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More than 70 students were packed into a Kansas fraternity house this week when a fire erupted on the third-floor living area. More than 30 firefighters responded to the blaze, which was initiated by the improper disposal of smoking materials, according to a story on FireEngineering.com. All occupants escaped safely.


The structure is no stranger to fire; construction on the bulding's interior two years earlier initiated a previous blaze. The residents escaped injury, but others who have encountered fire have not been as fortunate.


[The Center for Campus Fire Safety (CCFS) | http://www.campusfiresafety.org/] notes that there have been 86 fatal fires documented in Greek housing, college campuses, and off-campus housing since 2000 that have claimed more than 120 lives. The majority of those deaths occurred in off-campus settings. 


 

CCFS is urging students, particularly those moving out of the dorms and into a house for the first time, to exercise caution and heed the lessons of previous tragedies. Install and maintain working smoke alarms, practice escape planning, and tout the importance of fire sprinkler systems.  "CCFS also wants to point out the necessity of fire sprinkler systems," stated CCFS President Paul Martin, who also noted that eight out of 10 fire deaths occur at night while people are sleeping.


 

Live in or nearby a college town? Now is the ideal time to start an advocacy campaign around residential sprinklers. See if your state has a sprinkler coalition and join forces with other advocates to educate the public on these systems to get them mandated in your community. Garner community support by having residents sign a sprinkler petition. Urge student groups on campus to champion for this issue by supplying them with the plethora of advocacy materials available on the Fire Sprinkler Initiative site. Educate them and yourself on the home fire problem and life-safety aspects of sprinklers. Student activists love a good cause. Let's give them one. 


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Fire Sprinkler Initiative August 2014 newsletterHere's a success story out of Minnesota: come 2015, all new homes of a certain size must include sprinkler systems.

Learn how this requirement came to be by reading the August 2014 edition of NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter. The latest edition also includes information on:

  • the new "Advocacy Tools" section on the Fire Sprinkler Initiative website
  • a college thesis that shoots down arguments by residential sprinkler opponents
  • a compelling op-ed by a burn survivor, who questions the logic behind sprinkler pushbacks 

If you haven't done so already, sign up for the free, monthly newsletter today. You'll receive the latest sprinkler news from across North America directly in your inbox. 

 

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In 1999, Robert Gorvett, fire chief for the Village of Hoffman Estates in Illinois, proposed a residential fire sprinkler ordinance. Hoffman Estates was to be the largest municipality in Illinois at the time to require fire sprinklers in homes. It was no ordinary effort due to the village’s vast acreage for new subdivisions--a true Midwest “cornfield” community that would set a precedent for many of the 90-plus Illinois municipalities that now have residential fire sprinkler ordinances. 


 

Although Chief Gorvett had the backing of his fire marshal, Hank Clemmensen, there was much external opposition. Original attempts to enact an ordinance garnered opposition from homebuilder associations and real estate groups. Political pressure from the village also came about, and Gorvett was threatened with not being made permanent fire chief if he did not drop the issue. But Gorvett did not fold under the pressure. Instead, he proposed a creative compromise that would slowly evolve into an ordinance that fully complies with NFPA 13D, +Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes.+


 

Chief Gorvett had to start from scratch, educating many fire service members, citizens, and government officials with fire sprinkler demonstration trailers, side-by-side burn demonstrations, and retrofit demonstration projects. Gorvett and the fire department provided NFPA reports and statistics supporting home fire sprinklers, as well as educational materials from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC).


The compromised ordinance required fire sprinklers near all heat-producing devices (such as furnaces, ovens, fireplaces, etc.) in a home. However, if those devices were not walled off from other rooms, fire sprinklers would be additionally required into those adjoining rooms where fire could potentially spread. In the end, when all heat-producing devices and the areas around the heat-producing devices were sprinklered, it essentially meant most of a home was sprinklered.


 

After some high-profile fires in the village in 2002, it was finally conceded to sprinkler the entire home. Another reason for the full ordinance was that partially sprinklered homes were not being recognized by insurance companies for fire insurance discounts. The systems had no engineered guidelines to meet.


