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2016

Wisconsin Fire Sprinkler CoalitionDavid Peterson is deeply concerned about the effects of firefighter staffing shortages in Wisconsin, where he hails, and across North America. "As a retired fire chief, I can attest that I lost sleep stressed by constant worry about whether enough responders would arrive at the station to respond when calls for help came," Peterson stated in a commentary that appeared in the GazetteExtra. "As possible incentives, I looked into retirement accounts and reductions of property taxes for people who enlisted. It was still difficult to appeal to anyone."

His solution to this problem is threefold: increasing fire education, bolstering emergency response capabilities, and enacting more ordinances requiring the use of home fire sprinklers. (He joins the Wisconsin Fire Sprinkler Coalition in supporting fire sprinklers in new homes.) In his commentary, Peterson cites three success stories--Addison, Texas; Prince George's County, Maryland; and Scottsdale, Arizona--that have all reaped the benefits of enacting such an ordinance.

"Remember, the average fire response time is from eight to 10 minutes after calling 911," he stated. "In that time, a sprinkler will have extinguished the fire. It will have saved thousands of dollars in loss. Most important, it will have saved lives.

"While we still need responders, we also need public education about preventing fires. We would do well to enact ordinances that require automatic fire sprinklers in all buildings."


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Watch and share NFPA's new video of Scottsdale Fire Marshal Jim Ford detailing how the sprinkler ordinance in his town has not diminished the need for the fire service:

Massachusetts Fire Sprinkler CoalitionIn a state where home fires have killed more than 200 people and resulted in more than $830 million over the last decade, safety advocates there have their focus on a safer future.

 

This week at NFPA's headquarters in Quincy, Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Fire Sprinkler Coalition hosted a meeting to discuss a series of legislative bills that could bolster fire sprinkler use in new homes. One bill in particular would give local municipalities the option to require sprinklers in its homes. Making its way out of Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, the bill is co-sponsored by state Rep. Ruth Balser, a vocal fire sprinkler advocate. She has underscored her stance on sprinklers at recent Fire Sprinkler Initiative events.

The bill and the coalition's push for safety attracted local media, which interviewed coalition members during the meeting about their efforts. "With sprinklers in the home, that will knock down the fire and stop its progression," Mary Regan, Massachusetts coalition chair and fire chief of the Westfield Fire Department, told a local Fox affiliate.

Watch this news clip featuring Regan and other coalition members.

Developer-Randy-PropstA recent summit hosted by the Missouri Fire Sprinkler Coalition introduced attendees to something of an anomaly--a builder who fully supports home fire sprinklers. Admitting that some of his peers and local homebuilding associations take a different stance, Randy Propst, owner of Loran Construction, has seen the realities of fire sprinkler installation in new homes. He recently spoke with NFPA about his experience with this safety feature and why he's perplexed by the opposition's anti-sprinkler stance.

 

 

NFPA: Why have you started sprinklering your new homes?

I started building homes through a program by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The program gives specific cities a certain amount of money to do with it as they please, as long as it improves affordable housing. In Springfield, Missouri, they’ve created a “bank” for this money. I borrow money to build these affordable homes. In turn, I have to keep my rent within HUD's levels.

Four years ago, we linked up with company Arc of the Ozarks [an organization supporting individuals with disabilities]. The company would rent a home from us for the people they serve and their caregivers. As we started working with them, we realized we’re missing something here. These homes need to be universally designed, which means they can accommodate people with various limitations. Concurrently, we got on a savings, energy, and safety kick. From a safety factor, we know we needed to start including fire sprinklers. The last four or five homes have been sprinklered. We’ll probably build another five or six this year, all sprinklered. Sprinklers will now be a standard part of our package. We have also tinkered with the idea of building spec homes, and if we do, they will all be sprinklered. I want the competitive advantage. [The insignificant cost of sprinklering a home] won't make or break a home sale, but tell me who else is offering this safety feature.

 

 

What have your installation costs been?

