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2012

The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) and NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative are teaming up with the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) to present a national award that recognizes the outstanding local efforts of a fire chief who has worked to increase the installation of residential fire sprinkler systems in his or her service area. Hurry - nominations are due July 6!

FSInewsJune2012The new issue of Fire Sprinkler Initiative News, NFPA's monthly e-newsletter, features a call by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) to support the installation of sprinkler systems in all new one- and two- family homes. We also look at burn survivor from Pennsylvania who has become an outspoken advocate for sprinklers, and how a sprinkler system in a Habitat for Humanity home in North Carolina has already proved its worth. We also showcase the latest sprinkler legislative news from Oklahoma and South Carolina, and showcase the step-by-step process you can follow to become a sprinkler advocate in your community.

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.

As reported in the Winnipeg Free Press Winnipeg firefighters and CASA are urging homeowners to install fire sprinklers in their new homes. Recently, they conducted a side-by-side burn demonstration emphasizing the life safety and property protection benefits of fire sprinkler systems.

Our neighbors to the north are busy advocating for fire sprinklers requirements in the code. In the meantime educating their communities has become a priority.

Winnipegburn

CASA is the official Canadian representative of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC), a non-profit organization that provides free educational materials intended for various audiences including consumers, fire service, homebuilders, water purveyors, local officials and other professionals.

Visit HFSC's website to order educational materials and to obtain a side-by-side burn kit that provides how-to, step-by-step instructions, if you are interested in conducting a burn demonstration in your own community. Educators in Canada should contact CASA or Sean Tracey, NFPA's Canada Office Regional Director, for more information.

ChLightbodyRetired Chief John Lightbody, Commissioner, NJ State Fire Safety Commission, and member of the  NJ Fire Sprinkler Coalition wrote an article highlitghting the negative impact posed by lightweight construction and the importance of home fire sprinkler requirements in offsetting the dangers to firefighters and protecting life and property in the context of providing monetary savings for communities.

The article is published in the June 2012 edition of the NJ State League of Municipalities magazine and follows below in its entirety:

Sprinkler Systems Save Money and Lives

In New Jersey, our communities are protected from the devastation of fire by 33,000 volunteers, saving municipalities in New Jersey millions of dollars each year. Approximately 75 percent of our New Jersey firefighting force is comprised of volunteers with multiple responsibilities. However, their numbers are dwindling. This trend will stress the already delicate budgets of communities as well as citizens' safety.

Although there are many reasons for the decline, a key reason is that today's fires are more dangerous and harder to control. This is due to the popularity of lightweight, energy efficient construction.

In older, traditional buildings flash-over could occur within ten to twelve minutes of the fire's beginning stage. A flash-over occurs when the heat of the fire reaches the point at which all the contents ignite simultaneously. In modern, lightweight buildings a flash-over can occur in as little as three minutes (often before firefighters can arrive).

When fires reach flash-over point so quickly there is no time for search and rescue and few occupants can escape. The fire is harder to extinguish and more dangerous for firefighters. These structures often feature smaller timbers, which make the building collapse more likely.

The most cost-effective and safe solution is to require automatic fire sprinklers in buildings with lightweight construction. Even with the added cost of $2.00 or less per square foot, lightweight construction is far less expensive than traditional construction.

Sprinklers would reduce the life-threatening risk to our volunteer and career firefighters, save occupants' lives, and reduce injuries and property damage. Sprinklers would mean a structure is back on the municipal tax roles sooner than a building that needs rebuilding.

Municipalities would receive better Insurance Services Organization (ISO) ratings, lower insurance premium for public buildings, community business owners and homeowners. The distance of hydrant spacing could be increased, resulting in significant budget savings. Water is conserved because a sprinkler head uses 25 gallons per minute versus 200 gallons a minute from fire department hose streams.

Ultimately, sprinklers will reduce time spent at the fire scene and lower risk to residents and firefighters. In addition fewer volunteer hours would be required to secure a fire scene.

Chief Lightbody is to be commended for reaching out to this very important stakeholder, increasing awareness of the importance of home fire sprinkler requirements on many fronts. At a time when sprinkler opponents are pushing legislation, limiting communities' right to adopt a code containing minimum requirements of safety in new home construction, reaching out to leagues of cities and other policy makers' membership organizations becomes paramount.

