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2014

Massachusetts Fire Sprinkler CoalitionFollowing the death of two children from a recent residential fire in Lawrence, Mass., a coalition supported by every major fire service organization in Massachusetts is expressing its support for fire protection measures and disappointment at attempts to roll back these requirements.

Members of the Massachusetts Fire Sprinkler Coalition are taking the state’s Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) to task for the release of its 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.” The coalition has deemed the document deeply flawed for its consideration to lessen sprinkler requirements without taking into consideration the life-safety benefits of sprinklers. According to NFPA, the risk of dying in a home fire is reduced by 80 percent when sprinklers are present. 

High-profile fires this year in Massachusetts have dominated headlines, making the white paper’s consideration to reduce sprinkler requirements an alarming prospect to the coalition. The four-alarm Lawrence fire in October ripped through an apartment building, trapping and killing two boys in their bedroom. In March, two firefighters died battling a blaze that destroyed a Boston townhouse. Seven people died from a fire in a multi-family building in Lowell in July, representing the single deadliest fire in the state since 1994. None of the buildings were equipped with sprinklers as the structures were built before sprinkler requirements were included in Massachusetts codes.

NFPA representatives and other coalition members underscored these tragedies and disappointment with the white paper at a BBRS meeting in September. Understanding that the technology is available to prevent future tragedies from occurring, they stated that weakening sprinkler requirements based on a flawed report would be a misstep.

“It is disheartening to see the number of tragic fire deaths continue to rise in the Commonwealth,” Mary Regan, chair of the Massachusetts Fire Sprinkler Coalition and chief of the Westfield Fire Department, tells NFPA. “We have already surpassed the total number of fire fatalities in 2013. The elderly and young are at particular risk during a fire. Sprinklers can reduce these tragedies. We must continue to advocate for sprinklers in new construction and fight the BBRS from attempting to reduce fire protection by diminishing current fire codes.”

Visit the coalition's site to learn more about their efforts, and watch the following clip of Regan underscoring the coalition's concerns with the white paper:

 

Here's further proof that today's home fires are a cause for concern: when compared with the number of civilian home fire deaths in 2012, there was a 16 percent increase in the number of deaths for 2013.  


 

NFPA's new report,"Fire Loss in the United States During 2013," notes that nearly 2,800 people died from home fires in 2013. The new report also states that: 


home fires accounted for 85 percent of all civilian fire deaths that year

close to 370,000 reported fires occurred in the home, a 1.2 percent increase over last year

more than 12,000 civilian fire injuries were the result of home fires

home fires were responsible for nearly $7 billion in direct property damage


 

Let these numbers serve as another resource to convince legislators and code-making officials that sprinklers have the power to dramatically reduce these occurrences and losses. Utilize the Fire Sprinkler Initiative's updated fact sheets to get this point across. 


 

Also, listen to Christina Holcroft, NFPA's division director of Fire Analysis and Research, underscore these and other findings from the  "Fire Loss in the United States During 2013" report, which can be downloaded for free by visiting the Fire Sprinkler Initiative site:


 


 


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October 2014 Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletterHome fire sprinkler advocates across the U.S. participated in an ABC News investigation that underscored the concerns surrounding lightweight construction and modern home furnishings under fire. 

The latest edition of NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter highlights this and other sprinkler stories from across North America. You'll read about:

  • Habitat for Humanity partnering with NFPA to sprinkler new homes in Massachusetts
  • A sprinkler activation in California that has placed the state's sprinkler requirement in the limelight
  • A regional summit that has energized sprinkler advocacy efforts 

Receive this free, monthly newsletter by signing up today. These stories will keep you abreast of the latest legislative updates, new advocacy tools, and activities of sprinkler advocates.  

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NFPA regional sprinkler specialists, Jeff Hudson (left) and Tim Travers (right), join NFPA Public Education Advisor Pat Mieszala during an exhibition at the recent World Burn Congress in Anaheim, California.




A person's voice is one of the most powerful tools in the push for home fire sprinkler requirements. Honing this power is the nation's community of burn survivors, who have effectively transformed tragic occurrences into stories of hope. Adding a human element to the seemingly daily occurrence of home fires and subsequent injuries, the survivors are the faces behind the statistics.


 

For many, home fire sprinklers have become a passion. Survivors have spoken at legislative hearings and sprinkler-related events, urging the powers that be that sprinklers could have likely saved them from injury and emotional turmoil. They are joining state sprinkler coalitions to educate their community on sprinklers. The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, an organization that empowers this group, offers training on sprinkler advocacy.


 

More than 1,000 burn survivors recently attended the World Burn Congress, the Phoenix Society's premiere event offering programs and exhibits of interest to this group. NFPA's sprinkler specialists and public educators attended the event in Anaheim, California, offering free materials and knowledge on how sprinklers save lives.


