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A few recent home fires in the news got my attention. The most recent occurred on January 31 in Novi, Michigan, that killed five people ranging in age from 16 to 23. My research indicates the home was built between 1995 and 1999. On December 17, 2015, a fire killed a father and son in Lower Macungie Township, Pennsylvania, in a home built in 1998. Three days earlier, a woman perished in a home fire in Logan-Rogersville, Missouri, in a home built in 1994. (These are just the headlines I've noticed.) In all incidents, fire departments responded within minutes of being dispatched.

We often hear from homebuilders, Realtors, politicians, and others that fire sprinklers should not be required in new homes since new homes are safer than old homes. They claim that fire deaths and injuries most often occur in older homes. They imply that simply living in a new home reduces your chances of being killed or injured in a home fire over living in an old home. If this is true, my first question is as follows: When does a new home become an old home?

Are homes built in the ’90s considered to be old homes today? Obviously, they were considered new homes about 20 years ago. When they were constructed and sold, I am sure they were considered safer than those older homes, built 20 years prior in the ’70s. And when those homes were built in the '70’s, they were undoubtedly touted as being safer than those older homes erected back in the ’50s. More importantly, will new homes built today be considered old homes 20 years from now? Will any new home built today catch fire 20 years in the future, possibly resulting in the death of a woman, a father and son, or five young people? If so, which ones?

NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One-and-Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes, was first adopted in 1975 and has gone through a series of revisions since then. Home fire sprinklers were certainly available in the 1990s (when the aforementioned homes that recently caught fire were built) but were not code-required in most communities. Nor were they understood or demanded by many consumers. Nor did the majority of the fire service—those of us considered suppression guys—even care.

The incidents I’ve mentioned are but few examples of fire fatalities. What about other fire fatalities in “newer” homes? What about fire injuries occurring in these homes? How many people—both civilians and firefighters—would be alive, physically uninjured, and psychologically unscarred today had “new homes” back then been equipped with home fire sprinklers? It’s too late for those people.

It is not too late for our future generation. How many lives can be saved, injuries prevented, and psychological scars avoided if we work together to improve our fire suppression delivery model by ensuring fire sprinklers are installed in today’s new homes before they become “dangerously old” (whenever that supposedly happens)?

This post was written by Rick Ennis, fire chief for the City of Cape Girardeau in Missouri and chair of the Missouri Fire Sprinkler Coalition. Read all of Ennis' blog posts written for NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative.

6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b7c81ac05b970b-320wi.jpgThe Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition is participating in the Connecticut Home and Remodeling Show held at the Hartford Convention Center, February 26-28. Coalition members will be exhibiting during the following hours and will be on hand to promote and answer questions on home fire sprinklers.

 

Exhibit hours are:

Friday, February 26, 3-8 p.m.

Saturday, February 27, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

Sunday, February 28, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

6a00d8351b9f3453ef01bb08bf7366970d-320wi.jpgA lack of fire hydrants and sparsity of fire stations in rural areas got the attention of an Idaho newspaper,

which recently reported on a series of structure fires. A lack of hydrants, for instance, complicated response efforts during a structure fire this month in Meridian, Idaho.

 

"Almost all fires in rural areas...they all get a greater start {than fires near hydrants}" Caldwell, Idaho, Fire Chief Mark Wendelsdorf, told the Idaho Press-Tribune. "They have a greater capability of spreading and doing more damage."

 

Research backs Wendelsdorf's statements. According to NFPA's "Characteristics of Home Fire Victims" report, the highest overall annual average fire death rates in 2007-2011 were seen in rural communities of less than 2,500 people. NFPA offers these tips on keeping safe in rural settings. Another important consideration is to include home fire sprinklers if constructing homes in these areas, said Wendelsdorf. "In a normally furnished room, it takes only about two or three minutes for a blaze to be a flashover," he told the paper. Home fire sprinklers give residents ample time to seek safety and in most cases extinguish the fire before the fire department arrives.

 

Read how the Idaho Fire Sprinkler Coalition is educating the public on home fire sprinklers--more specifically, how they are teaching future builders the importance of these devices.

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The following commentary was written by Joshua Carson, fire marshal for the Elko Fire Department in Nevada: 

 

With progressive campaign slogans like “Make America Great Again," “Reigniting the Promise in America," “America Needs a Champion,” “A New American Century,” and “A Political Revolution is Coming”, one can expect an exciting presidential race.

The 2016 election brings ideas of hope and positive change within our individual lives, our country, and the world as a whole. It also brings hope that our new Commander in Chief will provide guidance and institute change on home fire sprinklers.