When building homes, the city assigns a project manager. He picked the wrong specification to follow. We were following NFPA 13R, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in Low-Rise Residential Occupancies. [NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes, not NFPA 13R, is suited for single-family-home installation.] The sprinklers were costing us more than they needed to. [Matt Klaus, NFPA's principal fire protection engineer and Missouri summit presenter] was a fountain of information. He gave me a clearer picture of how to install sprinklers that I didn't have before. We were putting in backflow valves and overdoing other things. I now can install sprinklers in a new home for about $1,200 or less. They'll cost me about a $1 per square foot.

 

 

Prior to these installations, what were your thoughts on home fire sprinklers?
Honestly, I hadn't thought about them. I’m friends with other builders. There’s one in particular who was opposed to them. Why? His only argument is that it’s a conspiracy that the sprinkler manufacturers are trying to force installation just to add another layer of cost to my home. But if it's in the [model building] code, everyone has the same layer of cost. How does it put you at a competitive disadvantage? It's such an insignificant cost factor.

 

 

How do we get more builders to agree with your line of thinking?
If I decide to build spec homes, what’s eventually going to happen is I’m going to put sprinklers in there. I’m going to do things that make this home sellable. Builders are like anybody else. They copy. What was their recipe for success? Maybe we should follow suit if his homes are selling. Granite countertops aren’t required in home, but how many people have them in there because everybody else does?

 

 

Do you have more peace of mind knowing your tenants are living in sprinklered homes?
The last unit I built was [compliant with the American With Disabilities Act regulations]. Three guys in wheelchairs are living there with a caregiver. I see how quickly fire can happen. How am I going to feel if three guys in wheelchairs die in my house from a fire? Or a little kid? And all I had to do is spend a little extra.

Interview conducted, edited, and condensed by Fred Durso, Jr., communications manager for NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative.

Washington State residents are celebrating a victory this month after the Camas City Council approved an ordinance to sprinkler the town's new, one- and two-family homes. This town is the first in Southwest Washington to pass such an ordinance and joins a half-dozen others in Washington with a sprinkler requirement. 

 

Sprinkler opponents in Camas submitted testimony during a public hearing claiming sprinkler installations can exceed $10,000 per home. Safety advocates, however, provided actual costs; Ron Schumacher, fire marshal of the Camas Fire Department, noted that installation in his city hovered between $1.25 and $1.50 per sprinklered square foot. Backing these statements on sprinkler affordability at the hearing was homeowner Mark Sundeth, who paid $2,000 to install sprinklers in his 2,500-square-foot home. "These are not an expensive item to install," Sundeth told the Camas-Washougal Post-Record.

 

The article also notes that Camas has a high number of sprinkler installations when compared with other areas in the state. "Fire sprinklers are a tool that we've seen work," says Schumacher.

Last year, NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative released a quiz gauging the public's perception on home fire sprinklers and sprinkler requirements. Taken more than 2,000 times, the quiz has been a popular tool in getting fire sprinklers on the public's radar while offering them a dose of education.

 

For those quiz takers out there--you're in luck. We have refreshed it with a series of new questions. Take a minute and test your knowledge. Submit your score to us by replying to the comments section, and please help us share this fun tool by clicking on the social media buttons below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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A live burn/fire sprinkler demonstration took place during a recent sprinkler summit hosted by the Missouri Fire Sprinkler Coalition

 

Local, educational summits initiated by a number of state sprinkler coalitions have been placing a regional spin on the home fire problem. Local fire service members, building officials, and even homebuilders are brought to the same table to learn about home fire losses in their state or region and the life-saving impact of fire sprinklers.