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NFPA President Jim Pauley addressing attendees at the World Burn Congress



 

[NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative | http://www.firesprinklerinitiative.org] understands the power of burn survivors, and has used their stories for its Faces of Fire Campaign. Launched in 2010, Faces of Fire showcases the human impact of fire through effective, and sometimes heartbreaking, testimonials. Watch one of our more popular "Faces," Princella Lee Bridges, talk about the house fire that forever altered her life:


 


 

 

 

Earlier this month, the University of New Haven Fire Science Club was on hand during the launch of the Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition to create structures for the event's live burn/sprinkler demonstration. Their efforts didn't stop there.


A club member also manned a thermal imaging camera during the demonstrations to document the disparity of temperatures inside the sprinklered and unsprinklered structures during a fire. First, watch this video of Keith Flood, chair of the Connecticut coalition and fire marshal of the West Haven Fire Department, narrating the fire spread in the unsprinklered structure:


 


Here's the video of the same burn taken by the fire science club using the thermal cameras. In the latter part of the video, notice the stark difference in temperature taken inside the sprinklered structure:


 


 


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Kudos to fire officials at Estero Fire Rescue, who have initiated a study on the cost and benefits of a potential sprinkler ordinance for new, one- and two-family homes.


 

Though the town is nearing build out, the +Naples Daily News+ reports that community planners are considering "higher density" developments for some of the remaining parcels. Moreover, sprinklers would protect the town's higher-than-average high-risk groups, which include children and the elderly, populations that have a greater risk of dying in a house fire, per NFPA research.


 

Estero Fire Marshal Phillip Green told the paper that the area's estimated cost for sprinkler installation$1.78 per sprinklered square foot (the national average is $1.35 )is "a bargain. That's not even the price of a cheap piece of carpet."


Another reason why home fire sprinklers make sense, says Green, is that these devices can effectively combat the $175 million in annual damages from one- and two-family home fires in Florida. 


 

Looking to conduct your own investigation on sprinkler requirements? Get the facts by visiting NFPA's [Fire Sprinker Initiative | http://www.firesprinklerinitiative.org] site. Download free research reports, watch some related videos, and take advantage of our free advocacy materials. 


!http://i.zemanta.com/304373061_80_80.jpg|src=http://i.zemanta.com/304373061_80_80.jpg|alt=|style=padding: 0; margin: 0; border: 0; display: block; width: 80px; max-width: 100%;!How an Illinois fire chief became a powerful spokesperson for home fire sprinklers

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David LaFond (left), regional manager for the National Fire Sprinkler Association, presents certificates of appreciation to Massachusetts fire officials recognizing their home fire sprinkler advocacy efforts.



 

As highlighted on this blog, NFPA and sprinkler advocates from the Massachusetts Fire Sprinkler Coalition collaborated for the sprinklering of two, new Habitat for Humanity homes in the town of Hanover. David LaFond, New England regional manager for the National Fire Sprinkler Association and member of the coalition, recently presented "certificates of appreciation" on behalf of the coalition to Hanover Fire Chief Jeffrey Blanchard and Deputy Fire Chief Barbara Stone In recognition of their advocacy on home fire sprinklers and their ongoing support to add this life safety requirement to Habitat homes in their community.  


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


 

On site the day of the September sprinkler installation were fire service members, sprinkler installers, sprinkler contractors, and others who showcased the ease and cost-effectiveness of sprinkler installations in new dwellings. NFPA documented this experience and obtained testimonials with the people who had a hand in the sprinkler installation. Some of the topics they tackled were installation costs and sprinkler myths.


Watch the video for more details:  


 

 

Looking for something succinct to showcase to others what NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative entails? Watch this new video of NFPA President Jim Pauley giving a brief overview of this important endeavor, which was launched in 2009 to increase the number of sprinklered homes in North America via code adoptions and legislation. Jim highlights materials on the Fire Sprinkler site, and the growing number of sprinkler advocates joining forces to make America safer: 

 

 

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When Chief Mike Figolah signed on with the Mount Prospect Fire Department, he became a strong supporter of their NFPA 13D, +Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes,+ ordinance passed in 2003, as well as the village’s requirements for sprinklers in all townhomes and low-level multifamily structures. A tear-down-and-rebuild community, Mount Prospect now has over 150 single-family homes protected with sprinklers.


 

As fire chief, Figolah regularly hosted Fire Prevention Week open house events. Each year, the "grand finale" included a live burn and sprinkler demonstration for large audiences that demonstrated the difference between sprinklered and unsprinklered fires in similarly furnished rooms. Figolah took the demonstration a step further by presenting the response timeline of firefighters, which allowed audiences to witness the time needed for firefighters to don fire gear and set up hose lines. As the fire in the unsprinklered structure raged on, sprinklers in the protected structure doused the flames. He is the model example of a sprinkler advocate effectively using educational materials produced by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition .


 

As sprinkler advocates developed theIllinois Fire Sprinkler Coalition (IFSC), it became readily apparent that a spokesperson was needed to willingly speak as the IFSC voice without fear of retribution. Figolah became that voice. He was the spokesperson at IFSC press conferences that also featured live burn demonstrations. He assisted the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board by narrating a live burn demonstration for WGN’s “Morning News” show, which resulted in airtime throughout Chicagoland and the U.S. 


Moreover, Figolah, the former president of the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance (IFSA), has weighed in on various pieces of state legislation, since he has the respect of elected officials and a keen ability to present the facts through research and reports.


Now the assistant chief at the Bartlett Fire Protection District, Chief Figolah continues to promote fire prevention. He believes in firefighter education and strongly supports the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives, especially #15: “Advocacy must be strengthened for the enforcement of codes and the installation of home fire sprinklers."  


 

Figolah cares for the well-being and safety of both firefighters and citizens, and he believes advocacy starts at home, where his family is protected by a fire sprinkler system.* *For his efforts, IFSA recently awarded Figolah with its 2014 Life Safety Award for achieving a pattern of excellence in bringing life safety into the lives of others.


Figolah is a prime example of a sprinkler spokesperson who truly believes in the cause.


 

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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Matt KlausA common question we receive through NFPA's technical advisory services for NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes, involves the hydraulic calculation of the system. Unlike NFPA 13, Installation of Sprinkler Systems, NFPA 13D does not require full-blown hydraulic calculations that assess friction loss of every fitting and linear foot of pipe.

One of the goals of the NFPA 13D technical committee is to promote the inclusion of systems in both new construction and retrofit installations. As such, requiring a complicated and time-consuming hydraulic calculation procedure would add cost to the project and in some cases may preclude otherwise qualified designers from being engaged with the standard.

NFPA 13D offers two simple approaches to these calculations. These procedures are described in both an eight-step and 12-step process that require limited mathematical computation, while still providing the assurance that there will be sufficient flow and pressure for the particular system being installed.

These calculations are conservative, but are simple to execute and not time-consuming. The time savings can be seen both on the design side and on the plan review side. Reviewing the hydraulics for a 13D system for a municipal plan reviewer is a simpler endeavor than that of the NFPA 13 approach.

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. 

Washington Fire Sprinkler CoalitionAn alarming 32 deaths from house fires occurred during the week of October 5, bringing the total number of media-reported civilian fire deaths this year to nearly 1,800, per a weekly report released by the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA).

The outcome of a recent fire in Washington State was far less tragic, thanks to the rapid response of a home fire sprinkler system. On October 1, the Olympia Fire Department responded to the fire at a multi-family resident. Upon arriving at the scene, they noticed a sprinkler head in the kitchen doing its job following an unattended cooking incident. Firefighters quickly extinguished the fire and credited the sprinkler system from preventing the fire from spreading to other parts of the structure. Nearby residents were able to return to their homes that day.

Olympia is one of a handful of Washington jurisdictions with a sprinkler requirement on the books. (While sprinkler requirements aren't statewide in Washington, local jurisdictions are allowed to adopt their own requirements.) Check the Washington Fire Sprinkler Coalition site to see the other jurisdictions that are bringing safety home, and see how your state fares by visiting the sprinkler requirements page on the Fire Sprinkler Initiative site. 

Anthony CarricoNews reports indicate that civilian fire deaths in West Virginia rank among the highest in the nation. Understanding that home fire sprinklers can dramatically reduce these deaths, Anthony Carrico plans to prioritize the use of these systems in his new role as West Virginia's state fire marshal. 

During an interview with the Charleston Daily Mail, Carrico says he wants to increase the number of sprinklered homes in his state. The State Fire Commission had approved the 2009 International Residential Code in full, including the requirement for sprinklers in new homes, but the state's Legislature removed this provision. (The Fire Sprinkler Initiative site documents all state sprinkler requirements.

While working in the state fire marshal's office for 22 years, Carrico says a residential sprinkler demonstration years ago convinced him in "15 seconds" that sprinklers are necessary components to new construction.

“In conjunction, there’s not a better combination at protecting and saving lives than smoke detectors and residential sprinklers,” he tells the paper. “Sprinkler systems not only save lives but also go a long way in protecting property. The system would suppress fire at the point of origin and prevent it from spreading."

Carrico also plans to secure a mobile unit--similar to what is being used in Washington--to spread the sprinkler message to residents.

Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition
This week, Hartford, Connecticut, firefighter Kevin Bell, 48, died after suffering critical injuries while battling a fire at a multi-family home. According to the Hartford Courant, Bell was searching the home when "fire conditions forced him to bail out of a second-floor window." Another firefighter suffered burns on 10 percent of his body, noted the paper. 

The tragedy only seemed to underscore the importance of the Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition, which officially launched a day later at the University of New Haven. (Coalitions now exist in 21 states.) More than 100 people attended the event, which brought together the state's fire service, elected officials, and fire safety advocates to express the importance of home fire sprinklers.

"The ultimate goal of the coalition is to move forward with legislation on a statewide level, or codes we can adopt on a statewide level, that require residential sprinklers in new, one- and two-family dwellings," said Keith Flood, fire marshal of the West Haven Fire Department and coalition chair.

State Rep. Stephen Dargan, a pro-sprinkler Connecticut legislator who chairs the Public Safety and Security Committee, offered some motivational words during the event in an attempt to make the coalition's goal a reality. "I need you as individuals ... to help me convince my fellow legislators ... to get sprinklers in homes," he said. (NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative offers advocacy tools aimed at convincing legislators that sprinklers are necessary.) "[Sprinklers] will cut down on the cost of lives" lost from house fires.

Highlighting the human impact of fire during the event was resident Gordon Plouffe, 52, who suffered burns on 40 percent of his body from a fire. "In 1982, I went from 250 pounds to 87 pounds" due to third-degree burn injuries, he said, adding that the cost of sprinklering a home would have been cheaper than the exorbitant bills over the years associated with his burn injuries. 

Driving the sprinkler point home, the event's finale was a live burn/sprinkler demonstration. Flashover in the non-sprinklered structure occurred in less than two minutes. Assisting with the creation of the two structures were more than 80 students from the University of New Haven's Fire Science Club and Program. Goodwill donated the materials used inside the structure, and Home Depot gave a signicant discount on the lumber, said Nick Cantara, who chairs the school's Fire Education Committee and an on-call firefighter. Cantara hopes the burn demonstration showcased to other students in attendance just how quickly fire spreads and its impact on firefighter safety. "By the time a firefighter gets to a house fire, it's so involved that they sometimes can't make entry," he said.

Here are some additional photos from the event:  

Keith Flood
Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition Chair Keith Flood narrates the live burn and sprinkler demonstration.

 Live burn demo

Firefighters extinguish a blaze in the non-sprinklered structure during the event.
Sprinklered structure
The sprinklered protected structure, including furnishings.

 

!http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b7c6ee86ac970b-320wi|src=http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b7c6ee86ac970b-320wi|alt=Illinois Fire Sprinkler Coalition|style=margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px;|title=Illinois Fire Sprinkler Coalition|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b7c6ee86ac970b img-responsive!A recent news report from an ABC affiliate has detailed concerns over modern homes and household furnishings while making a strong case for home fire sprinklers. 


 

The news station rounded up some key sprinkler advocates for an investigative report underscoring just how quickly today's fires become deadly. (NFPA and others have also researched this topic extensively.) NFPA blogger Tom Lia, also the executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, and other members of the Illinois Fire Sprinkler Coalition discussed the toxicity of today's furnishings under fire and the concerns with lightweight construction materials that are becoming more popular in today's structures.


 

Also interviewed for the report was Ron Hazelton, a home repair expert with the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, who explained why today's building materials can exacerbate fire spread. "What happens with solid wood is it begins to burn from the outside in, so the outside may char but the interior of it, the structural integrity is still there so it tends to fail slowly," Hazelton says. "[Lightweight construction] burns hotter and more quickly, and when it fails, it fails almost instantaneously." 


 

Watch the full report for additional details.  


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USFA fire fatalities media report
Exactly how frequent are home fires deaths? Consider this: there were 20 residential fire fatalities in the U.S. during the week of September 21 alone. 

Documenting this information on a weekly basis is the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), which collects information on these fires from various media sources. Each week, they send out an alert that includes a U.S. map of where fire deaths have been most severe. Click on a specific state within the map, and you'll see the incident date, where the fire occurred, and reported cause.

The purpose of such documentation, states the USFA, is to help raise awareness about the frequency and danger of home fires. (Nearly 2,500 people are dying each year in these fires, per NFPA statistics.) USFA shares NFPA's position on home fire sprinklers--these systems, in conjunction with smoke alarms and an emergency exit plan, are a necessary component of life safety in these settings. 

See for yourself just how frequent home fires are--sign up for USFA's civilian fire fatality notices via email.

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