 

After the full ordinance finally passed, Chief Gorvett helped the fire department develop a homeowner educational packet. (The packet was a prelude to HFSC’s free “Living with Sprinklers” kit.) Gorvett also had the fire department work with the local high school to offer a hands-on trade shop class and open house event to further educate the public and teenagers on sprinklers. He also hosted a fire sprinkler summit in 2005 with a side-by-side demonstration for the public and continues to take advantage of fire sprinkler trailers for live fire/sprinkler demonstrations.


The fire service still backs the ordinance. The Fire Prevention Bureau still continues to work with fire sprinkler contractors and homebuilders to ensure quality installations and offer educational materials for homeowners. A major effort is made to maintain close relations with homebuilders and fire sprinkler contractors. 


More than 2,600 homes there are now protected with NFPA 13D systems. Thanks to Chief Gorvett for his leadership and convictions, and for setting an example for other large, fast-growing suburbs. 


 

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.

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Texas Fire Sprinkler CoalitionHome fire tragedies in Texas have made some unfortunate headlines this month. First, there was a story of a houseful of young boys who frantically escaped a burning home. One of the boys, a nine year old from Fort Worth, died in the fire despite valiant efforts by local firefighters. One neighbor told the Star-Telegram that "it's one thing to watch a fire on television, but it's another to watch your neighbors trying to save kids in a fire. That's why I'm shaking so much."

More recently, a mother and her five children were all burned in their home following what fire officials believe to be the ignition of a natural gas leak. 

In most cases, a few minutes is all it takes for home fires to become life-threatening. Understanding how residential sprinklers can reduce the risk of injury and death in most house fires, a Texas fire marshal has made a point to praise these systems. In a recent news release from the City of Pearland, Roland Garcia, the city's fire marshal and co-chair of the Texas Fire Sprinkler Coalition, commended a recent sprinkler save in his town. "Had a sprinkler system, or automatic fire suppression system, not been present in the building, the outcome may have been very different," he said. Garcia's department supports sprinkler installation in new homes and has devoted a page on the department's website to sprinklers. 

Learn how others in Texas are combatting home fire deaths and injuries by visiting the Texas Fire Sprinkler Coalition page. 

Six special-needs residents of Kingsport, Tennessee, will be receiving the utmost level of protection in their homes. The Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority is in the process of sprinklering two, 2,200-square-foot houses for six residents. Anticipated for completion in October, the sprinklered homes will either completely douse a fire or give these residents enough time to seek safety. 

This isn't the first time this Tennessee town has embraced home fire sprinklers. The Skyland Falls Condominiums in Kingsport are fully equipped with these systems. "We haven't had any fires in that community, but if we do, we know sprinklers will take care of it," Barry Brickey, public education officer for the Kingsport Fire Department tells NFPA. "We're excited that others will enjoy the safety benefits of sprinklers." 

Learn how sprinklers are also protecting a Massachusetts family and their special-needs son by visiting the Fire Sprinkler Initiative site and by watching this video:

 

Sprinkler advocacy toolsAdvocating for home fire sprinklers just got a tad easier. 

The new "Advocacy Tools" section on the Fire Sprinkler Initiative site is now the go-to place for free materials and resources that help make an effective case for home fire sprinklers. This section is where you'll find an array of shareable videos (including NFPA's Faces of Fire), case studies, and fact sheets (some of them are now downloadable) that underscore fire at its worst and sprinklers at their best. 

Also worth noting in this section is the new "Advocacy Materials" page. Download a template that will help you craft a letter to your legislator or code-making official, use one of NFPA's ads that promote sprinkler statistics, or gather signatures supporting sprinklers using NFPA's sprinkler petition. 

Check out the new section when you get a moment and let us know what you think. 

Missouri Fire Sprinkler CoalitionLate last month, Rick Davis, mayor of Caruthersville, Missouri, died of apparent smoke inhalation from a fire in his home. A news report from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch states he was on the job for only  a few months before his death. (He also served a term several years ago, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.)

Davis is the third official to die in office in recent years, per the article. The tragic nature of his death--coupled with the fact that he was the 31st fire victim in Missouri this year--prompted an opinion piece by Chris Gaut, regional manager for the National Fire Sprinkler Association. He notes that in 2011 property loss from residential fires totaled an estimated $45 million. "Despite this loss, Missouri is still resisting sprinkler systems in one- and two-family homes," states Gaut. 

Gaut adds that Davis' death will hopefully remind the public of the realities of fire and the impact sprinklers can have in protecting lives. "I can only hope that the silver lining in the tragic loss of such a prominent and well-respected community member like Mr. Davis is that his death will serve as a reminder that fire does not discriminate, and can strike at any time and in any type of home."

Learn how Missouri sprinkler advocates are combating fire deaths--visit the Missouri Fire Sprinkler Coalition webpage. 

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Pam Elliott, before and after a house fire that burned her when she was five years old (Photos: courtesy of Common Voices)




To curb the more than 200 annual deaths of children killed in car backup incidents, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will be requiring all light vehicles to have "rear view visibility systems," according to a recent +USA Today+ article. What had prompted the mandatory installation of these cameras, states the story, was "outcry" from consumer groups and families impacted by these tragedies.


 

While lauding the new requirement, burn survivor Pam Elliott is frustrated by the slow process and pushback against a similarand provensafety measure in homes, where children under 14 account for 15 percent of fire deaths, per NFPA's "Home Structure Fires" report. Moreover, children under five have historically faced a higher risk of fire death than the overall population. "What makes me angry is that the technology to prevent these deaths and injuries exist--they're called fire sprinklers," states an op-ed by Elliott, a member of the newly formed North Carolina Fire Sprinkler Coalition and Common Voices, a network of fire safety advocates. Elliott was burned in a house fire when she was five years old. "The technology exists."


Elliott also uses her op-ed to make a plea for fire prevention. "I only hope that comparing these statistics will somehow motivate fellow safety advocates and the fire service to take action," she states. "We need to stand united in the message that fire sprinklers save the lives of both citizens and firefighters."


 

Read Elliott's full op-ed.&#0160;</p>

Physical disabilityPhysical disabilities can delay or thwart a person's chances of safely escaping a burning building. New data on just how many fatal fire incidences have impacted this population provides yet another reason why home fire sprinklers are necessary systems in new homes.

NFPA's recently released report, "Physical Disability as a Factor in Home Fire Deaths," estimates that physical disabilities were a contributing factor in about 15 percent of U.S. home fire deaths each year from 2007-2011. When physical disability was a factor, 60 percent of victims were at least 65 years old. Equally astounding is that 85 percent of victims were killed in one- and two-family homes.

Additionally, more than half of victims died in homes with working smoke alarms. "Additional steps must be taken to provide maximum safety for people with physical or sensory disabilities," states the NFPA report. Many of the victims might have been saved had home fire sprinklers been present."

Download the report, and view similar reports underscoring fire loss and injury on the recently revamped research section of NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative site.

Matt KlausOne of the common concerns for homeowners that have a sprinkler system in compliance with NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes, is the potential for frozen pipes. The Residential Sprinkler Systems Technical Committee, which is responsible for the development of NFPA 13D, has provided allowances to omit sprinklers in the parts of a home that are most susceptible to freeze protection concerns. This includes attic spaces, garages, and vestibules. These spaces are commonly left unheated to help keep costs down for the homeowner, and are therefore exposed to lower ambient temperatures.

The reason these spaces do not require sprinklers is not limited to freezing concerns; fires originating in these areas have not been known to lead to loss of life. As discussed in my previous blog post, one of the fundamental principles of NFPA 13D is that it is a life-safety system. Property protection is not the primary function of this system.

There are many methods that sprinkler designers and architects can employ to eliminate concerns over frozen pipes. The standard addresses the use of heat tracing, heating spaces, insulation, dry systems, and dry sprinklers as viable options.

While dry systems are not always a first choice for designers due to the additional maintenance commonly associated with drive valves, the use of dry heads is certainly something to consider. There are now dry residential heads on the market, and they have been effective in eliminating freeze protection concerns.

No matter what path is taken to provide freeze protection, should the homeowner have any concerns, it is important to discuss these issues with the system designer or service provider. Shutting off the system control valve over freezing fears is not the solution.

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.  

Live burn demonstration

The Laramie, Wyoming, Fire Department recently arranged an effective sprinkler tutorial for the city's mayor and city council. The goal of the live burn demonstration in July was twofold: further the legislators' knowledge on home fire sprinklers and convince this group to look into developer incentives for sprinkler installation. According to the Wyoming State Fire Marshal's Office, the event was a successful one, and the city council agreed to pursue this project. 

Side-by-side demonstration taking place in your state? Please forward any photos from the event to NFPA and we'll do our best to get the event highlighted on this blog. Also, don't forget to get your free Fire and Sprinkler Burn Demonstration kit from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

Here are additional photos of the Wyoming event. Many thanks to Brad Carroll, fire prevention specialist at the Wyoming State Fire Marshal's Office, for sending the pictures!

Sprinklered structure

Unsprinklered structure
The remains of the unsprinklered structure at the Wyoming event



LinkedInNot a member of the LinkedIn Fire Sprinkler Initiative sub group? Now is the time to join. 

There's a healthy discussion taking place in response to a recent blog post about a National Fire Sprinkler Week. The United Kingdom held one this year, which prompted a Canadian fire chief to propose the idea of mirroring something similar in North America. 

See what other sprinkler advocates are saying about this possibility, and add your thoughts to the discussion. Join the group today!

New YorkThis week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation requiring prospective tenants to be informed of whether or not a home has a fire sprinkler system. Per the new law, all new leases need to provide, in bold-face type, the dwelling's system or lack thereof. 

The New York State Association of Fire Chiefs (NYSAFC), which recently passed a resolution calling for the full adoption of the International Residential Building Code, commended the governor's action. "This information is especially important as students return to college campuses for the fall semester," says NYSAFC executive director Jerry Deluca. "Parents can sleep a little more soundly knowing their children are protected by a sprinkler system." 

Citing the dangers of modern construction materials and home furnishings, NYSAFC hopes New York takes further steps to keep safety at the forefront and adopt legislation requiring sprinklers in new one- and two-family homes. 

Dave Grupp
In 1988, Chief Dave Grupp of the Long Grove, Illinois, Fire Protection District proposed the controversial idea of a home fire sprinkler ordinance to the Long Grove Village Board. His focus was on the safety of the residents, other occupants, and emergency responders.

In a past interview, Chief Grupp said he did not know there weren't any communities in Illinois that required home fire sprinklers. “At that time there wasn’t even a smoke detector requirement,” he said. “I just thought the home fire sprinkler ordinance was the right thing to do.”

Long Grove did not have a municipal water supply and had to rely on rural water supply operations for structure fires. Fire sprinklers presented a solution to controlling or extinguishing fires early in their stages of development. Ultimately, thanks to the educational efforts of Grupp, the elected officials voted in favor of the standalone ordinance on April 12, 1988.

Long Grove Illinois Fire Protection DistrictToday more than 1,550 homes are protected in the small village. Long Grove was the first community in Illinois to adhere to NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprnkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes. Maybe it was Grupp’s fire protection engineering background or perhaps the limitations of the village water supply that was his driving factor. Regardless, Chief Grupp was a trailblazer for public fire safety in Illinois by becoming the first of nearly 100 Illinois communities that now require home fire sprinklers.

The fruits of his labor are plentiful. On Christmas Eve 1993, Chief Grupp was on a fire call at a warehouse when another call came in for a house fire. Upon hearing the address, he was relieved to know that the house contained an NFPA 13D fire sprinkler system. Once the warehouse fire was contained, Chief Grupp spoke with the homeowner, who told him the fire had been extinguished before the arrival of the firefighters. At that moment, Chief Grupp was able to experience the effects of his advocacy.

Chief Grupp’s most important message of fire safety advocacy is that “a house without fire sprinklers is a defective house.” In more recent years, Chief Grupp has elaborated on that quote with a message for the fire service:

“When current fire officials respond to an alarm of a house fire in Long Grove today, they have a 50/50 chance that they are responding to a home equipped with residential fire sprinklers,” said Grupp. “To my fellow fire chiefs in communities that do not have an ordinance requiring residential fire sprinklers in all new residences: When the media interviews you or your staff following a residence fire, the difficulties the fire department had in extinguishing the fire were not because of a delayed alarm or the lack of working smoke detectors or nearby fire hydrants. Tell it like it is: The difficulties encountered by the fire department at this fire were because of a defective home. It did not have a residential fire sprinkler system. A house without a fire sprinkler system is a defective house.”

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. 

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Julius Halas, left, discusses building plans with other fire service officials inside his new sprinklered home. (Photo courtesy of NFSA)




Forget the granite countertops or picture-perfect fireplace. Julius Halas, director of the Florida State Fire Marshal's Office, recently highlighted a feature in his new home that he says is far more important.


 

With other fire officials in tow, he gave a tour of his Florida home still under construction while pointing to concealed sprinkler heads and offering frank comments on why these systems are a necessity in new dwellings. &quot;In my career, I have seen too many deaths and injuries that could have been prevented had fire sprinklers been present,&quot; he told the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) in a story that appeared in its recent newsletter. &quot;Why would I spend the money on upgrades such as a fireplace, granite countertops, upgraded lighting and not spend money on fire sprinklers?&quot;


 

Halas and others were also quick to point out how to overcome barriers in passing sprinkler ordinances. Education, they told NFSA, can effectively counter the misconceptions about sprinkler operations. The sprinkler contractor at the tour also quieted any concerns about construction delays due to the installation. &quot;No problems whatsoever,&quot; he told NFSA.


 

Read the full story (scroll down to page 4 of the newsletter), and learn how to promote sprinklers in your community via the resources on the Fire Sprinkler Initiative&#39;s new "Advocacy Tools" page.</p>

New Jersey sprinkler coalitionIn a letter to the Daily Record, David Kurasz, Executive Director of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, says the recent fire death of a 60-year-old woman from Essex Falls underscores a problem that is often overlooked and rarely discussed.

"So often the circumstances surrounding these fatal fires are the same," writes Mr. Kurasz. "A victim or victims are fast asleep and a spark becomes a smolder which begins to smoke and becomes a flame. These flames can double in their size every 45 seconds and can be accelerated by oil-based products and fabrics like furniture. By this point a working smoke alarm should have activated and a thick, black and toxic cloud of smoke would have filled the halls of a home. This would be a conscious and capable person’s last chance to escape. Flashover, the point in which the temperature of a room reaches critical mass and all things combustible ignite, soon follows."

In his letter, Mr. Kurasz urges the New Jersey Senate to join Senator Jim Wheelr in support of S2316 (The New Home Fire Safety Act) which would require residential sprinklers to be installed in all new one- and two-family homes.

"We deserve to live in a state that adopts the minimum life safety code as a proactive measure to save lives from the ravages of fire and protect ourselves and our loved ones in the very places we should feel the safest — our homes," he says.

See the web page for the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

Kevin FosterIn an editorial for Firefighting in Canada magazine, Kevin Foster, fire chief with the Midland Fire Department, proposes something uniquely enticing to ramp up sprinkler education: let's host a National Fire Sprinkler Week. 

The U.K. held something similar this year that mirrored NFPA's Fire Prevention Week. "A National Fire Sprinkler Week may represent the single biggest opportunity for fire sprinkler education," stated Foster. "A coordinated national campaign may be the best approach to educating the country as a whole on the benefits of fire sprinklers; it would reach a broad audience, provide common messaging and resources through promotional materials, and could easily be supported by local agencies."

Foster also adds that the event organizers could utilize sprinkler industry and safety partnerships to "overcome resource, expertise, and financial hurdles."  

The chief also understands the importance of education in reaching consensus on sprinkler requirements; he specifically calls out the stellar, grassroots efforts of the now 20 sprinkler state coalitions and effectiveness of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, including its new "Ask For Them!" interactive guide. 

"Could a National Fire Sprinkler Week work here in Canada?" he posed in his editorial. Taking his question a step further, could it also be replicated in the U.S.? Send us your thoughts by clicking on the "comments" tab below. Let's get some healthy dialogue going on this topic. 

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