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All Places > FSI > Blog > 2013 > August


!|src=|alt=Home building|width=174|style=margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px;|title=Home building|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef019104d6f9ce970c|height=129!As reported herein a previous post, Rutherford County, TN is updating its residential code to require fire sprinklers for new construction one- and two-family homes. Now an op-ed pieceby the editorial board of the Daily News Journal (DNJ) has weighed in for the provision.

Besides citing the life safety benefits of fire sprinklers, the DNJ cites the rapid growth of the community that has brought construction into areas that do not have access to water and goes on to say; “with these developments come calls for amenities and necessities – such as adequate fire protection.” The Rutherford County provision would require fire sprinklers in areas with inadequate access to water supplies. 

The piece concludes; “Another alternative is to provide adequate water supplies and pressure, but how much would that cost countyresidents as utility rate payers?” Another question I would pose is; "Do buyers of those homes understand how much more they will have to pay for homeowners insurance without adequate fire protection?"

We will continue to follow the developments in Rutherford County and will keep you informed.

UPDATE: The Rutherford County governing body voted not to adopt the provision.

!|src=|alt=|style=margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px currentColor; width: 80px; display: block; max-width: 100%;!Tennessee homebuilder attacks side-by-side burn


The Fire Sprinkler Initiative was present at the IAFF Redmond Symposium  being held in Denver, CO, to raise firefighter awareness of home fire sprinklers, the concern regarding lightweight construction and the difference that fire sprinklers can make in protecting the safety of firefighters on the fireground. Other divisions within NFPA are also exhibiting and presenting at the symposium.

The IAFF John P. Redmond Symposium on the Occupational Health & Hazards of the Fire Service explores the causes of every IAFF member’s death, injury or illness to develop sustainable solutions to further protect the health and safety of the membership. “This year’s IAFF Redmond Symposium and Barbera EMS Conference reflects our commitment to ensure the survival of our members on the fireground and on EMS scenes with research, new programs, initiatives and tools," said IAFF general president Harold Schaitberger. IAFF fully supports the home fire sprinklers requirement and passed
a resolution documenting this support during its 2008 convention.

The Public Fire Protection Division is at the booth providing advisory services, answering questions and sharing information on fire and EMS health and safety codes. They also provided important NFPA updates during two presentations. 

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U.S. Fire Administrator Chief Ernie Mitchell (third from L) visits the NFPA booth


One of the presentations by the Public Fire Protection group, Standards in Action, explained how to get involved in the NFPA code development process and how our standards impact fire and EMS health and safety. The second presentation shared information on[ NFPA 450  |]and NFPA 1917  and how they relate to increase occupational safety and health of emergency responders.


The Wildland Fire Operations Division provided information on the upcoming Backyards and Beyond Conference and on the Fire Adapted Communities  and FireWise programs.

!|src=|alt=|style=margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px currentColor; width: 80px; display: block; max-width: 100%;!NFPA attends IAFF Redmond Symposium in Denver this week

!|src=|alt=|style=margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px currentColor; width: 80px; display: block; max-width: 100%;!IAFF encourages fire service involvement in building codes

The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) has received a generous grant from FM Global. The grant will underwrite the development of new educational materials that will help HFSC underscore the importance of home fire sprinklers when building or buying a new home.

!|src=|alt=FM Global award|style=width: 450px;|title=FM Global award|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef0192aca84213970d!

From left: FM Global's Gary Keith, HFSC's Lorraine Carli, FM Global's Mike Spaziani


The non-profit HFSC “is the #1 resource for accurate, noncommercial information and materials for consumers and professionals.” It was created in 1996 “in response to the tremendous need to inform the public about the life-saving value of home fire sprinkler protection.” HFSC offers free educational materials with details about installed home fire sprinkler systems, how they work, why they provide affordable protection; and answers to common myths and misconceptions about their operation.

Through grant funding – such as this latest one from FM Global – HFSC is able to fulfill its mission.

HFSC Board President Lorraine Carli accepted the award at HFSC’s recent board meeting. Presenting the award were Gary Keith, Vice President, Engineering Standards Manager, who represents FM Global on HFSC's Board of Directors; and Mike Spaziani, Manager, Office Engineering and Training for FM Global.


The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) and the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Fire Sprinkler Initiative awarded Deputy Fire Chief Kyle Minick from the North Charleston (SC) Fire Department with the 2013 Bringing Safety Home Award, jointly presented by the two organizations.


BSH award SC chief
Pictured from left: Chief Minick, NFPA's Lorraine Carli, HFSC's Peg Paul
The Bringing Safety Home Award annually recognizes the efforts of fire chiefs who use HFSC’s educational materials and the resources of the Fire Sprinkler Initiative to ensure that decision-makers have accurate information as new or updated residential fire sprinkler codes are considered. 

