Skip navigation
All Places > FSI > Blog > 2014 > July
2014

Sprinkler myths and factsI recently came across a sprinkler-related report that's quite the page-turner. Written by Kent State University student Christiana Stegman and highlighted by the U.S. Fire Administration in one of its recent news roundups, the thesis underscores efforts by sprinkler opponents in Pennsylvania to nix sprinkler requirements for new homes that would have taken effect in 2011. Persuaded by convincing lobbyists, the state's lawmakers repealed the sprinkler requirement that year. 

Stegman effectively outlines--and counters--the "number of arguments against the policy of requiring sprinkler systems in newly constructed one- and two-family dwellings" in her thesis, "The Impact of Residential Automatic Sprinkler Systems: An Examination of the Opposition Toward the Implementation of Automatic Fire Extinguishing Equipment in Pennsylvania." Citing NFPA research on sprinkler costs, Stegman tackles the argument "sprinklers will harm efforts at providing affordable housing nationwide." She also addresses additional arguments made by the opposition:

  • "Sprinklers will not improve firefighter injuries and fatalities"
  • "Sprinklers aren't needed since current construction assemblies have increased protection and safety measures in place"

Take a glance at the report when you get a minute, and learn how to counter other sprinkler myths with facts by visiting the Fire Sprinkler Initiative site. 

George Esbensen
George Esbensen, chief of the Eden Prairie (MN) Fire Department, tells CBS Minnesota that the combination of working smoke alarms and fire sprinklers saves lives.

Minnesota lawmakers have passed new requirements for fire sprinklers in new homes larger than 4,500 square feet, effective Janaury 24, 2015.

“This is a great move to keep our residents safer in single-family home construction,” George Esbensen, chief of the Eden Prairie Fire Department, and legislative chair of the Minnesota Fire Chiefs Association told CBS Minnesota

Chief Esbensen says houses today are built with lighter materials and furnished with more synthetics than older homes. “It burns literally like gasoline or petroleum when it gets under fire,” he told CBS Minnesota.

Another sprinkler supporter is Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, who has twice vetoed anti-sprinkler legislation and was recently vocal about a bonding bill that included a repeal of the new legislation.

A representative of the local builders association tells CBS Minnesota that the requirements are "unecessary".

“We are all for safety, but we know that this really not going to save lives and it’s going to cost people $9,000 to $20,000 a home, " said Builders Association of the Twin Cities executive director David Siegel.

According to a Fire Protection Research Foundation national study in 2013, the average cost per sprinklered square foot is $1.35. That would put the cost of sprinklering a 4,500 square foot home at $6,075.

 

Related: Ken Peterson and Scott McLellan of Minnesota's Department of Labor and Industry talk about their push to expand residential sprinkler use in the state. (NFPA Journal®, January/February 2014)

House fire
A fire large enough to destroy an Idaho home and threaten surrounding houses prompted a battalion chief to stress the importance of home fire sprinklers.

According to a story in the Idaho Press-Tribune, the recent fire occurred while the homeowner was visiting a neighbor and the homeowner's daughter was sleeping inside the structure. Luckily, another neighbor noticed the fire and awoke the woman. As the smoke alarms sounded, both escaped the blaze safely. The house, however, was a complete loss.

"Our biggest success was keeping the fire off the neighbor's house," Battalion Chief Tim Scott told the newspaper. "Getting hose lines in between the two houses, we were able to keep it from spreading to another house."

Scott was also quick to note that home fire sprinklers--which are required in the state's larger homes, according to the paper--could have prevented the fire from growing to catastrophic proportions. "We would have been looking at just another garage fire," he said. "This is a very good example of why, with new construction, the investment in home fire sprinklers is really something to look into."

Read how sprinklers averted a somewhat similar house fire by reading a recent blog post about the incident.

FSI July 2014 newsletterFind out why one newspaper is calling home fire sprinklers "the next big trend coming down the pike" in the July edition of NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter.

The latest edition also includes information on:

  • joining or starting a state sprinkler state coalition with assistance from NFPA
  • a house fire that killed seven people, including three children, that has reignited the push for sprinkler requirements
  • a new survey confirming that homeowners truly prefer a sprinklered home

Stay up to date on the latest sprinkler news across North America by subscribing to this free newsletter. You'll receive monthly editions directly to your inbox. Sign up today.  

Lightweight constructionFire sprinkler requirements for new homes in Crest Hill (IL) have been repealed by the community’s city council.

