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.