Chief Minick volunteered to chair the South Carolina Fire Sprinkler Coalition and to spearhead a series of live flashover and fire sprinkler side-by-side demonstrations held across his state in partnership with the South Carolina Fire and Life Safety Education Association. More than 20 of these dramatic demonstrations have been held since 2011, utilizing materials and information from both HFSC and NFPA’s Initiative.

In the nomination for the award, Chief Minick was hailed for his role in attracting the large number of firefighters, the media and the public who attended the side-by-side demonstrations. “Not only does Chief Minick represent the residential fire sprinkler issue well through his volunteer efforts, he lives this,” the nomination says. Chief Minick had fire sprinklers installed in his own home.

“Having a local advocate willing to take the lead on fire sprinkler education is key to making progress both in public awareness and in strong public safety requirements,” says Lorraine Carli, speaking on behalf of both HFSC and NFPA.

The Fire Sprinkler Initiative participated as an exhibitor at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) 2013 Legislative Summit, recently held at the Georgia World Convention Center in Atlanta, GA.

NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the nation's 50 states, its commonwealths and territories. The legislative summit provides opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues. By exhibiting at this conference, we are making sure that the home fire sprinkler issue remains alive in legislators’ minds.

As part of the effort, we also featured an ad in State Legislatures’ July/August publication, the organizations' magazine that was also distributed to all attendees at the conference.

Legislature ad

We shared important information on the life safety and other benefits of fire sprinkler systems during many interactions with these crucial policy makers.

State Representative Vanessa Lowery-Brown stopped by and told us that she opposed the home fire sprinkler prohibition in Pennsylvania and understands the need for this important code provision; adding that she will continue to support the issue and hopes it will become the law in her state.


From Android Galazy 049
Rep. Lowery-Brown poses with Mike Hazell at FSI booth


!|src=|alt=Billy Greenwood|style=margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px;|title=Billy Greenwood|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef01901ed29a59970b!In a[ Fire Engineering blog |], Lt. Billy Greenwood issues a hazard alert involving lightweight stairs construction in unfinished basements. This danger represents one more reason to include fire sprinklers in new homes that are built with lightweight construction materials, for the protection of occupants and firefighters.

Lt. Greenwood explains; ‘Not like fighting a basement fire wasn't dangerous to begin with, but now us brother and sister firefighters need to worry about the structural integrity of what contractors and/or engineers feel are adequate materials for "lightweight stairs"’.


!|src=|alt=LightweightStairs|style=width: 450px;|title=LightweightStairs|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef019104c884e5970c!
According to the lieutenant with the new lightweight stair assembly, instead of using traditional 2x12 stair stringer, this new lightweight constructed staircase is made with a 2x4 running the entire length of the staircase (on the side) where the standard stringer would normally be. This lightweight system is held together by glue and nails.

Although in a main staircase (1st to 2nd floor) the underside of the stairs would be covered with drywall for added fire protection, for an unfinished basement installation, the stairs would be unprotected as reported. This represents a great danger to firefighters and should serve as a reminder that fire sprinklers in homes, including unfinished basements would abate this hazard.


Firefighters in Rutherford County, TN held a side-by-side burn to demonstrate the power of fire and the difference that fire sprinklers make; but according to, the president of the Rutherford County Home Builders Association said the display was based on emotion, not fact.

Proponents of home fire sprinklers provisions are used to opponents providing misleading figures and twisting facts, but this attack of a live side-by-side burn is a first. It should come as no surprise, as this demonstration is the most effective way to raise public awareness of the issue.



Steve Jensen, homebuilder association president and owner of Jensen Quality Homes said that the scenario was not representative of a real house fire or the danger that most Tennesseans face in a blaze, according to the article. For his argument to be true Tennesseans would have to live in unfurnished homes without appliances, and other contents that make today's fires burn hotter and spread faster; built with solid wood instead of lightweight materials. The fact is that new homes are deadlier.


As alleged in the report, this homebuilder repeated usual myths, such as; smoke alarms provide enough protection, and building with fire sprinklers will drive home buyers away. All the arguments attributed to this builder have been brought up before and disputed here in numerous posts. Larry Farley, chief of the Rutherford County Fire Rescue Department did an excellent job countering the fallacies.

Rutherford County is considering adopting one- and two-family home fire sprinkler requirements. The Rutherford County Planning Commission will hold a hearing next week, and will consider the adoption of the requirement. Stay tuned for the outcome of the effort.


