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2014

 

The hardworking folks over at Clackamas Fire District #1 in Oregon sent us over this brief, but effective, sprinkler save. Earlier this month, a family had accidentally moved a piece of furniture against a wall heater. Since one of the windows was left open, the heater kicked on and ignited the nearby wicker basket. The home's sprinkler system activated, and the fire was extinguished. The photo above is the aftermath of the incident. Thanks to Shawn Olson, fire inspector at the district and chair of the

Oregon Fire Sprinkler Coalition

, for sending us the information.

 

 

 

For more information on the coalition,

visit their website

. And if you&#39;ve heard of any sprinkler saves in your area, feel free to let us know.</p>

Live burn demonstration kitYou've seen them on TV or online, maybe even had the chance to catch a live act in your community. The sights and sounds were so mesmerizing that you're now considering creating something similar on your own.

Similar to a rock concert, live burn demonstrations have the ability to draw the masses, and media. Case in point: sprinkler advocates in Decatur, Illinois, conducted a side-by-side burn demonstration--one structure with sprinklers set aflame and one without--that was picked up recently by a local ABC affiliate.

Through these demonstrations, you "realize how quickly fire grows and how quickly it becomes a real life threat," Bob Wetzel of the Decatur Fire Department told ABC.

Perhaps you're interested in hosting a demonstration in your community to showcase the power of sprinklers, but are clueless as to where to start. Don't fret: the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition has developed a free fire and sprinkler burn demonstration kit that provides you with step-by-step instructions. You'll receive information on:

  • the materials and tools needed to build the structures
  • guidance on educational outreach
  • creating public relations materials that are customizable

...and much more. Order your free kit today, and let us know of any burn demonstrations in your neck of the woods. We'd love to highlight them via this blog.

NFPA Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletterResearch has shown that fire and lightweight construction materials are a dangerous combination. If you're looking for more information on this modern-day threat, check out the April edition of NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter, which highlights an updated PowerPoint presentation on this issue and the concerns surrounding upholstered home furnishings. The presentation is completely free.

Read the newsletter for additional information on:

  • Same-day house fires in California--one involving sprinklers and one without--that led to starkly different outcomes
  • A municipality becoming the first in Ontario to require home fire sprinklers
  • A homeowner's change of heart on sprinklers after a devastating house fire

Subscribe to this free, monthly newsletter to stay current on all sprinkler efforts. You'll receive noteworthy updates on sprinkler legislation, advocacy, and news from across the globe.

Our friends over at Gold Seal Homes, which have safeguarded all of their new residences with sprinklers since 2008, recently resurrected an entertaining blog post of theirs that's worth highlighting. The post calls out John McClane, the character from the 1988 blockbuster "Die Hard" played by Bruce Willis, for setting off an entire sprinkler system by holding a lighter under one sprinkler head, one of the most common residential sprinkler myths.

"Residential systems in new homes are designed to go off independently," the post reads. "New homes do not have a 'deluge' system where all heads go off simultaneously, nor can they be set off by a smoke detector."

When he's not saving the world, McClane might benefit from a tutorial on how sprinklers work. (Check out this animated movie from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.) For information on another hero, check out this video of Gold Seal's president, Murray Pound, one of NFPA's Faces of Fire:

 

South Carolina Fire Sprinkler CoalitionA South Carolina fire inspector is not keeping quiet after two residential fires claimed the lives of four people over one weekend. Both incidents occurred within South Carolina's Grand Strand section, one at a condo unit and the other at a single-family home. Both structures lacked sprinklers.

"They would have had water flowing," Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire Inspector Gary Mocarski recently told WPDE NewsChannel 15. "They would have had a fire sprinkler going off and increase their chances of survival or at least their chances of staying put until they were rescued."

While the state's building code now requires sprinklers in all multi-family homes, that wasn't the case when the condo involved in the recent fire was constructed. Currently, there are no statewide requirements on the books for sprinklering single-family dwellings.

"We cannot--as a community, as a city, as a county--have anything more restrictive than what the state has," says Mocarski. "Nobody can adopt a code that says put fire sprinklers in a residence."

Despite this reality, Mocarski has vowed to continue his push for sprinkler requirements in new homes. Join him in his efforts; learn more about the South Carolina Fire Sprinkler Coalition and others throughout the U.S.

Christine JurusChristine Jurus was only 14 when she peeked out of her neighbor’s window and saw her childhood home in flames. Earlier that evening, firefighters responded to the blaze, which was initiated by a mini fridge plugged into an extension cord. Once the firefighters left the scene, the fire rekindled. "There were 15-foot flames shooting out of the window," Jurus, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, tells NFPA. "I looked out my neighbor's window, saw it once, and was so overwhelmed by it that I didn't look at it again."

Unfortunately, the fire was a prelude to another catastrophic event. Three years later, an explosion occurred while Jurus was conducting a high school chemistry experiment involving liquid methanol. She suffered third-degree burns on 18 percent of her body.

Following her burn injury, Jurus linked up with the Phoenix Society, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering burn survivors via a variety of programs. (The organization's executive director, Amy Acton, is an NFPA board member.) “I found out about residential sprinklers through Phoenix,” says Jurus, 31. “It was that ‘a-ha’ moment. I remember watching my first side-by-side burn demonstration and just thinking, ‘how could a person not want this in their house?' I told myself that one day, when I build my own home, it’s totally going to have that [system].”

Jurus is a woman of her word. She’s now in the process of finalizing designs for her new, 4000-square-foot home in Alto, Michigan, where she will live with her soon-to-be husband. “He knew that sprinklers was nonnegotiable. When you really crunch the numbers, the cost isn’t some undue, added expense. I have been doing some research and noticed the average cost per square foot has gone down.”

Spreading the sprinkler message has brought some meaning to Jurus' past tragedies; she’s taken sprinkler advocacy trainings initiated by the Phoenix Society and has shared her story at code hearings. “There’s a piece of mind knowing that if anything were to happen, my home is so much more protected than merely having a fire alarm,” she says. “But it’s more than that. I also want the people in my home protected.”

Building Safety MonthMark your calendars.

This May, the benefits of home fire sprinklers will be presented to a national audience during Building Safety Month, a campaign by the International Code Council that promotes the creation of safe and sustainable structures through the adoption of model building codes. This year's campaign theme is "Maximizing Resilience, Minimizing Risk."

Backed by President Barack Obama and an array of government officials, the campaign highlights a different area of building safety each week in May. Of particular interest is week one (May 5-11), which underscores residential sprinklers through statistical information on homes fires, safety tidbits from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and videos from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC). For example, there's an HFSC video with California State Fire Marshal Tonya Hoover on "living with sprinklers."

Check this blog often during Building Safety Month for additional informational bits that might be useful to you.

Home firesThe grim facts are filtering in: 2014 has had a deadly start, with certain states reporting high numbers of home fire deaths.

For instance, in New York, nearly 70 residents have died from fire this year. In Pennsylvania, there have been more than 50 deaths. In Ohio, more than 30. Noting that these numbers "are among the highest in the nation during this time period," Russell Fleming, president of the National Fire Sprinkler Association, has written Op-Eds on home fire sprinklers for a number of online sites and publications.

"In the U.S., there have been 909 reported civilian fatalities due to fire incidents between January and April," he stated in an Op-Ed that appeared on Patch.com. "Despite all of this loss, states...are still resisting the concept of installing residential fire sprinkler systems in newly constructed one- and two-family homes and rely solely on smoke alarms to keep their constituents safe. Fire sprinklers are the only form of proactive fire protection and can protect lives and property by immediately reacting, controlling, and even extinguishing a fire."

Check out the fact sheets on NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative site for more information and statistics on the U.S. home fire problem.

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Illinois fire service officials convened near the Firefighter Memorial in Springfield, Illinois, during an April rally prompted by an anti-sprinkler bill.



On March 24, a report came from the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield that an anti-sprinkler amendment to a legislative bill had been filed. Its premise: ban fire sprinklers and form a task force comprised of special interests to recommend future fire and building codes.  


 

While the Illinois Fire Sprinkler Coalition had been expecting legislation opposing residential sprinklers, it was still a shock in many ways when the actual text of the bill was read and the implications understood. The amendment would essentially make fire sprinklers “illegal” in any occupancy, not just residences, and give Illinois a distinction of being the most regressive fire safety state in the country. The proposed legislation was also designed to strip the state fire marshal of his authority through the formation of a “code task force,” which would review and recommend new codes that include fire sprinklers. The makeup of the task force’s membership, as I understood it, would have heavily favored opponents of fire sprinklers.


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Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board



Shock turned to action as the Coalition immediately issued two press releases on the amendment. The Coalition also developed a call-to-action section on its website, which allowed fire sprinkler advocates to contact members of the committee via a customized letter of opposition.


During the first reading of the bill amendment, representatives voted in favor of the proposal without allowing public testimony. With a 17-2 vote favoring the amendment, the bill moved to the second reading.


On April 9, Illinois fire service and labor groups joined forces to rally against the bill in Springfield, the state capital. All groups met with their representatives to voice their opposition to the bill. The day was topped off with a reception at the Abraham Lincoln Hotel for a final meeting with friendly, yet undecided, representatives.


Two days later, the House amendment did not reach its final reading and failed to move to the Senate.


It’s now up to the fire sprinkler advocates nationwide to rally together and fight back in other states where democracy, open trade, industry, and common sense have been lost due to anti-sprinkler legislation.


 

+ Tom Lia is executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB), a nonprofit dedicated to promoting legislation, raising public awareness, and educating code officials and governmental policymakers on home fire sprinklers. This blog regularly features Lia&#39;s perspective on sprinkler activities taking place in his state and elsewhere. <br />+</p>

Residential sprinkler mythsEvery so often, I'll come across a news story that includes statements from homebuilder's associations similar to this one, which was made during a recent report from a local ABC news affiliate: "The homes built today all have smoke detectors that are wired, and we have the national statistics that show that 99.4 percent of lives are saved because you're awake, you're woken up, you get out of the house."

The statistic, when used in this context, is misleading. There's no doubt that smoke alarms are necessary tools that can significantly reduce fire deaths and injuries. These devices, however, do nothing to extinguish a fire. The 99.4-percent figure estimates the likelihood of surviving a home fire when smoke alarms are present, which is not the same thing as reducing the risk of death.

Here's something to consider: Each year, more than 2,300 home fire deaths occur in more than 365,000 reported structure fires. Therefore, the likelihood of surviving a home fire is approximately 99 percent without regard to the presence of smoke alarms or any other fire safety provisions. Does that mean 2,300 deaths are acceptable? Most people would say no. 

Home fire sprinklers have the ability to reduce the risk of home fire deaths. In fact, NFPA statistics indicate that if you have a reported fire in your home, the risk of dying decreases by about 80 percent when sprinklers are present.

Each year, over 2,300 home fire deaths occur in more than 365,000 reported structure fires. Therefore, the likelihood of surviving a home fire is approximately 99% without regard to the presence of smoke alarms or any other fire safety provisions. Does that mean 2,300 deaths are acceptable? Most people would say no. - See more at: http://www.firesprinklerinitiative.org/resources/fact-sheets/myths-vs-facts.aspx#sthash.yNheP8rE.dpuf

Counter the sprinkler myths by learning all of the facts. Visit NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative website for more information.

Tennessee Fire Sprinkler CoalitionThe town of La Vergne may join other Tennessee communities with sprinkler ordinances on the books.

Earlier this month, the city's Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously to approve the first reading of the ordinance, according to a story from a local ABC affiliate. "This [ordinance] could save one life, and if it saves one life that is plenty," Vice-Mayor Chris Farmer told the station. "I don't want houses like they've been built before. I want quality homes that people can feel safe in." A second reading on the ordinance is scheduled for May.

If residents and legislators in La Vergne need more convincing of the benefits of sprinklers, they should focus their attention to nearby Hendersonville. This week, a sprinkler system inside a residence contained a cooking fire to the area of origin. Water damage was minimal, and residents were allowed back into their home soonafter the incident. All residents escaped the fire without injury.

Looking for additional sprinkler saves? Check out NFPA's new report "Sprinkler Successes in One- and Two-Family Homes and Apartments."

Galesburg IllinoisThe Register-Mail reports that a local code commission in Illinois has recommended that an update to the city's building code should not include requirements for home fire sprinklers.

Agreeing to update the city of Galesburg's current residential code to the 2012 edition of the International Residential Code, the Overall Code Review Commission voted down the requirement to install sprinklers in new one- and two-family homes.

"There was a lot of discussion involved with the vote," city building inspector Matthew Carlson told the publication. "At this time, [the commission] felt like it was a bit much to mandate [sprinkler installations]. No one was really against it, but they really wanted this to be a decision that was up to the homeowner."

Despite the setback, sprinkler advocates vowed to continue their efforts. Galesburg Fire Chief Tom Simkins stated in a press release that it is his "obligation and duty to promote the use of fire sprinklers where feasible in Galesburg." The commission's recommendations are being sent to Galesburg's City Council for review. In the interim, Carlson tells the Register-Mail that his office is developing educational information on residential sprinklers for homeowners.

Advocate for sprinklers in your neck of the woods by taking advantage of NFPA's free materials.

This may come as a surprise to sprinkler opponents, but the website Grassroots Change has named the home fire sprinkler movement "one of the most successful public safety efforts" in America within the past three decades. According to a recent study, this grassroots movement has successfully promoted more than 360 local ordinances mandating sprinklers in all new residential construction, including one- and two-family homes, since 1978. Successful, indeed.

The recent article on the website backs its statement by highlighting an impressive effort taking place in Mesa, Arizona. While the state prohibits local jurisdictions from requiring sprinklers in homes, the city has been using specialized grants to install sprinklers in low- and moderate-income housing. This approach has not only increased public safety, but has also energized community development.

"To date, Mesa's initiative has resulted in the installation of sprinklers in 29 single-family and 29 multi-family homes," states the article. "Not only will these investments save lives and property, they have created or saved jobs in the construction industry."

Read the story on NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative site to learn more about Mesa's efforts. Also, check out the following video with Arizona Councilmember Scott Somers, who has taken the lead on this initiative.

 

Information on the upcoming sprinkler technical committee meetings in San Diego is now available. Please check out the following document information pages for more details, including accommodation and travel information:

If you have any questions, please contact NFPA project administrator Elena Carroll.

Tom LiaTom Lia is executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB), a nonprofit dedicated to promoting legislation, raising public awareness, and educating code officials and governmental policymakers on home fire sprinklers. Lia will regularly post about the challenges and successes he experiences in his state. Check back often for his insights. Here's his introductory blog post for the Fire Sprinkler Initiative community:

When I left the Orland Fire Protection District to take on a new endeavor at NIFSAB, there was no job description for me. In its meager beginnings, NIFSAB served as a centralized source for basic information and research about fire sprinkler codes and education. We also advocated for a grassroots approach to fire sprinkler education; if a fire department requested assistance or education, we responded in person the next day and offered advisory support.

What has NIFSAB been up to since its inception? For starters, NIFSAB gives fire and building officials the chance to see how a fire sprinkler operates. (I was with a fire department for 10 years before seeing a sprinkler in action.) Through the use of two demonstration trailers, fire officials can witness a sprinkler system’s operation. The traveling trailers head to approximately 30 different locations each year.

Other fruitful efforts by NIFSAB are the side-by-side burn demonstrations, which feature two simulated, residential rooms, one protected with fire sprinklers and one unprotected. NIFSAB conducts more than 50 demonstrations a year, from village board meetings to Fire Prevention Week open houses at fire stations.  To date, we have conducted more than 460 demonstrations over a 10-year period. 

A house that has been acquired by a fire department for training is another excellent opportunity for local or regional fire sprinkler educational events. We install a fire sprinkler in one room to show how it activates during a fire in a real house setting.  These demonstrations—about two a year—attract great media attention.

In the beginning, we were on our own when researching fire sprinkler resources and information, but now there's the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition. We have taken advantage of all resources to expand our education to homebuilders, owners of sprinkler-protected homes, real estate agents, and elected officials. Today, we are also blessed with the total involvement and commitment of NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative.

We also recognize village boards that have passed ordinances in accordance with NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes. NIFSAB started its advisory program with two NFPA 13D communities in Illinois. Today, the state has 94 communities protected by the standard. The success is made possible through continued efforts by fire chiefs and dedicated building officials to adopt the highest standard for the future fire safety of their communities.

What are your thoughts on NIFSAB's efforts? What efforts have worked in your state? Click on the "comment" link below and let us know.

Canadian sprinkler requirementsResidents in the Ontario city of Vaughan can sleep easier now that their new homes will include an important safety feature.

According to a recent article in Mechanical Business Magazine, the city recently mandated sprinkler systems in all new low-rise homes. One local developer, states the story, is already in the process of sprinklering a 136-unit town home and semi-detached home development. The article also notes that this requirement "could be one of the most significant turning points for sprinkler installation" since Vaughan required sprinklers in condos in 2010.

Another interesting factoid is that there hasn't been a single fire fatality in a Canadian home with properly installed and functional sprinklers. Additionally, code provisions have made sprinkler maintenance easier than ever.

"Newer systems can go into walls or ceilings, and be painted to match the decor," says Sean Pearce, national marketing manager for the Canadian Automatic Sprinker Association. "Maintenance is almost nothing with options like NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes, passive purge models that test the system each time water is used. Code changes have made all those kinds of things available for residential systems."

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