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A new NFPA report says that automatic sprinklers are highly effective and reliable elements of total system designs for fire protection in buildings.

The report, "U.S. Experience with Sprinklers", by John R. Hall, Jr., cites an American Housing Survey that states that in 2009, 4.6% of occupied homes (including multi-unit) had sprinklers, up from 3.9% in 2007, and 18.5% of occupied home built in the previous four years had sprinklers.

The report includes statistics on how often sprinklers are reported in fires, by property use, and their estimated impact in reducing the average loss of life and property per fire. It also includes statistics on performance, usage and reliability of sprinklers, as well as leading reasons when system fail to operate or operate but are ineffective.

In the early morning hours of Saturday, March 24th, a fire broke out in a home in the City of Charleston, WV, killing two adults and seven children.WVfatalfire

As reported by WCHS, Charleston the call came in at 3:30 a.m. One adult was able to escape. Victims were found on, or near, their beds. Firefighters rescued the victims from the home, but attempts to resuscitate them were unsuccessful.  One child survived originally, but died in the hospital the next day.

Fire in the home poses one of the biggest threats people in communities. Nearly 3,000 people per year die in U.S. home fires. In 2010, 83% of people who died in fires and 68% of those injured, did so in one- and two-family homes. Firefighter deaths in these structures represent 75% as a percentage of all residential structures.

Those at greatest risk are:

  • Older adults – over age 65
  • Children – under 5 years old
  • Persons with disabilities

These high risk groups may not be able to exit on their own, even with working smoke alarms. They may need the additional escape time provided by home fire sprinkler systems. NFPA 13D systems are designed to provide a ten minute escape time.

There was one working smoke alarm in the house but it was not properly installed. A smoke alarm would have provided early warning, increasing their ability to escape. Smoke alarms reduce the chances of dying in a home fire by 50%. The substantially older home was not equipped with fire sprinklers. The risk of dying decreases by about 80 percent when sprinklers are present.

Multiple death fires bring lots of media attention but we must not forget that everyday many people die, or are injured, in fires that do not get any coverage. About 3,000 people, on average, die in home fires every year.

Read follow up story including video…

Maria Figueroa

A story out of Hartlepool, England reminds us that the home fire death problem and the life safety communities’ passion for solving it have no borders. As reported in the Hartlepool Mail, the woman, Cindy Collins has become an advocate for fire sprinklers after nearly dying in a fire in her home, adding; “fire victim said goodbye and prepared to die.”Woman

As reported, she was to follow her son out the window but was overcome by smoke and could not escape. Instead, she simply “laid down and prepared to die.”

In 2007, England had the 16th highest death rate of 24 industrialized nations studied. The U.S. had a much higher fire death rate. Not unlike North America (U.S. and Canada), there is a movement in the UK, specially England and New Zealand to solve the home fire death problem by requiring fire sprinklers in all new home construction.

Stories like these remind all of us who we are fighting for. Whether it is here or thousands of miles away, the story repeats itself. Read more…

Maria Figueroa

Linda Chavis of Lexington, South Carolina, lost her firefighter son in a house fire in 2001. "It is definitely a parent’s worst nightmare to receive a call saying your child has been hurt," she says. "My first thought was no, he’s a fireman. He helps people, he can’t be hurt."


Linda's story is featured as part of NFPA's "Faces of Fire" campaign, a resource developed to help people and groups across the country promote the use of automatic fire sprinklers in one- and two-family homes.

By containing fires before they spread, home fire sprinklers protect lives and property. The personal stories told through the "Faces of Fire" campaign will show the experiences of those who escaped or lost loved ones in home fires and those whose lives and property were protected by home fire sprinklers.

"Faces of Fire" is a project of NFPA funded by a Federal Emergency Management Agency Fire Prevention and Safety Grant. 

Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter March 2012The new issue of Fire Sprinkler Initiative News, NFPA's monthly e-newsletter, has details of a HUD committee debate on sprinkler requirements in manufactured housing. We also feature the story of Linda Chavis of South Carolina, who lost her firefighter son in a home fire. She has since become a sprinkler advocate and is featured in NFPA's "Faces of Fire" campaign.

