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2016

Wyoming Fire Sprinkler Coalition.jpgJustin Smith, chair of the Wyoming Fire Sprinkler Coalition, was recently interviewed by an NBC affiliate following the deaths of two people from a home fire. Watch the clip, and notice how Smith used this tragedy to delicately underscore important points on home fire sprinklers:

 

  • "Since we had two fatalities so close to home, [the tragedy] reinforces the fact that it can happen to anyone and can happen in our state." Smith eloquently underscores the frequency of home fires and reality that nobody in his community is immune to its wrath. Delicately promoting these points following a local home fire is one way of getting sprinklers, a key solution to this problem, on the media's radar.
  • "Most of our home's furnishings are made of synthetic materials. They burn faster [than older furnishings]. That's why we only have three minutes to get out safely." Smith notes how rapidly today's fire spreads due to what's currently found in homes. Working smoke alarms in conjunction with fire sprinklers, he notes, can dramatically cut the risk of dying or being injured from fire.
  • "The installation process isn't complicated. There are myths and barriers about sprinklers that we're trying to remove." When discussing sprinklers with the media (or anyone unfamiliar with this technology, for that matter), simplicity is key. Smith makes a point to mention that sprinklers in new homes do not equate to a burdensome, installation process.

 

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Follow Smith's lead and highlight these and other points found in the Fire Sprinkler Initiative's new guide, "Tips on Communicating Home Fire Sprinklers to the Media" (under the section "Talking Home Fire Sprinklers").

 

 

 

 

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David Hague.JPGNFPA's Standards Council recently issued the 2016 edition of NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes. It's already time to consider the next edition of the standard! NFPA is currently accepting public input for the next edition of NFPA 13D. If you'd like to see changes made to this standard, please submit your comments by June 29. And check this blog often for updates throughout the standard's revision cycle. As the recently appointed staff liaison to this committee, I plan on keeping you up to date on any important changes.

 

This post was written by David Hague, NFPA's principal fire protection engineer and staff liaison for an array of NFPA standards, including NFPA 13D and NFPA 13R, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in Low-Rise Residential Occupancies.

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A Canadian community is one step closer toward building safer homes.

 

Reported by the Winnipeg Free Press, the Council for the Rural Municipality of St. Clements in the Canadian province of Manitoba unanimously approved the second reading of a bylaw that would sprinkler the community's new homes. If the final reading is approved, St. Clements would be the first community in Manitoba with a sprinkler ordinance, reports the paper.

 

Since the community is situated in a rural area, fire department response times can exceed 13 minutes. A sprinkler's rapid response to fire is why safety advocates there want to see the requirement come to light. "[The sprinkler bylaw] is in the best interests of the municipalities, residents, and, in today's world, the firefighter," Ken Sim, St. Clements director of protective services and former deputy fire chief of Winnipeg, told the paper.

 

St. Clements would join a handful of other communities in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia with home sprinkler requirements. "The cost is not unreasonable for what it's going to save if you have a fire in your home," St. Clements Mayor Deborah Fiebelkorn told the paper.

 

Check this blog often for updates to this story, and watch this video of how an American town benefited from a sprinkler ordinance:

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When compared to its older counterparts, today's homebuilding material offers a more economical and environmentally friendly way of crafting new dwellings. A lesser-known fact is the dramatic way these materials respond to fire.

 

NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative is hosting its next webinar, Lightweight Construction: The Fire Dangers of Today's Homebuilding Materials, on June 8, 12:30-1:30 p.m. EST. Learn the science behind this type of material and why home fire sprinklers are a proven method for reducing fire's impact in new dwellings. You'll also discover free resources developed by the Fire Sprinkler Initiative to promote these dangers and necessity of fire sprinklers in new homes.

 

Register for the free webinar today. (If you have any trouble accessing the webinar, visit our help page.)

Chicken.jpgLast month, chickens across the country rejoiced.

 

An environmental group alerted consumers to less-than-humane practices taking place by a Texas-based supermarket chain. The company secured eggs from caged chickens, which the group called "one of the most egregious forms of animal abuse." Urging the supermarket to join an array of big-named stores who have pledged to only sell eggs from cage-free birds, the environmental group created a petition two months ago to garner public support for their cause. Using social media to further its cause, the group crafted a Twitter tweet with the words "one-minute activism," instructing its followers to support the cause by a simple click of a link. The online petition was created in such a way that the supermarket's CEO and other decision makers were alerted every time someone signed the petition.

 

A month after the group created the online petition, they amassed more than 26,000 signatures. Pressured to act, the supermarket announced it will switch to cage-free chickens.

 

How does this story relate to home fire sprinklers? Advocates have the power to use petitions in a similar manner to gather community or statewide support for this important, life-safety feature. Use these four simple steps:

 

  • Use this template created by the Fire Sprinkler Initiative to gather support for sprinklers. Bring the petition to community events or work with community organizers to disseminate it to your residents.
  • Change.org is a great website to initiate free, online petitions. You're also able to send petitions directly to your community's decision makers.
  • Use social media to promote these online petitions. And make it seem easy to take action by mimicking the "one-minute activism" tweet mentioned above.
  • Let us know if you've crafted a petition. We'd be happy to help promote it!

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Stephan Cox (left) and Richard Smith with the Maryland State Firemen's Association accept the 2016 Bringing Safety Home Award from Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president of Outreach and Advocacy and president of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) awarded the Maryland State Firemen's Association the 2016 Bringing Safety Home Award, presented at the Fire Sprinkler Coalition Chair Summit in Quincy, Massachusetts. The award recognizes fire service members and other safety advocates who use HFSC's home fire sprinkler educational materials and Fire Sprinkler Initiative resources to ensure that decision-makers have accurate information as new or updated home fire sprinkler codes are considered.

Accepting the award on behalf of the association was Stephan Cox, chair of the association's legislative committee, and Vice Chair Richard Smith. Both were influential in helping defeat a legislative bill that would have weakened the state's sprinkler requirement. Under Cox's leadership, Smith brought the Maryland fire service and interested parties together to defeat this legislation. Additional efforts were made to convene numerous panels at the bill's hearing. Their willingness to work both sides of the legislative aisle while educating legislators on the importance of home fire sprinklers is a lesson in effective sprinkler advocacy.

 

For a listing of previous award winners who were influential in their efforts to promote sprinklers, visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiative site.

sprinkler myths.jpg“Smoke Alarms, Not Sprinkler Mandates, says NAHB.”

 

This title appeared in a recent post on the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) blog. The post summarized a column written by NAHB for the new issue of Fire Protection Engineering Magazine, which focused primarily on residential fire safety. Consider the following half-truths and misinformation found in the blog post and magazine column:

 

NAHB: Our members produce homes built to building codes designed to keep their occupants safer

This statement is partially accurate. NAHB states that newer homes are built to building codes explicitly designed to make homes safer. However, a component of all U.S. model building codes is the requirement—not the option—to sprinkler all new homes. Since fire sprinklers are now an essential component, new homes built without them should be considered substandard.

 

NAHB: Newer homes tend to be safer homes

As NFPA’s fire sprinkler expert explained during a recent educational event on home fire sprinklers, “most of the causes of fire are in new homes and old homes alike.” Whether occurring in a home built yesterday or 30 years ago, fire causation in homes has not changed. What has changed is how today’s homes are being built. Older, traditional building materials have more inherent fire endurance than the lightweight construction materials widely used today. Research confirms lightweight construction materials can drastically exacerbate a home fire, significantly reducing a resident’s escape time. NFPA data also suggests that while we have made strides in reducing America’s home fire problem over the past four decades, the risk of dying in a home fire has not changed much if a reported fire occurs. Fire sprinklers have the power to solve this problem.

NAHB: Smoke alarms, not sprinklers, are needed

NFPA is in agreement that working smoke alarms are a necessity in all homes. However, what is needed to reverse the trend of 3,000 people, on average, dying annually in U.S. home fires is fire sprinklers. Smoke alarms will alert you to a fire, but keep in mind today’s fires can become deadly in under two minutes. Fire sprinklers give residents the time needed to escape safely.

 

NAHB: Sprinklers aren’t cost-effective

NAHB’s statements about installation costs are misleading. Although they cite NFPA’s own sprinkler cost report to defend their argument, NAHB does not highlight key points of this research underscoring the cost-effectiveness of sprinklers. The national average for installation is $1.35 per sprinklered square foot, or a mere one percent of a home’s total construction cost. As reported in the study, states requiring sprinklers in new homes—Maryland and California—saw a decline in installation costs since demand for sprinklers has surged. Moreover, a recent study produced by the Maryland Office of the State Fire Marshal determined that the average installation cost was only pennies above NFPA’s national average. In California, the state is experiencing a housing boom, offering further proof that sprinkler requirements do not have a negative impact on the housing market.

