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Brad Phillips Allow me to introduce Brad Phillips, a media guru who knows how to convey the right messages to the right audiences. Before founding Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training communications firm, Phillips developed compelling stories for network and cable TV, including ABC's Nightline and CNN. 

Of particular interest to readers of this blog is that Phillips has also worked closely with the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors to develop advocacy training on home fire sprinklers. His tactics make use of a survivor's voice, a powerful and poignant tool in the push for sprinkler requirements. Combining their stories with tips on crafting noteworthy presentations, effective advocacy, and media outreach, Phillips has helped develop an army of well-informed and convincing sprinkler supporters. 

The NFPA team has brought Phillips on board as the Fire Sprinkler Initiative's newest blogger in the hopes that all sprinkler advocates might benefit from his expertise. Here is his inaugural post, which originally appeared on Phillips' Mr. Media Training blog. Let us know what you think!

Eight Great Ways to Open a Speech

Almost every speaker I’ve ever trained begins their practice speech the same way.

They walk to the front of the room, say good morning/afternoon/evening, thank the audience for coming, and express their delight to be there. Then they turn around and flip to their first slide, a bulleted agenda of what they plan to discuss during their presentation.

What a bore.

The opening minutes of a presentation are often the most important. According to Allan and Barbara Pease, authors of The Definitive Book of Body Language, the audience forms 60 to 80 percent of its impression of a speaker within the first four minutes.

Opening Number One: The Startling Statistic

Opening with a startling statistic is a terrific way of grabbing the audience’s attention from your first word. In order to be effective, the statistic should be related directly to the main purpose of your talk.

“Statistic” doesn’t mean the same as “data.” If you’re giving the audience a number, you should set it within a broader context to help infuse it with greater meaning.

For example, I occasionally speak to a group of part-time volunteers who are working to reduce the number of injuries suffered in house fires. I used this opening for one of my talks:

“I’m only going to speak to you for one hour this morning. During our hour together, someone, somewhere in America, is going to be badly injured in a house fire. By the time you begin lunch this afternoon, someone, somewhere in America, will die in a house fire. By dinner, another person will die. By the time you go to sleep, another person will die. As you sleep tonight, two more people will die.

I’m here today because I want to prevent that from happening. And I’m going to need your help.”

Opening Number Two: The Anecdote

A story, case study, or personal anecdote is perhaps the single most effective tool for transferring information from speaker to audience. In fact, Harvard Professor Howard Gardner once said that “stories are the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.”

One of my favorite speech openings of all time came from Brian, a client who delivered a speech on a “boring” topic, new insurance products. But instead of putting his audience to sleep, he used a personal anecdote to give his talk greater meaning.

Brian told the story of a woman he met early in his career, a grieving widow named Pam, whose husband, James, had recently died. James had been sick and out of work for three years, so they had no choice but to stop paying his life insurance premium. As a result, Pam wasn’t going to get a penny from his life insurance policy, meaning she would struggle to make ends meet. But Brian discovered a loophole in the policy, and delivered a $100,000 check to Pam weeks later.

Brian then transitioned to the body of his presentation by placing that story in context:

“When I think about the power of what we do, having been to retirement parties, having sent those kids off to college and shown individuals how to pay for it, that’s very powerful. But nothing was more powerful than delivering a check in the face of tragedy. That mindset, for me, changed everything."

Visit Phillips' blog for additional tips on speech openers.   

Media professional Brad Phillips has worked closely with the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors to help its advocates spread messages on burn injury and prevention, including the importance of home fire sprinklers. He is the author of The Media Training Bible and the Mr. Media Training Blog.

California Fire Sprinkler CoalitionCalifornia is one of two states requiring sprinklers in new dwellings, and a recent sprinkler operation in Rancho Sante Fe illuminates the many benefits of these installations. 

A news item in the recent issue of Fire Protection Contractor Magazine (which originally appeared on the Rancho Santa Fe Review website) highlights what occurred when the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District arrived at the scene of a fire at a sprinklered home. The firefighters immediately discovered that only a single sprinkler head had activated and doused the fire. (Roughly 85 percent of the time, only one sprinkler head will activate during a fire.)