According to a report on MySuburbanLife.com, fire officials say the lack of a fire sprinkler system decreases the safety of future homes. Lockport Township Fire Chief Dave Skoryi said that city council's decision was unwise, and that the sprinkler systems are necessary for today’s homes.

Tom Lia from the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board said the Illinois Association of Realtors (IAR) and home builder groups presented the city with misinformation about the impact of fire sprinkler units in homes.

In the report, an official from IAR is quoted as saying that the cost of a fire suppression system is "a conservative $10,000 for a 3,000-square-foot building".

However, according to a recent national survey that looked at 51 homes in 17 communities, the average cost to install a sprinkler system is $1.35 per sprinklered square foot. That would put the price for a 3,000-square-foot home at $4,050.

Mr. Lia also stated that new lightweight construction and open construction designs are making homes susceptible to more dangerous conditions compared to older, lumber-based construction. Learn more about the dangers of lightweight construction under fire conditions.

Wyoming Fire Sprinkler CoalitionSeventeen minutes.

That's the amount of time it took for a recent fire, initiated by a malfunctioning dishwasher, to turn a Wyoming home from livable to uninhabitable. Firefighters from the Casper Fire Department, acting as tour guides, ushered interested parties through the building; children gasped upon viewing the destruction, while the firemen probed the parties about their knowledge of escape planning and smoke alarms.

The open house was also an opportunity to educate the public on how home fire sprinklers, had these devices been installed, could have led to a different outcome. "A residential sprinkler will put out a fire out while it is still small, before the firemen can even get dressed," Justin Smith, Casper Fire's public information officer and chair of the Wyoming Fire Sprinkler Coalition, told the Casper Journal.

Smith also told the paper that sprinklers are water savers; sprinkers activate nearest the fire at a rate of 10 gallons of water per minute--versus 125 gallons per minute delivered by a fire hose. (Visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiative website for more information on the environmental benefits of sprinklers.)

Since there were no injuries or fatalaties, the open house, which had the blessing of both the homeowner and the homeowner's insurance agency, was an incredibly effective tool in spreading the sprinkler message, added Smith.

Read the full article for additional information on this event.

Vancouver summit logo
Attention fire sprinkler advocates in the northwest corner of the United States. Please make plans to attend the residential fire sprinkler summit at the Heathman Lodge on September 18 in Vancouver, WA.

It's a great opportunity to interact with some of the nation’s most successful home fire sprinkler advocates as they share what strategies they have found to work well in gaining code adoptions in their states and communities.

This one-day event will feature:

  • “The California Experience”, a keynote address by California State Fire Marshal Tonya Hoover
  • An expert panel to answer your questions about water needs, political realities and code requirements
  • A live side-by-side burn demonstration which will show what really happens in a home fire and details on how to conduct a demonstration in your community
  • A Vendor Connection evening event that will showcase the latest resources, products and technology

Who should attend: Fire service personnel, building officials, fire sprinkler contractors, water purveyors, home builders, insurance industry representatives, other sprinkler advocates

The one-day Summit, which costs just $50, includes lunch, all conference materials, and a Vendor Connections event. Register by August 20 for early-bird pricing.

 

!http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef01a511e77109970c-450wi|src=http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef01a511e77109970c-450wi|alt=Sprinkler Saves Tree|width=450|title=Sprinkler Saves Tree|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef01a511e77109970c img-responsive!
The NFPA report,"U.S. Experience With Fire Sprinklers,” notes that these systems “operated in 91 percent of all reported structure fires large enough to activate sprinklers.” However, if a fire sprinkler controls or puts out a fire, it’s often a story that does not make headlines. The general public and municipal officials never really hear about successful fire sprinkler activations. Unfortunately, that means that when it is time to review code considerations that require fire sprinklers, many times the initiative fails because the public and local decision makers typically do not know the value or impact that fire sprinklers have in saving property, lives, sales tax revenues, and jobs.


Countering that potential situation, the Pleasantview, Illinois, Fire Protection District’s Chief John Buckley and Fire Marshal Joe Lyons, along with Cybor Fire Protection, keep an active record of successful activations using a “tree” (see the photo above) that displays every fire sprinkler save within the fire district. With each fire that is controlled or extinguished by a fire sprinkler, the fire district installs a small branchline to the main riser (or “trunk”) and installs the used sprinkler head on it with a photo of the building and the estimated dollar amount of the saved contents. There are currently more than 50 successful activations on the "saves" tree. Several other departments in the area have also created their own trees. Visitors are able to see a visual representation of the benefits of home fire sprinkers. The impact on the community is a real one that affects everyone in some way or another. 