NJ_FSIThe points made by Chief Lightbody in the article are substantiated by numerous research studies that may be accessed from the Reports/Research section of this website.       

http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef0167678f0e0a970b-piVisit the NJ coalition site to obtain information specific to the State of NJ.          

CapeFearHabitatAs reported on Firehouse.com, a group of volunteers in Wilmington, NC led by Wilmington Fire Department Capt. Kenneth Bogan has made it their mission to equip houses built by Habitat for Humanity with fire sprinkler systems. The article informs that to date, volunteers have installed sprinklers in 32 houses around the city constructed by the nonprofit organization.

The importance of their work became evident recently when a Habitat home that they previously equipped with a fire sprinkler system had a fire, which resulted in limited damage to the bedroom where the fire originated. Most importantly, no one was killed or injured; all occupants safely evacuated the home.

"Had we not had a sprinkler in it, we'd be looking at an empty shell of a house," said Esmond Anderson, Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity's construction manager, according to the article. His statement reinforces the importance of winning the “hearts and minds” of Habitat for Humanity; as some chapters have sided with home builders to express opposition to home fire sprinkler requirements during code and legislative hearings around the country.

Capt. Brogan added in a comment posted on Firehouse.com: “I am proud to be a part of this program with our Fire Department and our community. I hope there are readers out there that may be interested in starting this program in their jurisdiction.” He asks those wanting information on installing fire sprinklers in Habitat homes to contact him.

SC_FSIChief Bruce Kline, chairman of the South Carolina Fire Sprinkler Coalition responded to a letter to the editor published in Charleston’s The Post and Courier newspaper. Submitted by Don McDonough, Division President, Ryland Homes, his letter claims “costly sprinkler regulations would limit consumer choices.” In the letter, published June 6, this sprinkler opponent cites well known “red herring” arguments and provides highly inflated costs of home fire sprinkler systems.

Mr. McDonough’s letter to the editor was prompted by advertising that the SC Fire Sprinkler coalition published in The Post and Courier to coincide with a safety campaign that was launched in SC on May 22; whereby firefighters teamed up with NFPA to raise awareness of the importance of home fire sprinkler requirements.

14x48_Billboard_FOF_SC (800x245)

In his letter, Mr. McDonough says that the most relevant discussion point “is one word: Freedom.” He argues the following against the requirement:

  • Sprinkler systems only modestly improve the chances of saving a life in the event of a fire.
  • More than 34 states have amended or passed legislation prohibiting mandatory sprinkler mandates in new one- and two-family dwellings.
  • The cost of a sprinkler system included in a new home is estimated to be $26 per square foot.
  • New homes are built with fire stopping techniques and less flammable materials than older homes and do not, in fact, burn faster and hotter as the ad claims.
  • A person building a new, detached home should decide for himself or herself whether the cost of a sprinkler system is worth the perceived benefit.

Chief Kline’s response follows:

This is in response to the letter by Don McDonough, Division President, Ryland Homes. I will explain why the inclusion of fire sprinklers in all new one- and two- family home construction is important.

All national model codes mandate fire sprinklers in all new home construction. Model codes represent minimum standards to achieve a reasonable level of safety. Removing the fire sprinkler requirement from the adopted code will represent substandard construction of one- and two-family dwellings in South Carolina.

One of the most important arguments for fire sprinklers is simple -- sprinklers save lives. NFPA 13D sprinkler systems provide a cost effective, life safety system intended to aid in the detection and control of fire and to prevent flashover (total involvement) in the room of fire origin and to improve the chance for occupants to escape or be evacuated.

Those at greatest risk are older adults, young children and persons with disabilities who 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.

Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in a home fire by 50 percent. If you have a reported fire in your home, the risk of dying decreases by 83 percent when sprinklers are present.

Mr. McDonough cites an NFPA statistic of 99.4% to illustrate the effectiveness of smoke alarms. This NFPA statistic reflects survivability and is based on the total number of reported fires, the vast majority of which are not fatal. Does that mean 2,500 deaths on average every year are acceptable? Most people would say no. It is similar to saying that because the survivability of motor vehicle crashes, which is also around 99.4% that we should not look for ways to improve vehicle safety.