The lone occupant at home during the fire was able to escape safely and allowed to return to the home the same day. "No doubt this would have been a fully involved fire if the sprinkler system was not present," Battalion Chief Fred Cox told the Rancho Santa Fe Review. "This is an excellent example of how residential fire sprinkler systems can save lives and property."

While California can be deemed its own success story following a statewide sprinkler requirement, the California Fire Sprinkler Coalition is still convening to address any issues pertaining to the state's mandatory installations. Learn more about this group by visiting their site. 

Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletterWhen Fire Chief Robert Gorvett proposed a residential sprinkler ordinance, opponents immediately attacked the idea. Gorvett, however, never backed down, and using a series of sprinkler advocacy tools, he eventually won support for the requirement. 

Learn more about Gorvett by reading the latest issue of NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter. You'll also find stories on:

  • a “flawed” report that has been slammed by Massachusetts fire officials for failing to consider the benefits of residential sprinklers
  • new sprinkler legislation in New York
  • a Paralympic gold medalist who will receive a fully sprinklered home 

Sign up today to receive the free, monthly newsletter, which is sent directly to your inbox. You'll be kept abreast of the most important sprinkler news from across North America. 

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Pamela Elliott, before and after a house fire burned her when she was five years old.

NFPA, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, and the advocacy coalition Common Voices have commended burn survivor Pamela Elliott for her op-ed addressing those at highest risk of dying in a fire, particularly children.


In a recent news release, these groups commended Elliott, a member of the North Carolina Fire Sprinkler Coalition, for underscoring the alarming number of home fire injuries and deaths and making a passionate plea for sprinkler requirements. "Pam's voice is important in the debate to show how lives can be saved and losses reduced by the increased use of home fire sprinklers," says Lorraine Carli, NFPA's vice president of Outreach and Advocacy.


Read Pam's op-ed, and showcase your thoughts on sprinklers by crafting your own opinion piece. Here are some tips that will help you through the writing process.

!|src=|alt=|style=padding: 0; margin: 0; border: 0; display: block; width: 80px; max-width: 100%;!Burn survivors are becoming powerful voices in the fight for home fire sprinklers


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Staunch supporters of home fire sprinklers recently assembled at the construction site of two homes in Hanover, Massachusetts, offering their assistance with the sprinkler installation while underscoring the life-saving aspects of these systems. 


NFPA collaborated with the Massachusetts Fire Sprinkler Coalition, the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA), and the South Shore Habitat for Humanity to sprinkler the three-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath homes. NFPA President Jim Pauley took part in assisting professionals with the installation, which will take no more than a couple days to complete. Also in attendance was coalition chair Mary Regan, chief of the Westfield Fire Department, and David LaFond with NFSA, which assisted in obtaining the materials and labor for the installation.  

"This type of partnership is essential to the success of our homebuilding efforts," says Martine Taylor, South Shore Habitat's executive director. "These contributions enable us to help families move out of unsafe and substandard housing and into decent, affordable homes of their own."

Habitat anticipates the completion of the homes in 2015. We'll be updating this blog regularly with additional posts on this event. In the meantime, take a peek at some highlights: 

!|border=0|src=|alt=Jim Pauley sprinkler installation|title=Jim Pauley sprinkler installation|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a0162ff1d4766970d01b7c6e6d104970b image-full img-responsive!

NFPA President Jim Pauley (right) chats with Ronnette Taylor of Fire Code Design at the job site.

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Tim Travers, NFPA's regional sprinkler specialist, gives reporters a tutorial on sprinkler operation.

!|border=0|src=|alt=Sprinklered home in Hanover, Massachusetts|title=Sprinklered home in Hanover, Massachusetts|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a0162ff1d4766970d01b8d070ba2b970c image-full img-responsive!

One of the two homes in Hanover, Massachusetts, equipped with sprinkler systems.

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NFPA's Jim Pauley, proudly displaying the tagline for NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative.

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NFPA's Tim Travers (right) discusses sprinkler installation at the newly built home.

