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Elected officials and the general public receive such a regular dose of misinformation from associations with anti-sprinkler agendas that the myths have obtained a threshold of acceptance. We can counter this information via the power of social media and using something more hands-on: an NFPA 13D simulator that can be showcased at fire department entryways or permit offices.
Fifteen Illinois fire departments and community college fire science programs have taken this proactive step to educate their visitors by setting up simulated corner wall units with fire sprinkler pipe, material, and components in accordance with NFPA 13D, +Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes.+ Fire Marshal Mike McNally of the Countryside Fire Protection District in Vernon Hills, IL, is one of them, and he chose to locate his at the front doorway so you cannot miss it. Says McNally, "The simulator allows people to touch and visualize the components so they understand the system better."
Constructed of two-feet-by-four-feet frame walls with cut away "drywall" so you can see the pipe, it contains a water meter, backflow preventer, flow switch, water gauge, alarm bell, spare heads, CPVC pipe (copper pipe and steel pipe are also included), and an inspector test. Descriptive signs and informational brochures are included for the public. The portable displays can be brought to public events, street fairs, remodeling shows, demo houses, Fire Prevention Week open houses, and civic clubs (Rotary, Lions, etc.).
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The simulator might be the first time a homebuyer, builder, or firefighter sees such a system and can help dispel myths. I’ve overheard many comments about the display, including “That fire sprinkler only activates by heat? Really?"
The Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board has the design and specs for a standalone system. Take it as your guide, or obtain one for your fire and building department. (Contact me to obtain this information. )  Build the walls and then seek out a contractor or fire sprinkler association to install the system.
It's about time that everyone knows what sprinklers are all about and how they save lives and prevent burn injuries. Be proactive and take this step today to fill this educational void.
This post was written by Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting legislation, raising public awareness, and educating code officials and government policymakers on home fire sprinklers. Lia regularly offers his perspective on sprinkler activities taking place in his state and elsewhere.</p>