 

Another important component to sprinkler education is garnering media attention about sprinkler saves. The Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board recently assisted the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) with a series of 26 burn demonstrations for a satellite media tour with HFSC spokesperson Ron Hazelton. He hosted 23 live and recorded segments for television stations across the U.S., discussing the dangers of lightweight construction and the need for home fire sprinklers. During the demonstrations, the systems worked as planned and put out the fires.


Help educate your municipal officials on how fire sprinklers positively impact your community — plant a successful activation tree today!


 

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.


!http://i.zemanta.com/281414850_80_80.jpg|src=http://i.zemanta.com/281414850_80_80.jpg|alt=|style=margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px currentColor; width: 80px; display: block; max-width: 100%;!Sprinklers on display: How to create an NFPA 13D simulator

!http://i.zemanta.com/283534782_80_80.jpg|src=http://i.zemanta.com/283534782_80_80.jpg|alt=|style=margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px currentColor; width: 80px; display: block; max-width: 100%;!Ron Hazelton: fires in newer homes can be very dangerous

Suburban Sprawl
A retiring fire chief from the Canadian city of Calgary offered a word of warning before leaving his post: the city's suburban growth rate will impact the fire department's ability to do its job.

The Calgary Herald reported that while the city has raced to build enough fire departments to service "new fringe communities," those costs keep rising. "Growth, and especially non-contiguous growth--growth that doesn't touch up against existing services--is very expensive to provide services to," Chief Bruce Burrell told the paper.

What may help to ease this burden is home fire sprinklers. A source quoted in the story states that "building code regulators should revisit the idea of mandatory sprinklers in new homes."

Get the full story here.

Watch this new video from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coaliton, that provides real estate professionals with important information about the life-saving benefits of fire sprinklers, and useful tips for marketing a home protected by them. The video features Litsa Lekatsos, a real estate broker based in Glen Ellyn, IL, who lives in a sprinklered home.

 

See more more home fire sprinkler information, created by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, especially for real estate professionals.

ArizonaJim and Leslie McDonald were enjoying a recent Tuesday afternoon when Leslie suddenly heard a loud bang. "I thought Jim had just put something up against the wall," Leslie told the Prescott, Arizona, Fire and Medical Department.

In actuality, it was the couple's neighbor banging on their door, screaming that their house was on fire. Leslie ran outside (Jim had been in the backyard) and saw smoke and flames shooting from their garage, which housed an SUV, classic car, motorcycle, radio-controlled airplanes, and other items. As she ran to get her garden hose, Leslie watched as the smoke transformed from black to white. Upon arrival, the engine company reported that the fire was completely extinguished.

The homeowners walked away from the incident unharmed. Moreover, sprinklers averted an estimated $600,000 in property damage. (Home structure fires caused an estimated $7 billion in direct property damage in 2012, according to NFPA.)

"As a firefighter, I've seen so many families sort through what is left of their lives and belongings after a fire," Don Devendorf, division chief for the Prescott Fire and Medical Department, stated in a press release. "They pack what they can salvage...for however long it takes to rebuild their homes and lives. It doesn't take a loss of life to adversely affect those who have gone through a fire. Not this time, though. It was a great feeling to see the little bit of water being swept out of the garage, as Jim offered us some cold water...before going into his undamaged home to continue his day."

Learn about another Arizona success story--download the free report by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition that details the positive impacts of a sprinkler ordinance on the books in Scottsdale since 1986. 

Matt Klaus"Can I use a water mist system instead of automatic sprinklers?"

That was a common question posed during the development of the 2013 edition of NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes. The NFPA 13D Residential Sprinkler Systems Technical Committee concluded that the answer lies somewhere other than this document.

The NFPA 13D committee does not have the scope to write requirements for water mist systems; they provide design and installation criteria for automatic sprinklers in residential settings. If an applicable building code requires sprinkler system installation in accordance with NFPA 13D, it must pertain to automatic sprinkler systems.

The 2013 edition of the standard does include a statement in Chapter One noting that water mist systems differ from sprinkler systems. If you are looking for guidance on water mist systems, please refer to NFPA 750, Water Mist Fire Protection Systems.

