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2011

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Yesterday's broadcast of ABC World News, a program reaching over 7.7 million viewers, featured a segment titled Holidays Most Dangerous Times for House Fires. It is important to emphasize the increased fire risk and additional safety required during the winter and holidays. Beyond the intended message the coverage provided a significant contrast highlighting fire risk in new homes.

Tom Chapin, vice president of corporate research for Underwriters Laboratory, did an excellent job of comparing legacy to new home construction and contents. This comparison is crucially important to raise consumer awareness and to justify the need for fire sprinklers in new homes as required in all model codes.

During the broadcast, Tom Chapin said; “Ultimately [these products] are made of crude oil…” “Crude oil makes products easier to make, but in a fire they revert back to their liquid state.” This chemical reaction of crude oil products is similar to pouring an accelerant like gasoline on a fire, contributing to the explosive nature of “flashover”- when everything in a room explodes in fire and flame - making the fire unsurvivable in a short three to five minute span.

Click below to view the comparison 

The coverage also included information from FEMA reporting that “new homes — built with and stuffed full of synthetic materials — burn up six times faster than older homes built 50 years ago.” This is a fact that fire sprinkler advocates have been testifying to all along, and refutes the claim that new homes are safer homes; a myth so often cited by those who oppose fire sprinkler requirements in new homes.

Lightweight construction and the danger it poses to firefighters were also highlighted. Mr. Chapin did a good job of emphasizing this by declaring; “The I-beams that form the superstructure of most newer homes are also susceptible to fire and heat. They tend to be stronger, lighter and more durable than traditional two-by-fours. But because they are composed of pressed wood – essentially woodchips glued together — they weaken at a rate of three times faster than traditional lumber. Those weakened floor beams cause floors to cave in and are among the leading cause of death among firefighters.”

While the broadcast did not include any reference to fire sprinklers it provides great evidence of the need for suppression systems in new homes, built to NFPA 13D standards, in order to counteract modern methods of construction and contents.

Click here to view the segment

Maria Figueroa

Ma ad
NFPA President Jim Shannon took exception to comments made in a recent Boston Globe article by  sprinkler opponents saying that sprinklers have not been proving to be more effective in saving lives than smoke detectors. Shannon's letter, printed today, shot back with the facts. He stated, "That is simply not true." His letter went on to site the statistics that prove the life and property saving value of sprinklers. Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a reported home fire by  about 50 percent. The risk of dying decreases by about 80 percent when  sprinklers are present. The coverage came as part of NFPA's continuing work with every major fire service organization in the state to oppose action by the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards to omit the provision for fire sprinklers in new one and two family homes from the building code. For more information on the Massachusetts action visit www.firesprinklersma.org.

It is not uncommon for opponents to use inaccurate information or use NFPA statistics out of context. NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative provides research reports and statistical information to help advocates make the case for home fire sprinklers in their communities.

Lorraine Carli

A kitchen fire in a single story dwelling in Nashua, NH, was quickly extinguished by the home’s fire sprinkler system. The grease fire, caused by unattended cooking, was kept in check thanks to the fire suppression system. There were no injuries as the result of this fire.

According to Nashua Fire Rescue, the “dwelling was turned back to owner with minimal smoke and water damage.” As a result, the occupants were able to remain in the home and did not have to be displaced; as is usually the case with an uncontrolled fire that is able to grow without fire sprinklers.

Cases like this one underscore the importance of fire sprinkler requirements in all new home construction. Thanks to Nashua Fire Rescue for bringing this to our attention.

Do you have information of a home fire sprinkler save? Please contact us and let us know.

Maria Figueroa

SprinklerhandCarroll County, MD Board of County Commissioners, with one lone dissenting vote, upheld the fire sprinkler requirement for all new home construction.

Carroll County enacted fire sprinkler requirements in 2005, for all new home construction. According to the editorial this occurred “over strenuous objections from the development community because of the potential for it eating into the profits…” This year, the board revisited the issue and opponents again mounted a battle of resistance against the requirement. 

A scathing editorial appearing today in the Carroll County Times applauds the commissioners for “listening to many voices of reason and agreeing to keep a requirement that sprinkler systems be required in new residential development.”

The editorial concludes; “It is good that at least four of our commissioners see that the value of the law, and the value of saving lives, is more important that a few extra dollars profit in a developer’s pocket.”

Click here to view the map communities that have adopted home fire sprinklers.

Maria Figueroa

December issue of Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletterNew videoThe new issue of Fire Sprinkler Initiative News, NFPA's monthly e-newsletter, features a new video that shows what happens while a house is burning and the local fire department is on its way.

We also feature a rally at the Massachusetts State House where NFPA President Jim Shannon and representatives of every major fire service organization in the state held a news conference to protest the removal of sprinkler requirements in new home construction in the state building code.

And we preview a new Research Foundation report on the community impact of fire flow water consumption in both sprinklered and unsprinklered buildings.

Subscribe today to automatically receive our monthly Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter. It's free, informative, and will keep you up to date on anti-sprinkler legislation, our advocacy efforts, and other sprinkler-related news.


During her session at NFPA's Fire & Life Safety Conference in Orlando, Sandra Stanek, CFPS, SET, Senior Fire Protection Specialist at NFPA, talked about the basics of residential sprinkler systems. She discussed common sprinkler myths, water sources, and the benefits of installing residential sprinklers to local jurisdictions. For more information about residential sprinklers, visit www.firesprinklerinitiative.org


NFPA’s Matt Klaus, Senior Fire Protection Engineer, spoke at the Fire & Life Safety Conference in Orlando about the full range of NFPA documents that deal with automatic fire sprinklers. Matt explained the reason that NFPA 13R, the document that deals with the installation of automatic fire sprinklers in residential occupancies, will soon have a new title. He also provides an update on requirements on the use of antifreeze in sprinkler systems and the latest research that’s being done and how it is contributing to changes in NFPA’s sprinkler standards.

Fire Sprinkler InitiativeLearn more about NFPA's work to require sprinklers in all new one- and two-family homes.  

See more videos, coverage of NFPA's Fire & Life Safety Conference in Orlando.

 

Forty years and 19 surgeries later, Billerica Firefighter Phil Tammaro stood with representatives of every major fire service organization in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to urge the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards to include the provision for home fire sprinklers in new one and two family homes. At the age of two, Tammaro was burned in a home fire and suffered third degree burns on 35 percent of his body."I'm concerned that the BBRS is setting a dangerous precedent by going below the established minimum level of safety for home construction," said Tammaro. In addition to his work in fire prevention for the Billerica fire department, Tammaro works with the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors.

He spoke as part of a press conference hosted by the National Fire Protection Association to protest against the new building code in Massachusetts. 

All national model building codes include the requirement for fire  sprinklers in new one- and two-family homes. The BBRS promulgated a building code for the  Commonwealth in August and omitted the provision to require home fire  sprinklers in new construction.

More information on the code action in Massachusetts can be found at www.firesprinklersma.org.

Lorraine Carli

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Chief Paul J. Zbikowski, president, Fire Chiefs Association of Massachusetts, speaks at the Massachusetts press conference.

Against the backdrop of the firefighters memorial at the Massachusetts State House,  NFPA President James M. Shannon and representatives of every major fire  service organization in the state came together to protest against the  new building code in Massachusetts. 

All national model building codes include the requirement for fire  sprinklers in new one- and two-family homes. The Board of Building  Regulations and Standards (BBRS) promulgated a building code for the  Commonwealth of Massachusetts in August and omitted the provision to require home fire  sprinklers in new construction.

“Your risk of dying in a home fire decreases by more than 80 percent  with sprinklers and property damage is reduced by 74 percent” said  Shannon. “By allowing substandard housing to be built in Massachusetts,  the BBRS puts firefighters and citizens at unnecessary risk. Their  action should be reversed.” 

 

According to Shannon, in the last decade, there have been more than  54,000 fires in one- and two-family homes in Massachusetts. These fires  injured more than 2,300 firefighters and 1,500 civilians, and caused  more than 753 million dollars in property loss. Forty percent of all  firefighter injuries happen in one- and two-family homes.