For more information visit the Tennessee Fire Sprinkler Coalitionpage

!|src=|alt=|style=margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px currentColor; width: 80px; display: block; max-width: 100%;!Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition announces two new stipends for fire departments

!|src=|alt=|style=margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px currentColor; width: 80px; display: block; max-width: 100%;!IBHS dispels myths about residential fire sprinklers

Fire sprinklerIllinois State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis withdrew a proposed rule on Friday which would have required the installation of fire sprinklers in residential high rises and new homes.

“We have received an unprecedented amount of public input and suggestions through emails, letters, and public meetings," Matkaitis said in a statement. “In the course of this process, it’s become clear that any proposed state rule needs additional refinement. Therefore today I am officially withdrawing the proposed rule before the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules to take into account substantial public comment and carefully re-examine this issue.”

I his communication announcing the decision, he added; “We plan to regroup and meet with stakeholders before once again moving forward. We will not give up on our goal to provide the highest level of fire safety to Illinois residents and first responders.”

Visit the Illinois Fire Sprinkler Coalition page for more information

Download Illinois fire marshal statement

Chief Jones
"We should be doing our best to install them in our own homes. We have to practice what we preach; there is power in that."
Chief Jonathan Jones says that he has been around the fire service all of his life.  His father is a retired fire chief and his mother became the first female firefighter in the county where he lives. He officially joined the fire service as a volunteer firefighter in 1994. He is currently a deputy chief in the Clarendon County Fire Department, where he lives, and is president of the South Carolina State Firefighters’ Association (SCSFA). In this blog, Chief Jones shares his outlook on leadership and residential fire sprinklers; and his experience retrofitting his own home with fire sprinklers.

I knew about home fire sprinklers for many years and when efforts began to adopt codes requiring residential fire sprinklers in one- and two-family homes I developed a passion for, and got involved in the initiative. I have testified numerous times before the South Carolina Building Codes Council, in support of requiring residential fire sprinklers in one- and two-family dwellings.

My commitment to this effort is personal, as well as professional; as I just finished a complete retrofit installation of an NFPA 13D residential fire sprinkler system in my home. After my wife had the chance to attend a side-by-side burn, sponsored by the South Carolina Fire Sprinkler Coalition, she was also convinced that we would install fire sprinklers in our upcoming house renovation. Fire Sprinklers were the top priority in our renovation, and cost less than our granite countertops.

I believe in leading by example.  It's hard to preach about residential sprinklers - especially to those that may be opposed to them - when you do not have them in your own home. In the past, when I stood before the codes council I was asked if I had fire sprinklers in my own home.  Now the answer is an enthusiastic; "Yes, I do."

My family documented the install every step of the way and plan to make our story available to anyone who will listen. I am thankful that my family has never personally experienced a fire in our own home. But on a daily basis, my life intersects with people who have experienced the loss of all their worldly goods; and, unfortunately, sometimes the loss of a loved one, due to a residential fire. I rest well at night, knowing that my family is sound asleep under these life-saving devices.

I trust in the abilities and competencies of my brother and sister firefighters to do their job when the bell tolls. However, I know that my residential fire sprinkler system will not only protect my family from the tragedy of fire, but also keep our firefighters safe and return them home to their families.

The SCSFA, in partnership with the NFPA and other stakeholders, formed the South Carolina Sprinkler Coalition. This group supports the NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative through educating the fire service and our citizens on the benefits of residential fire sprinklers.

As fire service leaders, must first make it personal. We should be doing our best to install them in our own homes. We have to practice what we preach; there is power in that. It can be done!  It is affordable!  It will save lives!”

RecesssedpendentNFPA recently released its yearly U.S. Experience with Sprinklers report, documenting the presence and performance of fire sprinklers during reported fires for all occupancies, including homes. This report is available at no cost.

The presence of residential fire sprinklers has increased, specially in the last four years. As found in the report “…4.6% of occupied homes (including multi-unit) had sprinklers, up from 3.9% in 2007, and 18.5% of occupied homes built in the previous four years had sprinklers.”

Sprinklers are still rare in homes (6%), where most fire deaths occur. There is considerable potential for expanded use of sprinklers to reduce the loss of life and property to fire. With wet-pipe sprinklers the fire death rate per 1,000 reported home structure fires was lower by 82% and the rate of property damage per reported home structure fire was lower by 68%.

Sprinklers operated in 91% of all reported structure fires large enough to activate sprinklers, excluding buildings under construction and buildings without sprinklers in the fire area. When sprinklers operated, they were effective 96% of the time, resulting in a combined performance of operating effectively in 87% of all reported fires where sprinklers were present in the fire area and fire was large enough to activate them. The more widely used wet pipe sprinklers operated effectively 89% of the time, while dry pipe sprinklers operated effectively in 76% of cases.

Download U.S. Experience with Sprinklers 2013

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