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Massachusetts Fire Sprinkler Coalition Chair Mary Regan and NFSA's David LaFond showcase their support for sprinklers at the event.

Canadian home fire sprinklersTractors and, somewhat surprisingly, home fire sprinklers got the attention of the public during Ontario's recent International Plowing Match and Rural Expo.

"Looks like a small hockey puck!" said an intrigued visitor eyeing a concealed sprinkler head during a model home exhibit during the event, where free information from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition was on hand. He and others were interviewed by a local news station, which obtained a variety of perspectives from different stakeholder groups--including some groups typically at odds with each other on the issue of sprinklers--on the necessity of these life-saving devices.

"A nice glass shower could be $5,000, and here we have a home sprinkler system that's going to run less than that," Howard Sher, CEO of Quality Homes, a Canadian modular home and cottage builder, told the news station. 

Offering some sprinkler 101 at the exhibit was Chief Cynthia Ross-Tustin with the Essa Fire Department. "More people die in residential home fires than any other fire in this province," she said. "Every sprinkler head is [like] having your own personal firefighter."

Insurers also vocalized their sprinkler support. Frank Santana with The Co-Operators Insurance, which offers a 10 percent sprinkler discount, discussed measures his company is taking to get sprinklers mandated in the areas they serve. "We're lobbying with the government, working with the government as best we can to make [sprinklers] mandatory with new builds," he said.

Watch the video for more highlights from the event. (Click on the Wednesday, September 17 news broadcast. The sprinkler segment begins near the 5:40 mark.) 

The following excerpt appeared in the September 19, 2014, edition of The Columbian, written by Emily Gillespie. Read the full article.

When it comes to installing sprinklers, Clark County (WA) Fire Marshal Jon Dunaway said that to him, the decision is pretty obvious.

"The obstacles are not that great, the costs are not that great and the benefits are many," Dunaway said.

Officials from Oregon and Washington met Thursday in Vancouver to discuss just how beneficial sprinklers are when it comes to residential fire safety.

The first Northwest Residential Fire Sprinkler Summit brought together fire personnel, builders and officials, water purveyors, insurance representatives and fire sprinkler contractors to share information.

A live-burn demonstration showed how sprinklers can minimize damage and increase safety. After firefighters set fire to the half of a trailer outfitted with sprinklers, the fire was out within a minute and a half. The side without sprinklers was a fully involved blaze in about three minutes. More.

Tonya Hoover
The keynote address at the Northwest Residential Fire Sprinkler Summit in Vancouver, WA, was delivered by California State Fire Marshal Tonya Hoover. She described the process that led to a statewide sprinkler mandate in the Golden State. Though California officially adopted sprinkler requirements in 2010, Hoover said the "process" started four years before the submission of the code adoption proposal. During that time, a task group comprised of various stakeholders--fire service, building industry, government, to name a few--was formed to iron out any concerns. This process, noted Hoover, led to open discussions and information sharing.

Download "Successes from the Golden State", a presentation Fire Marshal Hoover gave at the NFPA Fire Sprinkler Summit in Denver in May 2014.

At the end of the Northwest Residential Fire Sprinkler Summit, sponsored in part by the Washington and Oregon Fire Sprinkler Coalitions, a Vendor Connections event was held which featured a product showcase, door prizes, and appetizers.

Vendor Connections 1

Vendor Connections 2

Vendor Connections 3

Vendor Connections 4

Vendor Connections 5

Vendor Connections 6
Special thanks to Nanette Tatom, public information officer for Gig Harbor (WA) Fire & Medic One, for providing photos from the summit.

The Northwest Residential Fire Sprinkler Summit winds down this afternoon, after a full day of providing sprinkler advocates with the latest information and inside scoop on home fire sprinklers.

Bob Eugene
Bob Eugene, senior regulatory engineer from UL, LLC, Building and Life Safety, discusses the fire challenges in modern residences.