 

Hosted by the Missouri Fire Sprinkler Coalition, the most recent sprinkler summit is an example of how parties typically on competing sides of the sprinkler debate can come together for the good of the citizens they serve despite legislative roadblocks. Missouri law, for example, currently prohibits the adoption of a sprinkler requirement or the option to have local communities adopt sprinkler requirements. "Because politics got involved, this controversy got involved, and you had one group saying no and the other group saying yes," Cara Erwin, public information officer for the Springfield Fire Department and coalition member, told a local ABC affiliate. "When in reality, what we needed to do is come together, put all that aside and say what we're focused on here is not a mandate but the option to install sprinklers. If we can give people that option with better information and better education, then we feel more people would take that option.Offering residents this protection in the homes he builds is Randy Propst, owner of Loran Construction in Missouri. He joined a half-dozen other presenters at the summit. "In my case, to sprinkler homes was really more driven from a safety standpoint, not a selling standpoint," he told a local NBC news affiliate. "A lot of my homes are occupied by people with some form of disability. I wanted to make sure they had the safest home possible that I could give them."

 

Also on the summit's agenda was NFPA sprinkler expert Matt Klaus, who compared and contrasted NFPA's sprinkler standards. Presenters also discussed recent, high-profile fires in Missouri and highlighted the coalition's new educational campaign on home fire sprinklers. (Check out the free materials created as a result of this campaign.) Fire Marshal Jim Ford with the Scottsdale, Arizona, Fire Department also presented on the successes of a sprinkler requirement in his town.

 

"We're hoping home fire sprinklers become like smoke alarms," says Erwin. "If you don't have one, people immediately get them because they really are the safest item you can have in your home."

 


Looking to host a similar summit in your region? NFPA can provide some guidance. Please contact us for assistance.

 

 

 

 

 

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NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative has extensively covered the concerns of modern, homebuilding materials and home furnishings under fire. For instance:

Now, we want to hear from you. The topic of lightweight construction is now featured on Xchange, a new online community that gives you the opportunity to connect with your peers on issues most important to you. (It's free to join Xchange and get involved.) Check out the

new discussion on lightweight construction,

and let us know what experience you have had with this material. Are you a fire service member that has responded to homes built with this material? Have you had any involvement with homes built with this material? Share your thoughts directly on

Xchange.

 

 

 

 

 

NFPA staff joined the

Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition

(HFSC) at this year's International Builders' Show in Las Vegas. During the show's expo, HFSC enticed industry experts to its booth by offering free, face-to-face discussions on home fire sprinklers. Matt Klaus, NFPA's principal fire protection engineer, tackled this group's misconceptions head-on, which he wrote about in the recent issue of

NFPA Journal.

 

"Some homebuilders we talked to, despite never having gone through the process, were adamant that sprinklers would cost as much as $10 per square foot for new construction," Klaus writes in his column. While NFPA places the national average at $1.35 per sprinklered square foot, it's uncommon for installation costs per square foot to exceed $5 due to authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) adding additional features not found in

NFPA 13D, +Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellngs and Manufactured Homes,+

he added. "It is important that AHJs understand the purpose of NFPA 13D and that adding bells and whistles does not necessarily improve life safety—but will drive up costs," states Klaus.

 

Klaus was also able to counter the notion that "sprinklers are ugly" and complicated. Using a mock-up mimicking home fire sprinklers, Klaus explained at the expo that sprinklers are incredibly similar to a domestic plumbing system. "It is my hope that, as we continue to educate people, there will be an even greater level of acceptance of home fire sprinklers," he states.

 

 

The city of Estero, Florida, celebrated a victory in October 2015, when its fire district unanimously passed an ordinance to sprinkler new, one- and two-family homes.

The celebration, however, was short-lived.

 

One month later, two builder groups filed a lawsuit against the new requirement. While the complaint wasn't formally served at that time, implementation of the ordinance was delayed until July, reports, a Floridian publication.

 

With the suit from the builders properly filed this month, the groups claim "imminent harm" to their business if the requirement is enforced. They have requested an emergency temporary injunction by a local circuit judge to stop the requirement, states The News-Press.

 

Estero Fire Rescue has addressed previous complaints from the homebuilding industry via a study on the sprinkler requirement's economic impact.

