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Mike Figolah's advocacy around home fire sprinklers is something to be commended. (See for yourself.) Since going public with his support for these devices, he's learned a few lessons on what makes an effective sprinkler advocate. He shared his thoughts with attendees at NFPA's 2015 Fire Sprinkler Initiative Summit in Boston. "I come here today with a lot of passion for changing the culture of the country," Figolah told attendees.
This culture shift for home fire sprinkler acceptance, he noted, begins on the grassroots level. In Figolah's home state of Illinois, advocates there are using a one-community-at-a-time approach to sprinkler adoption. This approach has paid off; there are close to 100 communities with a sprinkler ordinance on the books. In most cases, getting those ordinances passed was the result of getting "partners in line," said Figolah, assistant fire chief for the Bartlett Fire Protection District. He advised summit attendees to bring together home buyers, builders, real estate professionals, the fire service, and others as a means to drum up support for sprinklers from various stakeholders. More and more states are forming sprinkler coalitions to accomplish this task.
Moreover, the free resources developed by the Fire Sprinkler Initiative and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, especially its instructions on developing a live burn/sprinkler demonstration, has helped convince the public and policymakers that sprinklers are crucial in new homes.
What has also worked for Figolah is highlighting successful sprinkler activations in whatever way possible and obtaining legitimate sprinkler installation costs to counter lofty quotes from sprinkler opponents. "We have actual numbers to show the opposition," he said.
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Download a copy of Figolah's presentation, and check out other highlights from NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative Summit.