Also see: In a recent post on NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative blog, we outlined several reasons why newer homes may pose a higher risk to occupant and firefighter safety in the event of a fire:

  • New methods of construction negatively impact occupant and firefighter life safety under fire conditions. Specifically, risks created by engineered lumber. Studies point to the failure of lightweight engineered wood systems used in floors and roofs when exposed to fire. Read more about the issue of lightweight construction materials.
  • The synthetic construction of today’s home furnishings also add to the increased risk by providing a greater fuel load.
  • Larger homes, open spaces, void spaces, and changing building materials contribute to faster fire propagation, shorter time to flashover, rapid changes in fire dynamics, shorter escape time and shorter time to collapse. Fire sprinklers can offset these increased dangers and create a safer fire environment for occupants and responding fire crews.

Gary Honold
Gary Honold, NFPA's regional director for the Northwest region of the United States, introduces members of a sprinkler panel discussion at the Northwest Residential Fire Sprinkler Summit.

Special thanks to Nanette Tatom, public information officer for Gig Harbor (WA) Fire & Medic One, for providing photos from the summit.

A dramatic demonstration of how quickly fire sprinklers can extinguish a home fire was featured at the Northwest Residential Fire Sprinkler Summit in Vancouver, WA.

The side-by-side burn demonstration showed the difference between fires in two identically equipped rooms: one fitted with automatic sprinklers, the other with no sprinklers. These types of demonstrations bring home the facts about how quickly a fire in an unsprinklered home can spread -- and how little time there is for residents to escape.

The demonstration was narrated by Shawn Olson, chair of the Oregon Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

Shawn Olson at burn demo

Jeff LaFlam at burn demo
Jeff LaFlam, chair of the Washington Fire Sprinkler Coalition, was interviewed about the sprinkler demonstration by an Oregon TV station.

The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) has developed a tool kit to help fire departments – large and small – build a side-by-side burn demonstration unit for their communities. The kit includes a video, printed instructions with easy-to follow photographs, itemized materials and tools lists, guidance for educational outreach, materials to help you gain local sponsors, and much more.

See videos of other sprinkler demonstrations hosted in local communities.

Special thanks to Nanette Tatom, public information officer for Gig Harbor (WA) Fire & Medic One, for providing photos from the summit.

Curtis Ryan

Curtis Ryun, RN, of the Legacy Oregon Burn Center, shared the hidden human stories and cost associated with burn injuries -- and the impact that home fire sprinklers could have on this incidents.

Speaking at the Northwest Residential Fire Sprinkler Summit in Vancouver, sponsored in part by the Washington and Oregon Fire Sprinkler Coalitions, Curtis said the cost of a typical home fire sprinkler system is equal to the cost of spending two days in a burn unit. (In a national survey completed in 2013, NFPA found that the average cost for the installation of home fire sprinklers is $1.35 per sprinklered square foot.) He added that the average burn patient spends 13 days in the burn unit at Legacy.

Special thanks to Nanette Tatom, public information officer for Gig Harbor (WA) Fire & Medic One, for providing photos from the summit.

Tom Lia
Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, spoke at the Northwest Residential Fire Sprinkler Summit about local residential sprinkler adoptions in his state.

Illinois has nearly 100 communities that have adopted sprinkler ordinances in accordance with NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes. Free online access to NFPA 13D.

Tom Lia is a shining example of an individual who understands the effectiveness of sprinkler advocacy, and works in conjunction with fire service and life safety officials to underscore the necessity of sprinkler requirements.

Tom writes a regularly about fire sprinkler advocacy for NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative. See his posts.

Special thanks to Nanette Tatom, public information officer for Gig Harbor (WA) Fire & Medic One, for providing photos from the summit.

Jim Crawford

Jim Crawford serves as master of ceremonies at the Northwest Residential Fire Sprinkler Summit.

A "who's who" of local and national sprinkler experts were on tap this morning at the Northwest Residential Fire Sprinkler Summit in Vancouver, WA. The event, sponsored in part by the Washington and Oregon Fire Sprinkler Coalitions, was kicked off with remarks from long-time home fire sprinkler advocate Jim Crawford, retired fire marshal in Vancouver, and current chair of Vision 20/20.