We also look at:

  • the defeat of a sprinkler proposal in Massachusetts, and updates on other anti-sprinkler efforts around the United States
  • NFPA's effort to get more enforcers participating on its technical committees
  • a new Research Foundation report on the fire protection water demand for various building types

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. reports that a 38-year old woman and her 2-year old goddaughter were killed in a duplex fire late Saturday night. The home was equipped with working smoke alarms but no fire sprinklers.

According to the report the fire was discovered by the occupant of the second unit when she came home from work shortly after 11 p.m. She reported hearing the smoke alarm sound, seeing light smoke, and smelling gas. Firefighters found a small fire contained to the kitchen. The investigation has concluded; the fire started in the stove and was ruled accidental.

ChildkilledinAuburnFire units arrived at the house just three minutes after getting the call and found the two victims near the kitchen, unresponsive. Despite valiant efforts to revive them, they were pronounced dead at the hospital. It could all have been different, had fire sprinklers been installed in the home.

The home was built in 2010 according to a source from the property management office of the Albert Heights subdivision, were the home is located. The homes are equipped with wired, interconnected smoke alarms.

Smoke alarms have done a good job providing early warning. The fire death rate decreased after they were mandated in new home construction, but people continue to die at unacceptable rates. Fire sprinklers control, or may put out the fire; providing the additional escape time that occupants may require, specially high risk groups; older adults, young children, and persons with disabilities. The risk of dying decreases by about 80 percent when sprinklers are present.  Fire sprinklers also provide a safer environment for firefighters.

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 the home is a poor predictor of fire death. NFPA statistics show higher fire death rates are seen in states with larger percentages of people who possess one or more of the following characteristics: are black, poor, smoke, have less formal education, or who live in rural areas. A fire in a new home a is just as deadly as the same fire in an older home.

New methods of construction and modern home contents negatively impact life safety. In 2008, Underwriters Laboratories® (UL) conducted a study. The findings of the report, Structural Stability of Engineered Lumber in Fire Conditions, point to the failure of lightweight engineered wood systems when exposed to fire. The same UL study found that the synthetic construction of today’s home furnishings add to the increased risk by providing a greater fuel load. Larger homes, open spaces, increased fuel loads, void spaces, and changing building materials contribute to:

  • Faster fire propagation
  • Shorter time to flashover
  • Rapid changes in fire dynamics
  • Shorter escape time
  • Shorter time to collapse

ABC affiliate News Channel 9 covered a candlelight vigil to celebrate the lives of the two victims, held Sunday night. The sentiment shown during the vigil underscores the emotional impact of a fatal fire on communities. It starts with the family of the victims, who must live with the loss of their loved ones. What an incredible loss for the parents of that little, pretty girl. The entire neighborhood will mourn the loss of a neighbor and friend. Firefighters on the scene must deal with the emotional toll their entire lives.

Unfortunately, we continue to see politics and profits trump life safety in a number of states that have prohibited jurisdictions from mandating this minimum model code requirement for new one- and two-family dwellings. What is it going to take? How many people will have to die before fire sprinklers are installed in all new homes?

Maria Figueroa

This weekend the SC Fire Sprinkler Coalition is participating as an exhibitor at the HBA of Greater Columbia Carolina Classic Home and Garden Show, providing education and awareness on the importance of home fire sprinklers.

Columbia ShowThe participation of the coalition at this event is part of the campaign to keep the home fire sprinkler requirement in the SC building code.

The coalition booth saw many visitors including; builders, contractors, plumbers, firefighters and other consumers. The feedback was very positive and everyone who visited the booth walked away understanding the life safety and other benefits of fire sprinklers in the home.

Maria Figueroa

RFA new Fire Protection Research Foundation report analyzes the fire protection water demand for various building types, including residential dwellings. It concludes that the amount of water used during a fire in a sprinklered building is less than that of an unsprinklered building. In addition, in most cases, the amount of water required per year in a sprinklered building for commissioning, inspection, testing, and maintenance of systems is less than that of an unsprinklered building.

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