style="font-size: small;"><em><span style="font-size: small;"><em>NFPA statistics cited are correct but they only address the fire injury problem in kitchen fires and heating equipment fires. For the most part, fires in the kitchen occur during the day. Most deadly fires occur at night while people are sleeping. The fact is that smoking has been the leading cause of fire death in the home for decades. Fires that start in other living areas also claim a large number of lives. Partial sprinkler protection in the kitchen will do little and in fact, will have a negative effect on the long term goal of combaling home fire deaths and injuries.


<span style="font-size: small;"><em>To expect that all consumers will “want” sprinklers in their new homes is unrealistic. A recent poll  revealed that 70% of people&#0160;underestimate the&#0160;risk from fire in the home.&#0160;An attitude of “it will never happen to me” works against the life safety community in its ability to “sell” home fire sprinklers.


<span style="font-size: small;">Reducing community risk involves the three E’s; Education, Engineering and Enforcement. Education only goes so far. Fire sprinklers provide an affordable engineering solution to the home fire death problem. Fire sprinkler requirements are necessary to reduce community fire death risk.</span>

++In the 1970’s home builders feverishly argued against hard-wired smoke alarms in new home construction, currently at a cost of about $500 per home. It is unlikely that they will support this partial sprinkler solution. Instead, they will propose mandating fire extinguishers in the kitchen, as was the case in the State of Virginia, or some other low-priced alternative is the solution.


The U.S. consumer expects that the products they buy come equipped with minimum safety standards. The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission includes homes in products that must include minimum levels of safety. To compromise on anything less than national model codes shifts the liability from the home builder to the life safety community; an unacceptable alternative.


IAFC exists to unify the efforts of the fire service leadership and has clearly gone on record to support the model standard requirement of NFPA 13D sprinkler systems in new home construction. The fire service must present a united front on the minimum requirements of sprinkler systems designed and installed to meet the standard. Anything less is not a compromise, but a substandard solution to the problem.


NFPA does not support the suggested compromise. NFPA 13D already addresses the issue of where sprinklers are needed based on life safety. If someone has a proposal for revising that in some way, then a proposal should be submitted for review by the technical committee.

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