With the 1973 release of the "America Burning" report, the nation got an exhaustive look at its fire problem. Forty three years later, is the country--more specifically, the country's attempts to eliminate the burdens of home fires--progressing in the right direction?
One of the report's key recommendations by the National Commission on Fire Prevention and Control was to support “improved automatic extinguishing systems that would find ready acceptance by Americans in all kinds of dwelling units.” Since 2009, all U.S. model building codes have included the provision to sprinkler new, one- and two-family dwellings. Despite the fact that more homes are sprinklered now than in the past--the percentage of reported fires in homes with sprinklers increased from one percent in 1980–1984 to six percent in 2006–2010, reports NFPA Journal--a major problem still lingers.
"One of the most poignant of the changes [outlined in "America Burning"] that has not only been ignored, but regulated away, deals with automatic sprinklers," Jeff Dorhauer, chief of the Osage Beach Fire Protection District in Missouri, wrote in a commentary published in 2015. "While code changes at both the national and local level have addressed automatic suppression...the State of Missouri falls short in one- and two-family dwellings." Similar to laws passed in other states, Missouri's towns can't adopt a code requiring fire sprinklers in these settings. Builders, however, must inform home buyers they can opt to sprinkler their home.
That's not enough, states Dorhauer, adding that his legislators have removed a community's ability to make the call on whether or not to sprinkler its new homes. "President Richard Nixon...[said] that Government could not completely regulate this country into safety. While I agree ... we must also realize that if we are to achieve a safer community that the same government cannot regulate away safety either."
Follow Dorhauer's lead and take a stance in support of home fire sprinkler requirements. Use these free resources from NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative to state your case.