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The City of Newark, Delaware is the only community in the state to require fire sprinklers in all new one- and two-family home construction. It adopted the home fire sprinkler requirement by ordinance in 2001.

JerryCliftonJerry Clifton, Vice Mayor of the City of Newark, visited the Fire Sprinkler Initiative booth at the NLC Congress of Cities and Exposition to offer the history behind the requirement and his perspective on the issue.

He is currently serving his eighth term on City Council, having been elected in April 1997. He is a native Delawarean, born in Wilmington, Delaware, a graduate of Wilmington High School, and has been a resident of Newark since 1992.

The City of Newark is located on the northernmost part of the State of Delaware. The population is comprised of 32,000 permanent residents plus 16,000 students that attend the University of Delaware.

Mr. Clifton says that in 2001 a former city council member, John Farrell, was chief of the volunteer fire department and a strong supporter of requiring fire sprinklers in all new homes. He drafted an ordinance and made a presentation to the council. The ordinance was adopted in 2001 and the city recently upgraded its code and adopted the 2012 IRC with the requirement intact.

Newark is in New Castle County, whose leadership is vehemently opposed to the requirement. According to Mr. Clifton, the development community is very powerful and a strong opponent. He believes that once the county adopts, the rest of the state will go. He considers this a good possibility


Vice Mayor Clifton and NFPA's Tim Travers at the FSI booth














Mr. Clifton says that all the development in New Castle County is happening within Newark city limits. It mostly consists of $500,000 and $600,000 homes. “We have had no push back from the development community…it’s no real issue, it’s just the code and they do it,” says Mr. Clifton. There are $30 million dollars worth of projects currently approved to be built. The requirement causes no negative impact on community development.

Mr. Clifton also believes that part of the issue is educating the public on the value to them, adding: “It is about being able to get their families and their children out in a fire. I don’t want that blood on my hands.”

Recently, a young student set a fire in the kitchen of a home and set a wall on fire. The sprinkler quickly extinguished it with minor damage and no injuries or loss of life. Mr. Clifton says; "that would have been disastrous under different circumstances."

Contact Vice Mayor Clifton for additional information

Scott Somers
Scott Somers, Ph.D., is vice-mayor of Mesa, Arizona, and a 17-year veteran of the Phoenix Fire Department
The November/December 2012 issue of NFPA Journal contains a perspective column by Scott Somers, Vice Mayor of the City of Mesa, AZ. In his own words Somers explains how his community is using federal money to fund fire sprinkler projects – both residential and commercial - designed to stabilize troubled neighborhoods and stimulate economic growth.

Mr. Somers says that in his nearly two decades of fire service experience in Phoenix, Arizona, he has witnessed firsthand how fire sprinklers are guardians of life and property. “As vice-mayor of the neighboring community of Mesa, I have also found that sprinklers can be a strategic tool to spur job growth and economic opportunity;” he adds.

The City of Mesa has taken an innovative approach to sprinkler advocacy by using federal grants to install home fire sprinklers in low- and moderate-income homes, as well as to create a city-run grant program to retrofit sprinklers in historic downtown businesses.

Read Mr. Somer’s NFPA Journal column NFPA Journal® online exclusive for November/December 2012 features Regional Director Randy Safer talking about the retrofitting of his home with a fire sprinkler system.

Randy lives with his wife and daughter in a rural area about 30 miles northeast of Nashville, Tennessee. For several years they discussed retrofitting their home with a fire sprinkler system installed according to NFPA 13D: Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes, but they kept putting it off, concerned that their three-level house would be difficult and very expensive to retrofit.

Recently, he decided to retrofit his home. According to Randy: “The decision has given us great peace of mind. Plus, it was easier to install and less expensive than expected.” He adds; “All in all, we are very pleased with our system and surprised by the low cost. My daughter and my wife feel much safer-and I sleep much better. “

Read Randy’s account

Billy GoldfederEarlier this week published an article written by Chief Billy Goldfeder - Deputy Fire Chief of the Loveland-Symmes (OH) Fire Department, and Director, Safety, Health and Survival Section for IAFC – where he presents a scathing opinion on the home fire sprinkler requirement debate.

Citing recent fires where children died in Maine and Wisconsin, he offers a personal account on the subject and points out the unavoidable emotional impact of fatal home fires on firefighters and grieving survivors.

NFPA statistics reveal that the very young and the very old are at highest risk of death from home fires. Chief Goldfeder says;“Babies who die in fires never had a chance to make a fire-sprinkler decision,” arguing that home fire sprinklers should not be a matter of consumer choice.