A national study found that the cost of installing home fire sprinklers averages $1.61 per square sprinklered foot for new construction. In South Carolina the price averages $1.50. I would challenge Mr. McDonough to provide quotes to substantiate the $26 per square foot for a multipurpose, NFPA 13D home fire sprinkler system.

New methods of construction and home contents do negatively impact occupant and firefighter safety. A study by Underwriter Laboratories (UL) found that lightweight engineered wood systems fail as early as six minutes when exposed to fire; fires in new homes with modern contents do burn faster and hotter and escape times are shorter. Fire sprinklers in the code can offset these dangers. Fire sprinklers also provide a safer environment for firefighters, the majority of which VOLUNTEER for this job in South Carolina. Aren’t their lives worth protecting?

Mr. McDonough proposes that freedom of choice is the reason to remove this provision from the code. Only the original buyers of “custom homes” will be able to make the choice. Buyers of “spec” homes and subsequent buyers will be deprived of that ability. Those who oppose fire sprinkler system requirements in new home construction are not protecting consumer choice, they are opposing minimum life safety requirements.

Removing this provision from the residential code adoption in South Carolina will weaken public safety, ignores the proven impact of home fire sprinklers, and disregards the long established consensus code process. The South Carolina Fire Sprinkler Coalition has been working diligently to increase awareness of the issue and to ensure a smooth transition toward the implementation of the requirement on January 1, 2014.

Chief Kline’s response was kept brief to increase the odds of being published. As of this date, the letter remains unpublished. The facts contained in the response letter are vastly substantiated by the following facts:

An OSHA report published in 2006 stated: “Wherever these lightweight construction techniques are used, serious consideration should be given to providing sprinkler protection throughout the building, if not already required, as…an important feature for firefighter safety.”

To further dispute the high cost provided by Mr. Mc Donough an online comment on the newspaper's website posted by Mr. Charles Stewart, owner of Phoenix Distributing, a plumbing contracting company that installs potable water home fire sprinklers systems and a vocal advocate for fire sprinklers in SC, states; "I know for a fact (and I have proof) that Ryland Charleston was offered sprinklers in at least two neighborhoods and several homes for a price of $2 per sq ft."

It is vitally important to remain vigilant to the dissemination of unsupported negative arguments by the opposition. NFPA remains committed to assist field advocates. If you see something negative published in your communities’ media regarding the home fire sprinkler requirement contact us and we will provide you with the facts and will be happy to assist you with developing your response.

Picture1thisoneThe South Carolina Fire and Life Safety Education Association  (FALSE) conducted a side-by side burn at the culmination of the South Carolina State Firefighters Association’s 107th Annual SC Fire Rescue Conference held in Myrtle Beach last week. The activity, a component of the SC Fire Sprinkler Coalition awareness campaign, was attended by a record 1,000 persons.

A side-by-side burn demonstration is the best way to demonstrate the effectiveness of home fire sprinkler systems. During the burn, two identical rooms are built and furnished to represent a typical living room or bedroom. One of the rooms contains a smoke alarm and a sprinkler system. The other room contains a smoke alarm.  During this recent SC burn flashover occurred in the unsprinklered burn at 2 min. 49 sec, illustrating the amount of time home occupants have to escape before the fire becomes deadly and severe burns or death may result.

Burn 1 this oneThe SC coalition will continue to work to increase awareness of the power of fire and the home fire death problem, emphasizing the role that home fire sprinklers play in saving lives, and preventing injuries in South Carolina. FALSE is a major player in making this happen by conducting side-by-side burns throughout the state. For information about bringing this demonstration to your community in SC, contact Diane Woods or Les Woods. Visit the SC Fire Sprinkler Coalition website to access the many tools available to advocate for home fire sprinklers in SC.

The Mexican Fire Sprinkler Association (AMRACI), the Canadian Automatic Sprinkler Association (CASA) and National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA), are making history by what is being billed as “the first ever North American Fire Sprinkler Expo.” NFSA said the expo—still in the very early planning phase—will be held in conjunction with its annual seminar from April 4-6, 2013 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

In a statement, NFSA’s president, Russ Fleming, expressed his delight that AMRACI and CASA have agreed to partner with NFSA to host the expo. He says that “by bringing together fire sprinkler industry interests from all over the continent for the NFSA Annual Seminar and North American Fire Sprinkler Expo, for the very first time in the history of the industry we will have created a unique opportunity for contractors, suppliers and manufacturers from all over the continent to meet in one place to network, conduct business, discuss issues of common interest and to learn from the industry’s foremost authorities.”