Installation costs, it states, would hover around $1.61 per sprinklered square foot, while developers would benefit from trade-ups 

that can curtail certain construction costs and requirements.

 

Brush up on all of the ways home fire sprinklers can bolster life safety and benefit the economy--

download these free reports

by the Fire Sprinkler Initiative and its partners.

 

 

 

 

It's no surprise that news outlets are drawn to fire's destructiveness; the drama, eye-catching images, and heroic rescues make for good TV and page-turning journalism. Just as captivating but seldom getting the credit they deserve are home fire sprinklers. In some cases, reporters will focus on the minimal water damage from a fire sprinkler activation without mentioning lives and property saved.

 

Giving a well-deserved tip of a hat to these devices, we offer you a series of recent activations brought to the attention of the Fire Sprinkler Initiative. Kudos to these media outlets for sharing these sprinkler successes with the public:

 

 

 

Vancouver, British Columbia
An unattended candle left near a bed was the culprit of a fire originating on the third floor of a residence. Fire sprinklers controlled the fire to that floor, and firefighters finished the job in about 20 minutes. There were no injuries. "This was definitely a preventable fire," Vancouver Fire Marshal Heidi Scarpelli told

The Columbian.

It was fortunate that the residence had sprinklers that were completely operational and functional the way it was designed.

 

 

 

Roseburg, Oregon
A wheelchair-bound resident tossed a lit cigarette into a paper-filled trashcan, creating a fire that climbed to the home's ceiling. Within three minutes, the sprinklers activated and extinguished the fire. The resident was treated and released for smoke inhalation.Fire Marshal Monte Bryan with the Roseburg Fire Department told

News Radio KQEN 1240

that this was the second residential fire in recent weeks that was extinguished by sprinklers.

 

 

Westport, Connecticut

Firefighters responded to reports of a fire inside a residence where all occupants had evacuated. When firefighters made entry, they noticed a sprinkler in the kitchen had contained and extinguished a blaze, according to a recent

news story.

 


Come across a sprinkler save highlighted by your local media or fire department? Let us know. Send all stories to us, and we'll highlight it in future blog posts.

When it comes to securing a requirement for home fire sprinklers, California has long been described as a state to be modeled.

Getting all stakeholders to the table

was a pivotal effort that led the California Building Standards Commission to approve a requirement to sprinkler new homes there starting in 2011. As recently reported in The New York Times, the requirement does not appear to have quashed home construction, a myth perpetuated by sprinkler opponents.

 

Five years since the requirement went into effect, the California Fire Sprinkler Coalition still convenes on a regular basis. Why? As California State Fire Marshal Tonya Hoover puts it, the state sprinkler adoption was only the beginning."I think one of the biggest mistakes we could make would be to think that home fire sprinklers are chiseled in stone like the Ten Commandments," she told

NFPA in 2014.

 

 

Assisting with keeping home fire sprinklers at the forefront of public consciousness is Jose Colin, the coalition's new co-chair. (He shares this role with Kevin Reinertson, deputy fire marshal with the Riverside County Fire Department.) As more sprinklers are installed in more homes, educating homeowners about their performance and operation has been a key goal of the coalition. "We continue to get the word out to locals that we do exist, that we're here to help," Colin, a fire prevention specialist with the City of Woodland Fire Department, tells NFPA.

 

 

Colin's town has had a sprinkler requirement on the books since the early '90s. He recalls a sprinkler activation involving a bedridden woman who survived an electrical fire in her home about five years ago. I  spoke to the woman who claimed that her life was saved because of sprinklers," he said. "We know firsthand that these devices save lives. It's not just a slogan."

