Fire officials in Ontario made a Canadian-sized push for safety this week, giving the local construction industry crucial information on home fire sprinklers.
Hosted by the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs and partly sponsored by NFPA’s Bringing Safety Home Grant, the Home Fire Sprinkler Summit in Toronto was provincial advocates' initial attempts at initiating dialogue on sprinkler performance and cost as well as the realities of today’s home fires. Sprinklers in new homes aren’t required in the province, but safety advocates there hope the meeting fosters additional conversations between building and fire officials to bolster fire sprinkler education and acceptance in homes.
Topics at the summit ranged from the speed and deadliness of Canadian home fires to sprinkler mythbusting to Canadian case studies. One session underscored a sprinkler bylaw on the books in Pitt Meadows, a town outside of Vancouver. Named a "benchmark community" by NFPA (and cited in its 2013 sprinkler cost study report), the average cost to sprinkler new homes in this one-fire-hall town is a tad more than $1 per sprinklered square foot. A series of trade-ups for the building industry made sprinkler installation more palatable to this group, but it took time.
"After 20 years of [installing sprinklers], the sprinkler trade has gotten on par with electricians and roofers," said Dave Bruce, chief building officer for Pitt Meadows. "There's enough of them out there now doing the work, and the cost has come down to $1.07 per sprinklered square foot."
In addition to being cost-effective, sprinkler installations in Pitt Meadows have also been life-saving; since 2005, the town hasn't experienced a single fire death in a sprinklered home. Moreover, the fires in sprinklered homes have not spread beyond the room of origin.
Giving a swing of support for this cause at the summit was Paul Beeston, former president and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays. This team has a long-term partnership with the Canadian Fire Marshal's Public Fire Safety Council via the Swing Into Summer Safety Campaign. The focus of the campaign this year centers on smoke alarm and home fire sprinkler installation.
Check this blog often for additional updates from the summit.