There are many topics that are debated on a national scale during a presidential campaign. Veteran support, military, immigration, terrorism, healthcare, economy--all of which are worthy and necessary topics of debate. Where do home fire sprinklers fit in?

According to statistics from NFPA and the Insurance Information Institute, property and lives lost from fire in the U.S. continue to be a major problem. NFPA tells us that fire departments responded to more than 367,000 home fires in 2014, resulting in:

  • more than 2,700 civilian fire deaths, or 84 percent of all fire deaths in the U.S.
  • close to 12,000 civilian fire injuries, or 75 percent of all civilian fire injuries
  • nearly $7 billion in direct property damage

Of the top 10 most catastrophic multiple fire deaths that occurred in 2014, three of the 10 occurred in single-family homes. To put these numbers into perspective, the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 was the most catastrophic multiple-death fire in U.S. history, accounting for close to 3,000 deaths.

In a recent proclamation in conjunction with Fire Prevention Week, President Barack Obama endorsed the use of home fire sprinklers.  He stated “Residential sprinkler systems can give individuals extra time to evacuate a home safely in case of an emergency" and also stressed the use and proper maintenance of smoke alarms in homes.  No additional action was found to be taken beyond this statement during his administration.

Fire sprinklers have been used for centuries. Since they have been effective at reducing property loss, requirements eventually found their way into the model building codes for commercial buildings. All model building codes used in the U.S. now stipulate that new, one- and two-family dwellings include fire sprinklers. So why are the majority of new homes constructed without them? Why are states and communities opting out of adopting this life-saving requirement? Cost? What is the monetary value of human life?   

We need to change the paradigm of fire protection in our homes.

In 1947 the honorable Harry S. Truman wrote these statements to General Philip B. Fleming to institute a presidential conference on fire prevention: "The serious losses in life and property resulting annually from fires cause me deep concern. I am sure that such unnecessary waste can be reduced. The substantial progress made in the science of fire prevention and fire protection in this country during the past 40 years convinces me that the means are available for limiting this unnecessary destruction.

"Accordingly, I am calling a national conference on fire prevention to be held in Washington within the next few months to bring the ever-present danger from fire to the attention of all our people and to devise additional methods to intensify the work of fire prevention in every community in the Nation."

Home fire sprinklers are proven to be an economical and effective means to reduce property loss and save lives. It is probable that the installation of sprinklers in homes could have a substantial impact on reducing lives and property lost from unwanted fire. 

There a several model communities across the nation (Scottsdale, Arizona, for example) that require home fire sprinklers. Communities that recognize the value of sprinklers have created incentives and cost savings to developers and homeowners by various means and methods. Tax Incentives are offered to homeowners for buying “green” products such as solar panels or green heating appliances. Why is there no incentive for new or retrofit sprinklers? So much more can be done at a national, state, and local level.

Are the nearly 3,000 men, women, and children lost in home fires nationally each year not enough to institute change? How long will we continue to allow people to perish when the means and technology are available to save?

I believe it is time to elect a president that has a deep concern for fire loss in our country, a president that will lead us and influence our state and local governments into using available technology to save life and property.

Does your candidate support home fire sprinklers? Ask them today.

 

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Offering insurance policy discounts on sprinklered homes, a Canadian group is furthering its commitment to promote fire safety.

The Co-operators, a Canadian owned and operated insurance group, has established a formal partnership with the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition. The partnership aims to further promote and enhance educational efforts supporting sprinklers in new Canadian homes. "As a co-operative insurer, we strive to identify and fulfill unmet needs related to our business," Kathy Bardswick, Co-operators president and CEO stated in a news release. "Fire sprinklers in a home provide life-saving protection. With more awareness and understanding, it is our hope that more and more Canadian homeowners and builders will choose to have them installed to better protect their families and property."

Prior to this partnership, The Co-operators have underscored the necessity of sprinklers in new homes through its myth-busting resources. Moreover, it sponsored a groundbreaking study calculating the health care costs of patients burned in home fires without sprinklers.

"We've been building a relationship for a number of years, but I'm looking forward to the impact we'll be able to make together in Canada now that this partnership is official," said Shayne Mintz, NFPA's Canadian regional director. NFPA is a founding member of HFSC. "The Co-operators is the only Canadian insurer to formally support us in this way, both financially and in terms of awareness."

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For those unable to attend one or both of NFPA's new webinars, you're in luck. We've placed the recordings on YouTube, giving you access to important information on how you can better educate and advocate for home fire sprinklers.

Our inaugural webinar, "Don't Go it Alone: How NFPA Can Support Your Sprinkler Advocacy Efforts," highlights how to mirror actions by state sprinkler coalitions effectively advocating for these life-safety devices. The webinar "Home Fire Sprinklers: Enhancing Your Grassroots Effort," discusses challenges and solutions to bolstering sprinkler education in your region.

Also, be on the lookout for additional webinars from the Fire Sprinkler Initiative in 2016.

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The New York City Fire Department reported 59 fire fatalities in 2015, the second lowest in the city's recorded history. (The lowest was in 2012, with 58 recorded fire deaths, according to a recent news release.) Local safety advocates are lauding these figures, which they attribute to the city's fire safety laws. However, they note, there's always room for improvement.

"While [these statistics] are significant, we believe the number can always go lower," stated Anthony Saporito, executive vice president of the Mechanical Contractors Association of New York, an organization representing the city's fire sprinkler contractors, fire sprinkler industry suppliers, and other industry-affiliated individuals and organizations. Safety advocates here, he added, "are committed to demonstrating the importance of installing, inspecting, testing, and maintaining" fire sprinklers.

Patrick Dolan, president of Steamfitters Local 638, emphasized the necessity of sprinklers in homes. Furnishings and building materials, he said, are creating deadlier fire scenarios for residents and the fire service. "That means building owners must be even more vigilant about following all laws and taking safety measures to protect their tenants and their property," Dolan stated in a news release.

Looking to bolster those laws guiding fire sprinkler installation is the New York Sprinkler Initiative. Recently, members of the group hand delivered more than 2,000 letters to the New York State Fire Prevention and Building Code Council that support fire sprinklers in all new townhomes.

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Ron Siarnicki with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation stands with the Maryland fire service during a video supporting the state's home fire sprinkler requirement

 

A new video produced by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) highlights Maryland fire service and sprinkler advocates fighting a legislative bill aimed at weakening Maryland's sprinkler requirement.

The video features key players in this push, including Maryland State Fire Marshal Brian Geraci; Ron Siarnicki, NFFF's executive director and member of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition; and Sher Grogg, who lost her brother, sister-in-law, and three nieces and nephew in a catastrophic Maryland home fire in 2015. Fire officials also tackled the issue of installation costs, particularly in rural areas. Maryland legislators held a recent hearing on the new bill that was well-attended by the fire service.

Please watch and share this important video, titled "Sprinklers Save Lives: A Maryland Story," using the social media buttons below.

 

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A fire sprinkler demonstration trailer used in Utah was made possible by NFPA's Bringing Safety Home Grant

 

 


To further the life-saving impact of home fire sprinklers, the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) Fire Sprinkler Initiative is once again offering grant funding for sprinkler advocacy campaigns across North America.

Following a successful launch in 2015, the Bringing Safety Home Grant will once again assist as many as 10 selected fire sprinkler coalitions and other safety advocates throughout the U.S. and Canada with up to $10,000 apiece to support activities that showcase the importance of home fire sprinklers. Sprinkler advocacy is gaining momentum as more residents and policy-makers understand the value of the devices in new homes. Home fire sprinklers, for instance, can reduce home fire deaths by about 80 percent and direct property damage by about 70 percent, according to NFPA research.

Applicants can apply for up to $10,000 to fund an extensive sprinkler campaign in their state or region, or to develop an array of educational endeavors that underscore the necessity of sprinklers. For inspiration, applicants can review a report underscoring how 2015 grant recipients funded local campaigns in their regions. We're also asking advocates to get creative:

  • How can this grant help you spread the message in your state or region that sprinklers in new homes save lives?
  • Is there a new way to educate the public and decision makers about the value of home fire sprinklers?
  • How can you expand on a tried-and-true method of sprinkler advocacy?

Please don't miss out on this opportunity. Visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiative site for application details, and email us with any questions. The application deadline is March 16, 2016.

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Disaster survivors displaced from their homes will now have one less thing to worry about if sheltering in temporary housing.

 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has decided to include key fire safety features--particularly, fire sprinklers--in its new manufactured housing units. Following a major disaster, these units serve as a temporary home until formal repairs or permanent housing is acquired. FEMA wanted to make sure its next generation of temporary housing was as safe as the agency could provide, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate recently told an ABC affiliate. The concealed sprinklers accompany smoke alarms throughout the unit.

 

"When you put people into a new environment, into a new home they're not familiar with after they've lost everything, it's likely there's an increased risk of accidents. Some of those might be accidental fires," Fugate told ABC. "[These safety features] provide an additional layer of safety."

 

Prior to the decision to sprinkler these new units, FEMA consulted NFPA about requirements in NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes. FEMA also collaborated with the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition to produce an easy-to-read "living with sprinklers" document for the displaced that includes information on sprinkler myths, do's and dont's, and the unit's water tank and pump.

 

Revisit this blog for more information on these new units.