However, that's not to say that water mist systems are not appropriate or should not be used in residential settings. Water mist systems are a great option for many applications, one of which may be single-family homes. In this instance, the issue is about document scope and scoping criteria, not about one suppression technology being better than another.

Matt Klaus is NFPA's principal fire protection engineer and staff liaison for NFPA 13D. Klaus is a regular contributor to this blog and discusses the technical components of home fire sprinklers. 

The Massachusets State Fire Marshal's office has concluded that the fire that killed seven people, including three young children, was caused by an electrical problem. According to the Lowell Sun, that fire on July 10 caused the largest number of fatalities from a single fire that the state has seen in two decades.

Appearing on FOX25 in Boston, Ruth Balser, State Representative for the 12th Middlesex District in Massachusetts, spoke about the tragedy and her efforts to advocate for the expansion of fire sprinkler requirements for all new homes in the state.

Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

Speaking at NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative summit in Chicago last year, Representative Balser talked about the biggest challenge to home fire sprinkler requirements.

 

Colorado Fire Sprinkler CoalitionFire is fire, whether you live in the U.S. or...Antarctica?

Some 200 Colorado residents currently live on the wintry continent, which can mask the reality that fire there is a real and dangerous threat. What better way to showcase the power of fire and automatic sprinklers to soon-to-be Antarcticans than with a live burn demonstration?

Members of the Colorado Fire Sprinkler Coalition were on hand to assist with such an event at Lockheed Martin's Centennial, Colorado, facility. Since Lockheed hires at least 1,000 people a year to work in Antarctica, the goal of the demonstration was to school employee's on fire's fierceness before they even set foot on the continent, according to a local news broadcast. (Read the NFPA Journal story on the fire protection measures in place on the continent.) The event also underscored how sprinklers can save lives and prevent serious structural damage.

“People will see how rapidly fire spreads, and that is what is critical because fire moves more rapidly than most people realize,” Elaine Hood with Lockheed told the news station.

The Colorado Fire Sprinkler Coalition is also doing its part to spread the sprinkler message. Check out the its website for more information.

SprinklerHands-free doorknobs that open doors. Electrical outlets that pop out of walls with a light touch. Home fire sprinklers that are barely noticeable to the naked eye.

Innovation was on display for the thousands of developers, architects, contractors, and manufacturers attending the recent Pacific Coast Builders Conference (PCBC) in San Francisco. Covering the event was the San Jose Mercury News, which called residential sprinklers "another big trend coming down the pike."

While California has required sprinklers in new one- and two-family homes since 2011, the look and reliability of sprinkler heads will make them a viable option for more and more homeowners across the U.S., said Grady Smith, a sprinkler rep at the PCBC conference. "The latest versions of sprinklers are more aesthetically pleasing and can be installed in more places inside your home. It comes in any color so it's almost invisible on the wall."

Take a peek at another eye-opening exhibit showcasing residential sprinklers; visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiative website for a tour of the VISION House® exhibit at Epcot in Orlando, Florida, where visitors are learning about the environmental benefits of sprinklers.

Watch the video of Stacia Wake with Disney Corporate Alliances giving an overview of VISION House.

Fire Marshal Tonya HooverCalifornia Fire Marshal Tonya Hoover, who also serves as a member of the NFPA Board of Directors, is being honored with the 2014 Excellence in Fire and Life Safety Award from the International Code Council (ICC) and the Fire & Life Safety Section of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC).

“Tonya Hoover’s work in fire safety and prevention undoubtedly has saved countless lives,” said ICC Board President Stephen Jones. "Her dedication has been inspirational to many. Tonya is a hero in every sense of the word.”

Fire Marshal Hoover has been actively involved in fire prevention, public education and risk mitigation for more than 20 years. She has been a strong advocate for home fire sprinklers. In 2011, California became one of two states (joining Maryland) that requires fire sprinkler systems be installed in new one- and two- family homes.

Congratulations to Fire Marshal Hoover on this ICC/IAFC award.

!http://a5.typepad.com/6a0162ff1d4766970d01a73de97425970d-450wi|src=http://a5.typepad.com/6a0162ff1d4766970d01a73de97425970d-450wi|alt=Bringing Safety Home Award|style=width: 450px;|title=Bringing Safety Home Award|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a0162ff1d4766970d01a73de97425970d img-responsive!

