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 toldNFPA 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 aftereducational 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.