Next up was Jeff LaFlam, Fire Marshal of the Northshore Fire Department, and chair of the Washington Fire Sprinkler Coalition. Jeff provided an overview of Washington's fire sprinkler efforts, experiences, and successes. The Coalition remains active addressing issues from the Residential Fire Sprinkler Technical Advisory Group (TAG) report for HB 2575-2008, participating in the State Building Code Council, coordinating activities for sprinkler initiatives, and providing outreach to others about home fire sprinklers.

Jeff LaFlam
Also see:
At NFPA's 2012 Fire Sprinkler Summit in Chicago, Jeff LaFlam spoke about the steps taken to adopt a residential fire sprinkler ordinance in Kenmore, WA. See his steps to success.

Following Jeff's presentation, attendees heard from Shawn Olson, Fire Inspector, Clackamas (OR) Fire District #1, and chair of the Oregon Fire Sprinkler Coalition. The Coalition actively works to educate stakeholder groups on residential fire sprinklers and collaborates with key state fire service organizations to address and overcome barriers to residential fire sprinkler requirements.

Shawn Olsen
Shawn Olson, Jeff LaFlam, and Jim Crawford spoke at today's fire sprinkler summit in Vancouver, WA.

John Corso
John Corso of the National Fire Sprinkler Association provided a brief history of fire sprinklers and the current state of home fire sprinkler protection.

Special thanks to Nanette Tatom, public information officer for Gig Harbor (WA) Fire & Medic One, for providing photos from the summit.

Making Connections at the summit
One of the best things about events like today's Northwest Residential Fire Sprinkler Summit, being held in Vancouver, WA, is the opportunity to meet with colleagues, fellow sprinkler advocates, and some of the nation's most respected experts on home fire sprinklers, coalition building, and making things happen.

Nanette Tatom, a public information officer with the Gig Harbor (WA) Fire & Medic One, is on the ground in Vancouver today - and sending along photos of the summit for this blog. She reports that attendees wasted no time this morning during registration to introduce themselves to other attendees and make important professional connections. "It looks like it will standing room only today," she says.

Making Connections at the summit2
Today's keynote address, "The California Experience", will be delivered by Tonya Hoover, California State Fire Marshal. California and Maryland are the two states in the nation that currently require the installation of fire sprinklers in all new construction of one- and two-family homes.

In a recent interview with NFPA, Fire Marshal Hoover said she hopes other states will use portions of California’s efforts as a model for establishing their own requirements for home fire sprinklers. The California Building Standards Commission voted to adopt the 2009 International Residential Code, including its requirements for automatic fire sprinkler systems in new one- and two- family dwellings, with an effective date of January 1, 2011.

See more about the California experience and the ongoing efforts of the California Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

Summit registration 1

Participants arrive at Heathman Lodge for the first-ever Northwest Residential Fire Sprinkler Summit.

The Northwest Residential Fire Sprinkler Summit, being held today at Heathman Lodge in Vancouver, WA, is providing sprinkler advocates with the latest information and inside scoop on home fire sprinklers.

As readers of this blog know, if you have a reported fire in your home, the risk of dying decreases by about 80 percent when sprinklers are present, so summits like this are important tools to help spread the news about the life-saving potential of sprinklers...and help advocates make strides in ensuring the safety and well-being of their communities.

Summit registration 2
Today's summit, sponsored in part by the Washington and Oregon Fire Sprinkler Coalitions, is connecting sprinkler advocates with the information they need about water needs, political realities, code requirements, and so much more.

Nanette TatomA full slate of sprinkler experts - both local and from across the United States - are on hand to share their knowledge and best practices.

Stay tuned to this blog for coverage of this event, courtesy of Nanette Tatom, a public information officer for Gig Harbor (WA) Fire & Medic One.

Sponsors of the Northwest Residential Fire Sprinkler Summit include the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA), the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA), and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Plano (TX) Fire-Rescue will stage a side-by-side residential fire sprinkler demonstration this Saturday, September 20, during the Plano Balloon Festival.

The event will demonstrate the powerful role residential fire sprinklers play in controlling home fires. It will compare two bedroom fires: one fitted with fire sprinklers, the other without. The demonstration is scheduled for 4:00 pm on the same field where the evening balloon launch will take place at 6:00 pm.