Preceding a BBRS hearing, representatives from Fire Chiefs  Association of Massachusetts, Fire Prevention Association of  Massachusetts, Massachusetts Call/Volunteer Firefighters Association and  Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts participated in the press  conference and voiced their strong unanimous support for fire  sprinklers. Speaking for the various organizatons were:

Chief Paul J. Zbikowski, president, Fire Chiefs Association of Massachusetts

Chief Kevin Gallagher, member, Board of Building Regulations and Standards

Edward A. Kelly, president, Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts

Thomas Burnett, president, Massachusetts Call/Volunteer Firefighters Association

Captain Rick Tustin, president, Fire Prevention Association of Massachusetts, fire prevention officer, Winchester Fire Department

P1010647

Over 400 communities in the U.S. now require home sprinklers.  California, Maryland and South Carolina have adopted the provision  statewide.

Additional information can be found at www.firesprinklersma.org.

Lorraine Carli

Over the past 30 years, selected municipal water authorities have implemented strategies, including stand by fees and other policies, to recover costs for water consumed in fires in sprinklered buildings. Typically these fees are not directly related to sprinkler fire flows but rather are recognition of the fact that these flows are not metered and not accounted for in conventional water cost recovery mechanisms.

In contrast, water consumption at fires at unsprinklered properties is typically not subject to fees nor metered at the hydrant.

With the growing adoption of residential sprinkler ordinances in communities across the country, the Fire Protection Research Foundation is conducting a study on the community impact of fire flow water consumption in both sprinklered and unsprinklered buildings. The report, expected to be released in January, will assess the fire flow fee structure in six U.S. communities.

Read the project summary (under the heading “Suppression”).

Ralph Dorio, Community Hazard Mitigation Manager at Insurance Services Offices (ISO), identifies a troubling trend to decrease safety in adopted building codes in the above titled op-ed piece for American City & County magazine 

Mr. Dorio opines that “the importance of communities adopting and enforcing the latest codes is particularly evident in the 2009 residential code — the first to require the installation of residential fire sprinklers in new one- and two-family dwellings.” He presents as evidence the decrease by 80 percent in fire loss from communities that have adopted the regulation; adding that these communities “have not had a loss of life fire in a residence with fire sprinklers.” He also advises local officials “to make critical decisions to retain the integrity of the essential mission of code administration.” He goes on to add; “ISO continues to monitor, evaluate and report the status of code effectiveness to insurers and the building code community."

A previous post on this blog titled Home Fire Sprinklers: ISO Facts  provided an expanded evaluation of the possible impact on communities that amend the model codes to exclude the home fire sprinkler requirement. Several communities' have alreday been affected during ISO's reviews that cite the jurisdictions' failure to adopt the residential sprinkler section of the 2009 IRC as one of the contributing factors to a regression in ratings.

Mr. Dorio's commentary emphasizes how important it is for insurers to track those trends carefully with the Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule (BCEGS) program, concluding that “the future of code effectiveness may well hang in the balance.” 

Click here to visit ISO's hazard mitigation website 

Maria Figueroa

State Fire Marshal Bill Barnard informs that effective January 1, 2012, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has adopted updates to the Maryland Building Performance Standards and the Model Performance Code which includes the 2012 edition of the IRC with fire sprinklers.

The State of MD was one of the first states to adopt the 2009 IRC with the one- and two-family home fire sprinkler requirement. With this latest action, DHCD has affirmed its position that all new homes built in the state meet minimum standards to achieve a reasonable level of safety in the event of fire, protecting occupants and providing a safer environment for responding firefighters.

Maria Figueroa

The NJ Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee moved forward bill A3278 requiring fire suppression (sprinkler) systems in new one- and two-family homes. The bill now moves to the Assembly for consideration on Dec. 15th. It's companion bill, S2287, currently resides with the state Senate Community and Urban Affairs committee. A hearing date for this bill in the senate committe has not been set.

NJ_FSIThe NJ Fire Sprinkler Coalition has worked feverishly to make sure that this bill gets the attention it deserves including an op-ed piece by David Kurasz, coalition member and Executive director of New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, published December 2 on MyCentral Jersey.com. 