 

NAHB: Home fire sprinklers are unnecessary

The NAHB column downplaying the necessity of sprinklers appeared in the same issue with another article promoting this technology. SFPE technical director Chris Jelenewicz states in his column that “fire protection engineers continue to support the developments in residential sprinkler technology to increase the ease of installation and reduce the cost of installation while maintaining the effectiveness and reliability” of this technology. If fire sprinklers are seen as a crucial component of protection for the country’s safety experts, why are sprinklers not good enough for NAHB?

 

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Show your support for home fire sprinklers by taking part in a crucial vote keeping this requirement in the model building code. Take action today.

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When looking for proof of the life-saving benefits of ordinances for home fire sprinklers, people point to Prince George's County. Requiring sprinklers in all of its new homes since 1992, the county hasn't had a single fire death in their sprinklered homes, according to a report completed in cooperation with the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

 

That's not to say all of the county's fire problems are solved. Marc Bashoor, Prince George's fire chief, wrote in a recent commentary that appeared on Firehouse.com that while community risk reduction efforts have significantly decreased fire fatalities over the past 30 years, the county's "major fire problem continues to be small- to medium-size single-family homes and medium-size garden-style, multi-family residential properties." Since 1992, there have been more than 7,000 residential fires and 230 fire fatalities (all in unsprinklered homes). Moreover, says Bashoor, there was a "close call" in a sprinkered home that could have been avoided.

 

Last year, the fire department responded to a home fire. The basement had been finished, but in a way that the drywall and panel ceilings were installed below the sprinklers, states Bashoor. Since the sprinklers weren't able to quickly activate, the fire trapped a 61-year-old occupant in the basement. Fortunately, "the suspended ceiling failed fairly quickly during the fire event, which allowed enough head to activate the sprinklers," states Bashoor.

 

"New construction and permitting must be closely tied to ensure that proper fire protection measures are in place," Bashoor adds. "It is imperative that departments and applicable inspectors are fully aware of the relationship among construction, inspection, and the functionality of fire sprinklers."

 

Despite the near miss, the sprinklers had activated and saved the resident's life. As more of Prince George's housing stock includes sprinklers, these sprinkler saves will only continue to increase.

 

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Learn about the additional benefits of home fire sprinkler ordinances by downloading these free reports.

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What can be accomplished when some of the top advocates for home fire sprinklers throughout the U.S. and Canada are brought under one roof?

 

In an effort to bolster the use and acceptance of this safety technology, chairs of the nearly 30 state sprinkler coalitions and key sprinkler supporters from Canada attended a special summit hosted by NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative (FSI). Differing in scope from previous summits hosted by FSI, the recent event held at NFPA headquarters aimed to energize these influencers in their push to lead effective coalitions while addressing common stumbling blocks.

 

The summit specifically addressed:

  • keeping coalition members engaged while bringing other key parties to the coalition table
  • how traditional media and social media can powerfully promote fire sprinklers and coalition efforts
  • engaging and persuading the opponents about fire sprinklers
  • how the fire service can use personal stories of fire and loss to their advantage

 

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Honored at the summit was the Maryland State Firemen's Association via the Bringing Safety Home Award. Distributed by FSI and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC), the award recognized fire service members and other safety advocates who use HFSC's educational materials and FSI resources to ensure that decision makers have accurate information when updating or adopting their fire sprinkler codes. The association was honored for their efforts in successfully defeating an anti-sprinkler bill in Maryland.

 

The summit was also coupled with the HFSC board meeting, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Check this blog frequently for updates on this celebration.

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Opponents of home fire sprinklers failed in their initial effort to eliminate home fire sprinklers from the 2018 edition of the International Code Council's International Residential Code (IRC). Five anti-sprinkler proposals considered by the IRC Residential Building Code Committee at their April public hearing in Louisville, Kentucky, were rejected.

 

However, proponents of one proposal (RB129-16) introduced an “assembly motion,” which requires a vote by ICC members to support or oppose the committee recommendation. We need your help to oppose/defeat the assembly motion.

 

What's at Stake?

 

The future of home fire safety in America hinges on winning this vote and upcoming votes that may occur during ICC’s final action voting in November 2016.  Home fire sprinklers represent our best chance of striking at the heart of America's fire problem. Sprinkler requirements have made it into the 2009, 2012, and 2015 editions of the IRC. If we lose in 2016, home fire safety could be set back for decades.

 

Take Action: Vote Online

 

All ICC members are eligible to participate in this vote. For this vote, you do not have to be a governmental employee to participate. All current ICC members, including contractors, manufacturers, consultants, etc., are eligible to vote. Governmental employees who completed the required annual validation process prior to March 18 are also eligible to vote.

 

Governmental employees who did not re-validate prior to March 18th are not eligible to participate in this vote. However, governmental employees still have time to be validated for participation in final action voting later this year if the annual validation process is completed prior to September 19.  (Here's how to update your voter representative information.)

 

There is a two-week online voting window that is taking place now. To vote, please view the attached document below and follow the prompts to cast your vote in support of keeping home fire sprinklers in the body of the code.

Please contact NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative team with any questions.

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Recently in Georgia, firefighters responded to a fire at the home of a 93-year-old disabled resident. Crews located the man, who survived the blaze that was eventually extinguished by the home's sprinklers. The fire was also contained to a single room.

 

Capt. Michael Black with the Henry County Fire Department used this incident to promote sprinklers on a larger scale. "This is proof beyond doubt that smoke alarms, in conjunction with installed fire suppression systems, play an important role in controlling and sometimes even extinguishing fires before firefighters arrive," he told a local paper.


Using the media to his advantage, Black promoted the power of sprinklers via this recent activation. NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative has produced a free media guide that gives tips on harnessing the power of the media in your region, whether at the scene of a fire or its aftermath. The guide instructs you to:

 

  • underscore the home fire problem (Black told the media that "eight out of 10 fire deaths occur in the home" Moreover, "the Department of Community Affairs has been unable to adopt requirements due to legislative action.")
  • promote the solution ("Fire sprinklers cut the risk of dying by about 80 percent," said Black)
  • note the ease and affordability of installation ("The cost is relatively low and is paid for over the life of a mortgage," said Black)

 

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Join Black in promoting home fire sprinklers. Download the free guide today, and alert your local media of the importance of this technology.

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Kaylee Gaydon and Noah Gaydon (Photo Credit: Channel 2 Action News)


A recent fire in the news triggered a couple of thoughts in my fire-suppression-oriented mind. This fire occurred April 8 in Lumpkin County, Georgia, about 70 miles northeast of Atlanta. According to news reports, the fire was said to have occurred in a mobile home and claimed the lives of two-year-old Noah Gaydon and one-year-old Kaylee Gaydon.


Let me say right up front that this post is in no way to be taken as criticism of the Lumpkin County Fire Department or anyone who responded to this fire, nor is it meant to draw unnecessary attention to the Gaydon family. Similar scenarios to this incident have played out across North America. The fact that it keeps happening over and over is what makes the whole thing so aggravating.

 

“Crews Took 14 Minutes to Get to Fire that Killed Two Georgia Toddlers,” stated one of the headlines. The story also reported that while a fire station was less than two miles from the mobile home, it took Lumpkin County Fire 14 minutes to get to the home. What contributed to this response time, notes the story, was:

  • two firefighters calling out sick that morning and unable to report for duty
  • a firefighter at this station covering at another station
  • Lumpkin County Fire working another fire in another part of town when the fatal fire occurred

 

I immediately thought how we suppression folks of all ranks proclaim additional fire stations are needed—or fight to keep current fire stations open—all in the name of ensuring fast response times. We use the same argument to justify purchasing the latest fire trucks with the latest firefighting innovations, all in the name of delivering better fire suppression services to our customers. We tie the need for staffing to the need to arrive quickly to burning homes. Let me be clear: in the non-sprinklered world we have built throughout the past 100-plus years and with many legislators and code-making bodies ignoring the benefits of fire sprinklers in the name of money, all of these points must be made clearly and consistently.

 

However, we are overly engaged in the wrong argument. Even if there were fully staffed fire stations every three miles housing the best fire engines, we cannot guarantee fast response times. We cannot guarantee rapid fire suppression. We cannot guarantee that we can get there in time to save lives. I am sure the Lumpkin County Fire Department, like so many others, did the best they could with the resources provided to them. But it wasn’t enough for Noah or Kaylee.

 

We can do better. Note that the 14 minutes reported in the news headline only refers to the time elapsed from the time the Lumpkin County Fire Department was notified of the fire to the time the first unit arrived on scene. It does not account for the elapsed time between the fire igniting to the time it was called in. And it does not account for the elapsed time between the fire department arriving and water hitting the fire. (For more on fire suppression response times, check out my previous post.)

 

Home fire sprinkles would have likely changed the outcome of this fire. It would not have suppressed the fire when it apparently started on the porch, but could have controlled it as it spread into the home. Fire sprinklers have proven to be a very effective, timely, and reliable form of fire suppression. It is time that we suppression folks start fighting as hard for home fire sprinklers as we do for fire stations, fire trucks, and staffing.

 

One final thought. Back in the ’80s, I attended a public education workshop. There, a well-known fire service leader, James Dalton, spoke of attempts that year to pass federal legislation requiring sprinklers in all mobile and pre-manufactured homes. That legislation failed, I assume, because of the perceived fear that the costs would end the mobile and pre-manufactured home industry. Ever since then, every time I see a fire death in a mobile or pre-manufactured home, I say to myself, “If that requirement was in place, those people would not have died.” What will we be thinking years from now when we learn someone died from fire in a home built after 2009, when all model building codes started requiring sprinklers?

 

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. Check this blog often for future posts from Ennis.

The Fire Sprinkler Initiative has released a new video for its North American campaign underscoring the horrors of today’s home fires and the solution for reducing these tragedies.

 

Michelle Allyn and her two daughters, Aaliyah and Lexie Brittian, are the newest members of the Fire Sprinkler Initiative’s Faces of Fire Campaign, which humanizes the realities of families--in this case, teenagers--impacted by home fires and promotes the life-saving capability of home fire sprinklers. Soon after a fire ravaged their home in 2014, the structure was demolished. Rebuilding a safer home was a necessity for Allyn, which is why she opted for home fire sprinklers.

 

Watch this new video, and please help us promote this important story by:

 

  • Sharing the video on your social media channels
  • including it in a webpage by using this embed code: <iframe width="600" height="355" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/i1Xsa65B03Q" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

 

Live burn demonstration

The Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition knows exactly how to keep home fire sprinklers on the public's radar. In 2015, they hosted a series of burn demonstrations that demonstrated the power of fire and its nemesis--home fire sprinklers. Captured by local media, one event in particular was also witnessed by local politicians and water purveyors who tend to have misconceptions on sprinkler performance and operation. 

 

The coalition continues to prioritize these eye-catching events since they have the power to attract key influencers. In April, the coalition and the National Fire Sprinkler Association's Connecticut Chapter hosted another side-by-side burn demonstration for state building officials and others, and plans to host another in June for local legislators.

 

The following are photos from the April event. Want to host something similar in your town? Connect with your state sprinkler coalition or one of NFPA's regional sprinkler specialists for support, and download this free guide by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

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Firefighters on the scene of the side-by-side event extinguish a fire in the unsprinklered structure
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Fire sprinklers prevented flashover in one of the structures, whereas a fire in the unsprinklered structure consumed all of the contents

 

Watch this video of a previous demonstration hosted by Keith Flood, chair of the Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition:

SprinklerSeven months after the Estero Fire Rescue District passed a life-saving ordinance to sprinkler its town's new homes, it has decided to repeal it.

As reported on this blog, two homebuilding associations in Florida filed a lawsuit challenging the ordinance, claiming it will create "imminent harm" to their business. The fire district passed the ordinance in October 2015 following an economic impact study countering this claim. However, a potential legal battle with the associations led to the fire district's commissioners unanimously repealing the ordinance in April, states the Naples Daily News.

Dick Schweers, the fire commission's chair, told the paper that while he supported the ordinance, the lawsuit played a pivotal role in the outcome. "We'll always be looking for ways to improve (fire) protection," Schweers told the paper.

A lawyer representing the building associations told the publication that the lawsuit hasn't officially been dismissed, but there's a good possibility that it will.

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