The 2013 recipient of the "Bringing Safety Home" award was Deputy Fire Chief Kyle Minick from the North Charleston (SC) Fire Department. Presenting the award are NFPA's Lorraine Carli and HFSC's Peg Paul.




Do you know a stellar fire chief that has advocated for home fire sprinkler installation? Here's your chance to honor him or her via a special recognition. 


 

NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition have teamed up with the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) for the Bringing Safety Home Award, which recognizes fire chiefs who have worked to increase the installation of home fire sprinklers in their area. Nominations must be submitted by July 11. Nominations are not restricted to IAFC members, but you must be an IAFC member to submit a nomination. 


The recipient will be selected from nominees that have used HFSC's educational materials along with NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative resources as the foundation of a local, regional, or statewide program to educate on the importance of home fire sprinkler system installations. 


 

Check out the full details, and submit your nominations by July 11.</p>

Smoke alarmsAn idyllic lakefront community was startled from slumber recently when an early-morning house fire occurred as the home's occupant was out for a stroll.

The fire began before 8 a.m. on June 23 as the resident's teenaged daughter was sleeping inside the waterfront home, which is located in the French Creek Harbour area of British Columbia. Fortunately, a smoke alarm awoke the teen, and she escaped the house without harm. Furthermore, the home's sprinkler system helped douse the fire, which was initiated by a faulty water heater, according to a report by the Oceanside Star.

Made evident by this incident, smoke alarms are an important, life-safety tool that alert residents to impending danger. The devices, however, cannot extinguish a fire. When home fire sprinklers work in conjunction with smoke alarms during fires, homeowners have a much greater chance of surviving such incidents. In fact, sprinklers can reduce civilian fire deaths by 80 percent.

Get all the facts on sprinklers by visiting the Fire Sprinkler Initiative website.

Home improvement expert Ron Hazelton talks about why fires in newer homes can be more dangerous than fires in older homes. Ron also speaks about how fire sprinklers can prevent flashover and deadly smoke from spreading.

 

Ron is a spokesperson for the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, a free online resource for information and materials about home fire sprinklers for consumers and professionals.

Fire-Sprinkler-Initiative-newsletterAn Illinois county recently updated its building code but decided not to mandate the sprinkler provision for new one- and two-family homes. A month later, tragedy struck.

Learn what happened in the latest edition of the Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter. This issue also includes stories on:

  • an award-winning radio series underscoring the home fire sprinkler debate and perils of lightweight construction
  • the newly formed Texas Fire Sprinkler Coalition, and a Texas-sized turnout at a recent sprinkler event
  • How to showcase sprinklers to your community at little or no cost

If you haven't done so already, subscribe to the free, monthly newsletter to stay current on all sprinkler efforts in North America and beyond.

Matt-KlausI am pleased to introduce Matt Klaus, columnist for NFPA Journal and one of the newest contributors to this blog. As NFPA's principal fire protection engineer and staff liaison for NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes, Klaus has extensive knowledge of the standard and will regularly discuss technical aspects of home fire sprinklers that will hopefully initiative some online discussions. (Click on the "comment" button below to offer your feedback or suggestions for future topics.) Here is his inaugural post. Check this blog often for additional insights from Matt.

One of the fundamental principles of an NFPA 13D sprinkler system is that it provides life safety to a dwelling's occupants. Unlike its big brother, NFPA 13, Installation of Sprinkler Systems, which applies to commercial structures and larger residential facilities, the concept of property protection is not written into the scope of 13D. This is not to say that an NFPA 13D system will not provide some level of property protection, but it's not the primary function of the system.

Two of the main differences between a life safety system and a system that provides both life safety and property protection are allowable omissions for sprinklers and the required water supply. There are several areas in the home--attics, small closets, bathrooms, and garages, for example--where sprinklers can be omitted since they have not historically been shown to lead to a loss of life. Adding sprinklers in these spaces would drive up the cost of the system without adding any inherent life safety benefit. Furthermore, there is a 10-minute water supply requirement for a 13D system (and as low as seven minutes for certain homes). Compared to a storage tank for a NFPA 13 system that might use 10 sprinklers for 30 or 60 minutes, there can be a significant difference in the amount of water needed.

For homeowners who are looking for not only the life safety aspects of the 13D system but also a higher level of property protection, they may want to speak to their system designer about enhancing the system by limiting the omissions and possibly increasing the water supply beyond the minimum  requirements.

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: