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.