“Residential fire sprinklers provide valuable time to escape a fire and save belongings,” says Fire Marshal David Kerr. “The demonstration will show the speed of fire growth with today’s modern combustible furnishings and how residential fire sprinklers fight the fire well before the arrival of firefighters.”

To date, Plano has experienced 97 residential fire sprinkler saves. Across the US, 85 percent of all fire deaths occur in residences. In a home with fire sprinklers, the average property loss per fire is cut by about 70% compared to fires where there are no sprinklers.

Along with Plano Fire-Rescue, the sponsors for Saturday’s demonstration are Plano Balloon Festival, the Texas Fire Sprinkler Coalition, and Plumbers Continuing Education.



Watch a home fire sprinkler demonstration held at the University of Texas-Arlington campus on May 21, 2014. See how quickly the sprinkler system douses the flames that erupt in the mock bedroom.

Peg PaulSpend a few minutes talking home fire sprinklers with Margaret "Peg" Paul, and you'll immediately notice an innate passion that extends beyond her simply doing a job. She's an educational tour de force, literally bringing the sprinkler conversation home via free resources by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition that she's helped create and promote. 

Her efforts haven't gone unrecognized. Sprinkler Age, the magazine of the American Fire Sprinkler Association, has named her this year's Advocate of the Year for her years of promoting not only sprinklers, but burn prevention tactics.

First collaborating with NFPA in the early '90s, Paul has made a name for herself in the fire safety world, even practicing what she preaches by having sprinklers installed in her home. "Peg is one of the most well-respected voices for home fire sprinklers," former NFPA President Jim Shannon told the magazine. " Her work on behalf of HFSC is the basis for every public education effort in support of home fire sprinklers that exists today."

Check out the full article in the digital edition of Sprinkler Age (page 8). 


!|src=|alt=Chief Brian Leahy|style=margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px;|title=Chief Brian Leahy|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b8d068f3eb970c img-responsive!More than 25 years ago, Long Grove, Illinois, became the first Chicagoland community with an ordinance in accordance with NFPA 13D, +Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes,+ an effort led by Fire Chief Dave Grupp. On August 21, 2000, Clarendon Hills became the fifth of what is now more than 90 towns and fire districts in Illinois to require fire sprinklers in new homes.

What's so special about this town? Upscale Clarendon Hills was the first “tear down and rebuild” community located in the inner ring of mature Chicago suburbs to consider a home fire sprinkler ordinance. Therefore, it faced considerable challenges and opposition from custom homebuilders, Realtor associations, local media, and community residents. 


Fire Chief Brian Leahy, who led the sprinkler effort, had a vision to use reports and educational materials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC), and NFPA. His goal was to sprinkler new houses one by one, little by little, as small houses came down and were replaced by large houses. One of the main reasons for protecting the homes was the closeness of the lot lines and height of the new houses, which would have contributed greatly to radiated and conventional fire spread between neighboring homes if fire sprinklers were not present.


Also cited by Chief Leahy was the fact that most of the new homes were as large as small office buildings, featuring third floors, steep roofs, open architecture, and lightweight construction that make them dangerous for both citizens and firefighters in fire and rescue situations.

Various opponents of the proposed ordinance presented Chief Leahy with a list of 33 initial concerns, including misleading facts, marketability of homes, cost, municipal water pressure, backflow issues, and water damage. Leahy addressed all the concerns. That list today is known as the “Clarendon Hills List of 33,” which has become a benchmark for other communities to follow.


At the request of Chief Leahy, the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB) provided support and HFSC educational brochures. Other educational opportunities that were seized included fire sprinkler trailer demonstrations as well as fire and sprinkler burn demonstrations.

Prior to the ordinance's passage, NIFSAB proposed that the first house be a pro-bono installation to use as an educational open house where attendees could see and touch the fire sprinkler system before drywall was installed. This tempered the opposition from the first homeowner who was previously leading an anti-sprinkler charge. Questions from the public, elected officials, and visitors from neighboring towns were addressed, allowing no room for misinterpretation.  

Thanks to Chief Leahy’s conviction for residential sprinklers, more than 500 Clarendon Hills homes are protected with this feature, and an average of 40 new sprinklered homes are added each year. In passing the ordinance, Clarendon Hills was a pivotal community that helped move others forward with their sprinkler efforts.


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. 

!|src=|alt=|style=padding: 0; margin: 0; border: 0; display: block; width: 80px; max-width: 100%;!Sprinklers on display: How to create an NFPA 13D simulator

!|src=|alt=|style=padding: 0; margin: 0; border: 0; display: block; width: 80px; max-width: 100%;!Chief's unwavering stance on home fire sprinklers leads to sprinkler ordinance

!|src=|alt=|style=padding: 0; margin: 0; border: 0; display: block; width: 80px; max-width: 100%;!Life safety pioneer paved the way for sprinkler requirements in Illinois

Massachusetts Fire Sprinkler CoalitionFire service officials in Massachusetts made pointed comments this week to the state's Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS), which is considering rolling back key safety requirements following an analysis on sprinkler systems that many are calling "flawed."

Issued by BBRS, the draft white paper, "The Cost and Effectiveness for Health, Safety, and Security of Fire Alarm Systems and Fire Sprinkler Systems in 3 to 6 Unit Residential Buildings," examines these fire protection measures and the notion of lessening sprinkler requirements, an idea that drew ire from the number of fire officials attending the BBRS meeting, including NFPA and other members of the Massachusetts Fire Sprinkler Coalition. Its members believe that fire and life safety requirements for new construction should not be reduced.

"The BBRS is playing with fire," says Mary Regan, the coalition's chair and chief of the Westfield Fire Department. "We cannot stand by and see the devastating effects of fire in non-sprinklered buildings when we know that these losses are preventable. Now is not the time to abandon proven technology based on a flawed report."

The coalition notes that the white paper weighs too heavily on sprinkler cost and fails to examine the life-safety benefits of sprinklers, which can reduce a person's risk of dying in a house fire by 80 percent.

Also taking issue with the white paper and BBRS's considerations was Massachusetts State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan. "You absolutely do not reduce or eliminate fire protection in these buildings," he told The Boston Globe. His comments follow a deadly year in Boston and nearby areas. In March, two firefighters died while battling a fire in a Boston townhouse. Months later, seven people died in a multi-family home in Lowell. 

Coan also told the paper that he was pleased that BBRS decided to send the document out for comment to its committees on fire prevention and protection. Watch the following video of Coan addressing the board at the recent meeting:

A tip of the hat to Fire Chief Chuck Walker with the Ashland City Fire Department in Tennessee for proving that residential sprinkler advocacy yields results. Walker was selected as the 2014 recipient of the

Bringing Safety Home Award,

which recognizes the efforts of fire chiefs who use resources from NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) to ensure decision-makers consider sprinkler installation. The International Association of Fire Chiefs has also teamed up with NFPA and HFSC to honor Walker.




Walker was instrumental in passing a home fire sprinkler ordinance in Ashland City in 2001 via "lunch and learn" meetings and through the use of

live burn/sprinkler demonstrations.

"Being a growing community, we were easily convinced that in order to protect this growth and prevent fires, especially with a combination volunteer/paid fire department, residential sprinklers were the way to go."




Learn more about Walkerand previous award recipientsby visiting the

Fire Sprinkler Initiative website.


North Carolina Fire Sprinkler Coalition"Nobody made it out," said a shaken Joyce Miles after trying to save her neighbors from a quick-moving house fire. "In just a couple minutes, everything was gone." 

Minutes is all it takes for today's home fires to turn deadly. Case in point: the aforementioned fire that claimed the lives of six people, including two children, in Garland, North Carolina, last month, according to a story in The Fayetteville Observer. "It's a tragedy. It's pitiful. I wanted to help, but I couldn't," Miles told the paper. 

Research confirms that modern furnishings and building materials are contributing to faster fire propagation and a greater fuel load. Home fire sprinklers offset these problems by giving residents ample time to escape a blaze.

