NFPA's Matt Klaus explains the myths and facts about sprinkler installation at the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs Home Fire Sprinkler Summit
“I’m a realist,” said Cynthia Ross-Tustin to a room of building and construction officials in Toronto this week. “Things move forward not at the speed of government but the speed of money. There needs to be something everyone can get out of [home fire sprinklers]. If we can work together so we can make safety a great selling point for your homes, we will take the next step in the evolution of safety. I offer this olive branch. But doing nothing is not a solution.”
Ross-Tustin, fire chief with the Essa Township Fire Department, is not alone in her push for safer homes across Ontario. Her like-minded comrades in the provincial fire service sat alongside building industry professionals at the recent Home Fire Sprinkler Summit in Toronto. The event was hosted by the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs and partly sponsored by the Fire Sprinkler Initiative's Bringing Safety Home Grant. At the event, parties typically at odds with each other on the issue of sprinklers seemed to find some common ground amid frank discussions on this topic.
During her presentation, Ross-Tustin combatted myths typically used by the homebuilding industry to fight sprinkler installation. She challenged the notion that “smoke alarms offer adequate fire protection” with a TV news clip of a child soundly sleeping through a beeping smoke alarm for two minutes. According to NFPA research, residents have as little as two minutes to safely escape a fire.
“How do we solve a two-minute escape problem?” Ross-Tustin asked attendees. “We feel to improve the survivability of home fires is the installation of fire sprinklers.”
Don’t believe the new-homes-are-safer notion either, she added after showing another clip of a burn demonstration of today’s modern, synthetic furnishings quickly incinerated by fire. “I don’t keep the stuff in my home that my grandparents did.
“What we’re trying to do is connect the dots for you.”
Further exposing the truth on sprinklers was NFPA sprinkler expert Matt Klaus. Commercial sprinklers and home fire sprinklers, he noted, are vastly different. NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes, makes a point to maintain the simplicity and affordability of home fire sprinklers. “When it comes to NFPA 13D, the cost to homeowners and developers is always part of the equation," said Klaus. "It doesn’t include any superfluous equipment.”
The sprinkler dialogue seemed to have impacted a builder in attendance, who offered a challenge to attendees. “I will walk away from [this summit] with more information than I have ever gotten [on sprinklers] at this point. The starting point for sprinklers is saving lives. Now we got to see how we can put it to work.”
Watch a news clip of the event.