 

As for long-term hurdles that the coalition is addressing, Colin points to a lack of simple inspection and maintenance of fire sprinklers by the homeowner. The coalition is currently creating its own Living With Sprinklers; campaign modeled after

educational efforts by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

"One of our ordinances is that every time a home goes up for sale, the fire sprinklers have to be inspected and tested," says Colin. "Sometimes the cover plates are missing or painted over. Homeowners seem to be unaware of how they function and how to test and maintain them. It's a very simple process. We're looking to get more educational materials to homeowners and Realtors so they do know how to test them."

 

For other states or communities looking to acquire their own sprinkler requirement, Colin offers this advice: "You're not alone in this. Speak with others, with this coalition, that have gone through the process. Remain passionate."

 

 

Learn what the coalition has been up to since the sprinkler requirement went into effect.

 

 

Following the death of a bill that would have weakened Maryland's sprinkler requirement, the legislators are now proposing legislation to offset costs associated with installing home fire sprinklers.

 

Typically at odds with each other on the issue of fire sprinklers, the Maryland fire service and a local building industry association support the bill, according to the

Delmarva Daily Times.

The legislation would create a tax credit of up to $2,000 for homeowners installing sprinklers, divvied out on a first-come, first-serve basis. Credits would be capped at $1 million annually, states the paper.

 

Continuing its campaign in support of home fire sprinklers and the new bill are members of Maryland's fire service. The anti-sprinkler bill recently defeated was the result of

legislative and media outreach.

"We keep proving weekly it seems we need legislation, requiring fire sprinklers in new homes," Harve Woods with the Maryland Fire Chiefs Association told the Delmarva Daily Times. Since the new bill would keep the sprinkler requirement intact, his association supports it.

 

UPDATE: The Maryland legislative session ended on April 11, 2016, and the bill died in committee.

 

 

 

A law passed in Delaware last year requires builders of one- and two-family homes to offer cost estimates for fire sprinklers to potential buyers. Moreover, the law also requires buyers to receive free, educational material on these devices to help them make an informed decision on whether or not to install these devices.

 

As a means to convince all buyers that sprinklers are a smart decision, the Delaware State Fire Marshal's Office recently produced a free pamphlet to fulfill the state's new requirement. Produced with assistance from the

Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition,

the pamphlet highlights state-specific installation costs, information on insurance discounts, and point-counterpoints of popular sprinkler myths. There's also information on maintenance and upkeep, sprinkler operation, and popular types of sprinkler heads.

 

Helping to promote the information highlighted in the pamphlet is the newly formed

Delaware Fire Sprinkler Coalition,

which aims to eliminate the burdens of home fires in its state.

 

 

 

Download the new pamphlet and get acquainted with fire sprinkler facts. Looking to create something similar for your state? Use the research and resources by the

Fire Sprinkler Initiative

and

Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative recently announced the winners of its Bringing Safety Home Grant, given to 15 recipients across North America. The funding assists

state sprinkler coalitions

and other safety advocates with up to $10,000 apiece to support activities that showcase the importance of home fire sprinklers.

 

 

Following a successful launch in 2015, the Bringing Safety Home Grant is once again assisting sprinkler advocates with their grassroots efforts this year. Recipients will use the grant to initiate an extensive campaign promoting home fire sprinklers to residents and the state’s decision makers.

 

 

Visit his blog often for examples on how safety advocates are utilizing grant funding this year. Also,

download this report

on how 2015 grant recipients utilized these funds.

 

 

 

2016 Grant Recipients;


Colorado Fire Sprinkler Coalition
Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition
Florida Fire Sprinkler Coalition
Idaho Fire Sprinkler Coalition
Massachusetts Fire Sprinkler Coalition

Maryland State Firemen's Association

Missouri Fire Sprinkler Coalition
New Hampshire Fire Sprinkler Coalition
Oregon Fire Sprinkler Coalition
South Carolina Fire Sprinkler Coalition
South Dakota Fire Sprinkler Coalition
Texas Fire Sprinkler Coalition
Utah Fire Sprinkler Coalition
Wisconsin Fire Sprinkler Coalition
Wyoming Fire Sprinkler Coalition

 

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