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2016

In the latest edition of our Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter, read how a fire sprinkler opponent’s claim that “nobody is dying in new homes from fire” was sadly negated after the recent death of a six-year-old girl in a new home. You’ll also read about: 

 

• the history of home fire sprinklers in America, and what it will take to get every new home sprinklered 


• why fire sprinkler ordinances won’t place firefighters out of a job (still a common myth)


• TV home improvement guru Ron Hazelton’s extensive career promoting fire sprinklers

 

Thousands of fire sprinkler advocates have signed up to receive our free, monthly newsletter. Are you one of them? Don't miss an issue--subscribe today!

Cindy Giedraitis (left), regional manager with the National Fire Sprinkler Association, joined Texas State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy (right) in presenting a fire sprinkler award to Tim Dedear, the Farmers Branch, Texas, Fire Department's deputy chief/fire marshal, and Wendi Kimpton, the department's fire prevention training coordinator

 

A number of safety professionals across the U.S. have received a pat on the back for prioritizing fire sprinklers. 

 

The Texas Fire Sprinkler Coalition recently honored two fire departments for promoting fire sprinkler activations via the media. The Farmers Branch Fire Department was recognized for receiving the highest number of sprinkler activations--seven in total--in Texas in 2016. Receiving the award was Tim Dedear, the department's deputy chief/fire marshal, and Wendi Kimpton, the department's fire prevention training coordinator.

 

The coalition also honored the Conroe Fire Department for publishing three sprinkler saves and producing news releases published by local media. Accepting the award was Andy Nokes, the department's lieutenant/deputy fire marshal, and Assistant Fire Chief Mike Legoudes, Jr. 

 

Similarly, Division Chief and Fire Marshal Tim Behlings with the Rapid City, South Dakota, Fire Department received the 2016 Fire Sprinklers Saves Lives Award. Presented by the American Fire Sprinkler Association, the award recognizes individuals who generate public awareness of this life-saving technology.

 

Behlings was pivotal in initiating the Rapid City Life Safety Loan Program, which supports fire sprinkler retrofitting. A member of the South Dakota Fire Sprinkler Coalition, he also has assisted with amending the state fire code to significantly reduce the threshold for requiring fire sprinklers in certain settings.

 

Congratulations to all of recipients!

 


Is there a fire sprinkler advocate in your region that deserves recognition? Let NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative know, and we may be able to highlight their efforts on this blog.

 

If you're not using social media to promote home fire safety, you're missing out on linking important messages to large audiences.

NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative recently hosted its latest webinar, "#TheSolutionExists: Using Social Media to Underscore Today's Fire Problem & Home Fire Sprinklers." Whether you're a social media novice or expert, you'll learn key tactics in fine-tuning your messaging to promote the alarming frequency of today's home fires and the power of home fire sprinklers in creating safer home environments. You'll also learn how to:

 

 

 

Showcasing its commitment to increasing safety at home, NFPA has produced an issue of its magazine solely dedicated to home fire sprinklers. 

 

Released this month, the special edition of NFPA Journal offers a comprehensive look at this technology from a variety of angles. There are compelling viewpoints from some of the top sprinkler advocates across the U.S., commentary on how to combat sprinkler opponents, and a detailed look at the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. We'll be highlighting various components of the issue on this blog in upcoming weeks. 

 

In the meantime, please read "The Final Frontier," the feature story that sets the scene for the entire issue. The story highlights a four-decade push for home fire sprinklers and asks the question: what will it take to get this life-saving technology into all new homes? 

 

We'd love your feedback on the issue. Once signed into Xchange, please respond directly to this blog and let us know what you think of the special edition. And please share these stories with your social media contacts and regional decision makers. 

During a recent news conference, Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition Chair Keith Flood, NFPA, and the state's top fire service leaders address a recent fire that killed a six-year-old girl in a new home

 

Connecticut’s top fire service organizations joined NFPA at the South Fire District in Middletown, Connecticut, this week to address a home fire in September that killed a six-year-old girl in a new home and inaction by state decision makers to provide a key safety feature in new homes.

 

“I find it appalling that in 2016 we continue to witness the devastation from home fires when the solution to this problem has existed for years,” Keith Flood, fire marshal for the West Haven Fire Department and chair of the Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition, said at today’s event. “Inaction by our state’s decision makers has led to another tragedy. We need them to finally start embracing home fire sprinklers and stop listening to the rhetoric by local fire sprinkler opponents. