Introducing Tom Lia, contributing blogger for NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative

Blog Post created by freddurso Employee on Apr 3, 2014

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.