Visit the NJ Fire Sprinkler Coalition web page to stay informed.

Maria Figueroa

Shannon and Fire Service groups
NFPA President Jim Shannon was joined by representatives of every major fire service organization in Massachusetts at a home fire sprinkler rally in Quincy, MA, on November 3, 2011.

The Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) promulgated a building code for the Commonwealth and omitted the provision to require home fire sprinklers in new construction. The new code became effective August 4, 2011.

The BBRS is holding a public hearing on December 13, 2011, at 12:00 pm in the Gardner Auditorium of the Massachusetts State House (Beacon Street at Park Street). Public testimony will be accepted. If you are able to attend, please ask the BBRS to add back the provision for fire sprinklers in new one and two family homes, or at a minimum, push out the implementation date to ensure future generations will be better protected from fire.

If you are unable to attend, you can also contact the members of the BBRS by phone or e-mail. We've even drafted language you can use for your letter, e-mail, or phone call.

Join NFPA and the Massachusetts State Fire Marshals Office, Fire Chiefs Association of Massachusetts, Fire Prevention Association of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Call/Volunteer Firefighters Association and Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts -- all of whom support the requirement for fire sprinklers in new one- and two-family homes.

Don’t allow substandard homes to be built in Massachusetts.

- Jim Shannon
NFPA President

 

Flashover is the point in which everything in your home catches fire -- no one can survive. See how quickly flashover can occur and how it can be prevented. In this video, produced by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), we show what happens while a house is burning and the local fire department is on its way.

Advocates: Use this video and our other online resources to help educate your community about the value of home fire sprinklers. 

Remember: home fire sprinklers save lives and property from fire. They act before the fire department is even notified. Learn more about the power of home fire sprinklers.

Note: The following is excerpted from a November 7, 2011, article on AOL Real Estate, by Stefanos Chen.

It may sound like a cliche to trot out fire safety tips before the holiday season, but if there's one statistic that bears repeating, it's this: Even with adequate smoke alarms, a house fire today can become uncontrollable in less than three minutes.

That's down from an average 17 minutes in 1975 -- a whopping 82 percent difference.

And the reason for the drastic change, according to a report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, isn't just the type of house you live in, but what you put inside.

"It's not how old the home is, it's the furnishings," Jack Watts, Director of the Fire Safety Institute, told AOL Real Estate.

A spokesperson for the National Association of State Fire Marshals told AOL Real Estate that the worst culprit in home fires is upholstered furniture, because it often contains highly flammable polyurethane foam. These all-too-common materials provide the fuel for what fire experts call the flashover -- the point at which everything in the room simultaneously bursts into flames. It doesn't help that many of today's homes are built with more open floor plans and modern building materials like wallboard that can lead to faster fires, according to the Wichita Eagle.

The numbers show an alarming trend. In 1977, the first year when data was available, there were 750,000 residential fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. In 2010, there were roughly half that many, thanks in large part to widespread use of smoke detectors. But the incredible speed with which home fires can spread in today's homes represents a major step backward in fire safety.

 The Hot Topic of Sprinklers
The next step in home fire safety, a spokesperson for the NASFM said, is to require fire sprinklers in new residential properties. Homebuilders bristle at the idea due to the high cost of installation. The national average cost to install sprinklers is $1.60 per square foot, according to the Wichita Eagle. In a 2,000-square-foot home, that comes out to about $3,200.

Another barrier is public opinion. As we reported last year, when given the choice between granite countertops and fire sprinklers, respondents overwhelmingly chose the countertops, according to the National Association of Home Builders. 

(To find out if your state requires fire sprinklers in new construction, check out the Fire Sprinkler Initiative website.)

Worse still, there are only voluntary flammability regulations for upholstered furniture. Implementing a nationwide standard would go a long way in protecting consumers from purchasing dangerously flammable furnishings, the NASFM spokesperson said. 

Regardless of what state legislators decide, though, it all comes down to vigilance, says Fire Safety Institute Director Watts.

If you'll be using a live Christmas tree this holiday season, make sure to water it regularly and keep an eye on any decorative lighting and candles. And, as always, make sure your house is equipped with working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. 

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