In the article Chief Goldfeder concludes; ‘If these horrific pre-holiday fires don't emotionally impact those who won't support fire sprinkler legislation, then it's further defining of what their true "non-emotional" priorities are.’

Read the article

Figure 6 FlashoverfireNFPA recently issued Firefighter Injuries in the United States, a report that contains an analysis of total firefighter injuries from 1981-2011.

NFPA estimates that 70,090 firefighter injuries occurred in the line of duty during 2011 and 30,505 (43.5%) of all firefighter injuries occurred during fireground operations.

In May, 2011, NFPA issued Home Sprinkler Impact on Firefighter Injuries. This report compares structure fires reported to U.S. municipal fire departments, to structure fires in homes with no automatic extinguishing equipment from 2006-2010, and presents estimates of an additional benefit from home sprinklers.

Analysis of home structure fires with wet-pipe sprinklers present showed a 65% reduction in firefighter injuries at the fireground per 1,000 home structure fires.

Together, these reports paint a picture of the possible benefits from home fire sprinklers derived from a 30 year historical perspective. Firefighter safety is a major drive of this fire sprinkler initiative. Will we have to wait another 30 years and injure hundreds of thousands more before action is taken to protect firefighters with automatic fire sprinklers in homes?

Learn more about home fire sprinklers and help educate decision-makers about the need for sprinklers in all new one- and two-family homes.

During the Research Foundation’s Fire Safety Design and Sustainable Buildings Symposium in Chicago, Sean DeCrane, of the Cleveland Fire Department, gave his perspective on the hazards of sustainable buildings. He discussed the importance of training for the fire service because of the new developments in the construction industry. Traditional stick built houses with heavy upholstered furniture is a thing of the past.

Today, fire fighters are faced with engineered, lightweight lumber, expanded foam materials, and photovoltaic panels on roofs. Many of these sustainable materials contribute to faster burning fires and buildings that fail much quicker. Not only are fire fighters facing new hazards inside of buildings, but they are facing challenges getting to the building itself. Green rating systems give credits for reducing paved surfaces, increasing landscaping and reducing traffic. This makes for beautiful cities that save energy, however, it creates literal road blocks for fire fighter vehicles. Every extra minute it takes the fire service to navigate around narrow roadways and traffic calming devices is another minute the fire has to grow and another minute someone might be waiting for rescue inside that building.

Mr. DeCrane argued that sprinklers and training are two of the best things we can do for our fire service. Check out this video that Mr.DeCrane shared from UL. It compares a fire in a legacy room (think grandma’s upholstered furniture and heavy fabric curtains) to a modern room (one that was purchased right off the shelf at one of today’s furniture stores).


by Gary Keith, NFPA Vice President of Field Operations

Water supply requirementsThis past summer, the worst drought in more than 50 years fed wildfires and crippled crop production throughout the West, the Midwest, and the South. The historic combination of widespread high heat and too little rain dramatically underscored our reliance on water and the critical need to conserve it.

Ironically, responsible water use is one of the most obvious benefits of home fire sprinkler systems. In fact, a study conducted by FM Global for the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) showed that fire sprinklers reduce water use to fight a home fire by as much as 91 percent and dramatically reduce water pollution resulting from suppression efforts.

Nevertheless, water supply requirements for sprinklers are not well understood and often are not accurately presented. That’s due in large part to groups working to prevent the adoption of state and local residential fire sprinkler requirements, which often quote erroneous claims that home fire sprinkler systems require complicated public water supply connections and increase demand for water services.

Read Gary's entire column in the new issue of NFPA Journal.

Sam Davis, president/CEO of Island Harbor Construction in Cape Coral, FL, offers a free fire sprinkler system in all new homes he builds. “Fire sprinklers do save property, but their main function is to save lives,” he says.

When someone asks him about fire sprinklers he tells them, “You can spend a fortune on appliances, cabinets and granite countertops but those things will do nothing to protect your family against a fire.”

Mr. Davis says that the benefit to his company is that they are actively promoting a system that will save lives. “I’m waiting for the day, although I hope it never ever happens, that we get a call that one of our systems activates, and if it does, that it saved someone’s life.  A home fire sprinkler system is well worth the investment."


His website actively promotes home fire sprinklers and includes a link to the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, where consumers and others who visit, can receive information on home fire sprinkler systems.

When we visited Sam in Cape Coral to video tape his story his company, along with Wayne Automatic, was retrofitting the home of a disabled veteran. While so many home builders fight against home fire sprinklers it is a breath of fresh air to know him and see how passionate he is about installing fire sprinkler systems in the homes he builds.

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