6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b7c811bf2b970b-320wi.jpgNow is the time when home fires are at their worst. February and its two preceding months are the leading months for U.S. home fires, according to NFPA.

 

These incidents are already responsible for more than 300 reported U.S. deaths since the start of the year, says the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). NFPA has partnered with USFA for its Put a Freeze on Winter Fires Campaign, which aims to prevent these tragedies.

 

February is also the month to get educated on home fire sprinklers, stated David Kurasz, a member of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Coalition, in a recent letter to the editor. In his state specifically,there were 143 fire deaths in 2014 and 2015. "Men, women, children, fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters," he stated. "Despite all of this, some people still argue that we do not have a fire problem."

 

Kurasz also pointed to an action by New Jersey Governor (and former presidential hopeful) Chris Christie to conditionally veto legislation last year that would have required sprinklers in new, one- and two-family homes. "Here we sit, one month into 2016 and very little has been achieved, advanced, or acknowledged," stated Kurasz. "Please educate yourselves and your families on the dangers of fire, especially in the winter, and take some time to learn about [home] fire sprinklers."

 

6a00d8351b9f3453ef01bb08b686e0970d-120wi.jpgNFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative has a healthy array of research reports to expand your knowledge on the benefits of home fire sprinklers.

Need proof that home fire sprinklers can be installed in a cost-effective manner?

Check out this series of eye-opening case studies accumulated by NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative. All of them can be found on our site's "Case Studies" page:

    • Working with his fire department, a developer sprinklered all of the homes in his community for about a dollar per sprinklered square foot:

 

 

6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b7c82776f1970b-120wi.jpgWe want to hear from you! Living in a home where an inexpensive installation took place? Are you a fire department that worked with a developer/homebuilder to sprinkler their new homes? Let us know your personal case study by responding in the comments section below or sending us an email. Your story will be highlighted on this blog.

6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b8d19ae2cf970c-320wi.jpgIn recent months, Floridians have been getting more than a dose of the sun's warmth.

The issue of home fire sprinklers has also been heating up, prompted by local safety advocates initiating dialogue on these devices. Take, for instance, Gainesville Fire Rescue, which is raising awareness of sprinklers through education. "The number one loss of life today from fire is not in buildings like this where we enjoy the protection of sprinklers," Gainesville Fire Chief Jeff Lane said during a recent presentation to the City Commission inside City Hall. "Where we lose lives today is in our homes, and you'd think that's where we'd want to be the safest."

City commissioners, intrigued by Lane's presentation, seem to be supportive of sprinklering new homes. "We just have to figure out how to be supportive of them without adverse effects," Commissioner Craig Carter told The Gainesville Sun. Added Commissioner Harvey Budd, who experienced a fire in his home, "I've had the fire, so it's real to me. Had we had the sprinkler, it probably would have saved part of my kitchen."

Following Lane's presentation, the commission tasked its staff with creating a public awareness campaign on sprinklers and considering a study underscoring the economic impact of installation, reported The Gainesville Sun.

One such study, which are a requirement in Florida before passing a sprinkler ordinance, was conducted by Florida's Estero Fire Rescue. The study concluded that the average installation cost in their town is pennies above the national average. Late last year, Estero passed an ordinance to sprinkler its new, one- and two-family homes.

Also championing for increased awareness of these devices is the newly formed Florida Fire Sprinkler Coalition.


6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b7c82776f1970b-120wi.jpgYou don't need to reinvent the wheel to produce a quality educational campaign in support of home fire sprinklers. If you're a member of the fire service, use these free resources tailored to your industry produced by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition. Don't forget to also share these eye-catching infographics produced by NFPA, similar to what you see here:

 

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6a00d8351b9f3453ef01bb08b454e6970d-800wi.jpg"We're not off to a good start this year," La Crosse, Wisconsin, Fire Department Division Chief Craig Snyder recently told a local news station. Going three years without experiencing a fatal fire, La Crosse has had two already this year. Other home fires this year in the town have also displaced a number of people.

While working with the Red Cross to install 2,500 smoke alarms throughout Wisconsin, fire officials are also focusing on these recent fires to make a passionate plea for home fire sprinklers. Though not required by law in Wisconsin, Snyder says sprinklers can be the best defense against home fires. "If you have a fire in a living room or a hallway or a bedroom, that sprinkler's going to discharge and contain that fire and help everybody escape until the fire department can show up and take care of the rest of the problem," Snyder says.

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Also on board for increasing the awareness of home fire sprinklers is theWisconsin Fire Sprinkler Coalition. (If you live in Wisconsin, please join today.) Read a slightly sarcastic essay by coalition Chair Gregg Clevelandcomparing car safety to home safety.

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