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As previously reported on this blog, a Maryland delegate has introduced legislation to weaken the state's requirement for home fire sprinklers. Not taking this news lightly, advocates gathered in Annapolis this month for a two-day conference hosted by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF). Some high-caliber speakers at the event proved the necessity of working smoke alarms and fire sprinklers.
Presenting at the conference was Sher Grogg, who for the first time shared her story of losing her brother, sister-in-law, three nieces, and a nephew in a house fire this year. The home had a smoke detection system but no sprinklers. Since the fire, Grogg has become an advocate for Christmas tree safety and sprinklers at home. “When I got the call that the house had burned down, I asked how the family was," said Grogg, per an article that appeared on Firehouse.com. "They said again the castle had burned down. I thought they would have gone out on the balconies off each bedroom…It wasn’t sinking in that they didn't escape."
"I really think sprinklers would have made a difference."
Also understanding the necessity and cost-effectiveness of home fire sprinklers was presenter Jim Ford, fire marshal for the Scottsdale, Arizona, Fire Department. Contrary to the longstanding myth that sprinkler ordinances will place firefighters out of a job, positions have tripled since the town's sprinkler ordinance took effect in 1986, Ford said at the conference. More than half of the homes in Scottsdale now have sprinkler protection.
Offering a localized perspective on the benefits of sprinklers was Fire Chief Mark Bashoor of Prince George's County. He told the crowd his town hasn't experienced any fire fatalities in its sprinklered homes since an ordinance took effect. (Download a report produced by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition underscoring the effects of Prince George's County's sprinkler ordinance.)
Event organizers aim to produce a document early next year on key takeaways from the event and strategies that can be used by sprinkler advocates nationwide. Since the conference, attendees have been using the media to bolster their case. Ron Siarnicki, NFFF's executive director, penned an op-ed that countered a letter writer who condoned the state's sprinkler requirement. "It’s no longer a rare occurrence for firefighters to be dispatched to a house fire and discover on arrival that two or three homes are burning," stated Siarnicki. "An investment in sprinklers isn’t about just keeping that homeowner safe. It’s about the safety of the firefighters and the entire community."
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For more information on the benefits of the sprinkler ordinance in Scottsdale, Arizona, visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiative site.
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