Fires such as the recent one in Garland is the reason why sprinkler advocates in North Carolina are taking action. The newly formed North Carolina Fire Sprinkler Coalition is a diverse mix of burn survivors, fire service officials, and others offering reminders to the public that nobody is immune to fire and that sprinklers are literal lifesavers.  

If you reside in North Carolina, join the coalition and take part in a safer tomorrow. Or visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiative's state coalition page and see what other states are taking part in this movement.

Northwest Residential Fire Sprinkler Summit
If you haven't done so already, mark your calendar for a learning and network opportunity that focuses solely on home fire sprinklers.

Sponsored in part by the Oregon Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Washington Fire Sprinkler Coalition, the Northwest Residential Sprinkler Summit connects sprinkler advocates across the Pacific Northwest with information on code requirements, political realities, and water usage. Summit organizers have lined up some nationally recognized speakers, including California State Fire Marshal Tonya Hoover and Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (and NFPA blogger). A "vendor connections" event will showcase resources as well as the latest products and technology. 

Visit the summit website for registration information.

House fire
Following a house fire in Racine, Wisconsin, this summer that injured three adults and a firefighter, a fire official made a point to underscore the consequences of not building homes to today's standards.

"Older homes such as where this fire occurred are not required to be protected with fire sprinklers," said Dan Gengler, a retired member of the Wisconsin fire service, in a story that appeared in a National Fire Sprinkler Association newsletter. "But the bigger issue is that Wisconsin has failed to adopt the latest national model building codes from NFPA. These requirements are meant to prevent injuries to residents and firefighters." 

Since the thousands of homes built in Wisconsin each year lack sprinklers, Gengler labels them "substandard." See what else Gengler has to say on this issue by reading the article.

Living in a state like Wisconsin that's without sprinkler provisions? Initiate a sprinkler advocacy campaign with help from NFPA's Fire Sprinker Initiative.

Sprinkler coalition map
Take a look at the map embedded into this post and you'll notice something spectacular: residential sprinkler advocates are joining forces and contributing to an effective grassroots effort that's spreading across the U.S. These coast-to-coast sprinkler coalitions (states with one are highlighted in blue) are promoting sprinkler education and, in some cases, convincing legislators and code-making bodies that sprinkler requirements are a necessary, life-saving measure.

An eclectic mix of fire service officials, burn survivors, water purveyors, and others, these groups have made a concerted effort to fight the strong resistance of sprinkler opponents. They strategize on how to counter the numerous myths, showcase just how deadly and prevelant home fires are in the U.S., and prevent yet another home fire death that could have been avoided.

Giving these groups the spotlight they deserve, I've pieced together an article for Sprinkler Age Magazine, the publication of the American Fire Sprinkler Association, on the efforts of these coalitions and how NFPA is offering its assistance. With 21 coalitions on the map, from Washington (the oldest) to Connecticut (the newest), their efforts showcase the successes of corralling groups together with a stake in sprinklers.

Read the article when you get a free moment (page 12). Residing in a state without a sprinkler coalition but would like to start one? Contact one of NFPA's regional sprinkler specialists.

California Fire Sprinkler CoalitionThe reasons are endless as to why California is considered the "Golden State." For instance, its decision to require home fire sprinklers in all new one- and two-family homes certainly exemplified its golden status among sprinkler supporters. While the requirements are officially on the books, educating the public and jurisdictions on these systems and the standards guiding it is far from over. 

In an effort to showcase the importance and cost-effective aspects of sprinkler standards, the hardworking members of the California Fire Sprinkler Coalition recently released the white paper "Limit Local Amendments to Residential Sprinkler Requirements." The report highlights the benefits of NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes, and why any amendments or alterations to the standard at the local level can produce unintended consequences.

"NFPA 13D was developed to provide a cost-effective means to provide occupants 10 minutes to evacuate a home safely," states the white paper. "The goal was to provide the greatest life safety for occupants of residential dwellings at the lowest possible cost.

"Changing design or installation requirements for perceived added benefit could be disastrous. What may appear to be minor amendments to the...standard can have a significant effect on the proper operation during a fire incident."

Read the white paper for additional details and for an overview of California's statewide sprinkler adoption that took effect in 2011.

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