For more on the event, go to NFSA’s website.

Maria Figueroa

Saginaw fireCarelessly discarded smoking materials started a fire at the Lakeside Village Apartment building, where mostly older adults and persons with disabilities reside. Thanks to the fire sprinkler system, there were no injuries and minimal property damage.

The fire started in a recliner after the resident dropped a cigarette that was not completely extinguished. The fire sprinkler activated within 30 seconds, according to Saginaw Township Fire Department Inspector Kevin O’Brien. O’Brien indicated that the damage from the fire was a small burned spot on the chair.

The fire sprinkler system was installed after a fire in 2005 caused devastating consequences. Many residents had to be rescued and several were treated at hospitals for smoke inhalation. The building suffered significant property damage then.

This is just one more example of the life safety benefits and property protection that residential fire sprinklers provide. With wet-pipe sprinklers the fire death rate per 1,000 reported home structure fires was lower by 83% and the rate of property damage per reported home structure fire was lower by 69%. Numerous research and reports document these and other benefits.

With the exception of the occupants of three apartments that were affected by water requiring minor “mop up” operations, all other residents were immediately able to occupy their homes after the fire.

Maria Figueroa

LizA recent issue of Burn Support News, The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors’ newsletter, features a story written by Liz Dideon Hess; a burn survivor who became a home fire sprinkler advocate in her home state of Pennsylvania. Liz joined the fire service to advocate for the fire sprinkler mandate.

Liz became a member of the burn community when in 2003 she sustained her own burn injuries. For the past six years she has been the clinical social worker at Lehigh Valley Health Network’s Regional Burn Center. She is also a Phoenix Society member, and is active in the burn camp community

As told by Liz, The Phoenix Society and the Pennsylvania firefighter community were instrumental in organizing a “storming of the capitol” and a press conference to rally support for the enforcement of the fire sprinkler mandate. She tells us that a small army of firefighters, burn center staff, burn survivors, and lobbyists visited senators and representatives and communicated the need for the mandate. She considers this joint effort as a powerful tool, adding; “as these groups were able to speak about the horrors of burn injuries, the emotional and financial costs of burn care, and the realities of being called to fight a structurally unsafe house fire.”

She tells us that she will continue to “work closely with the Phoenix Society to track home fire fatalities and burn injuries that could have been prevented had fire sprinklers been mandated. In addition, our burn center staff who got involved to prevent the horrible injuries they have to deal with on a daily basis report feeling encouraged to have had the opportunity to be proactive about burns.”

She argues that “people whose lives have been or will be directly affected by the law have an even greater responsibility to educate and provide insight to the leaders of this nation” and implores burn survivors to get involved at the state and national level, adding; “regardless of the outcome, advocating for a worthy cause is always worthwhile!”

Liz’s story is found on page 8 of Burn Support News

Maria Figueroa

WalesAn article in whathouse.com.uk  reports that the country of Wales, UK has officially enacted a requirement for fire sprinklers in all new homes. The law "supported by the Fire Brigades Union and various sprinkler campaigners, will apply to all new homes built in Wales as well as new care homes and university halls of residence" with an implementation date of September 2013.

On February 16, 2011 Welsh Assembly members voted in favor of the law that compels house builders to fit automatic sprinklers into new homes built in Wales.

The Domestic Fire Safety (Wales) Measure was introduced by Vale of Clwyd AM Ann Jones who explains; “This is a law that will save lives.” Mrs. Jones adds; “Fire safety in homes has improved over the years but we cannot ignore the fact that 80 per cent of deaths and injuries from fire in Wales still occur in the home...the evidence backs this up, that sprinkler systems in homes will make a difference in this area.”

The measure needed to be approved by the Privy Council, and that occured on April 7, 2011. With this action Wales becomes the first counhttp://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef016766fd1191970b-pitry to require fire sprinklers in all new homes. Here's hope that the U.S. is not too far behind and that every state in the U.S. adopts mandatory home fire sprinkler systems for all new home construction.

Maria Figueroa

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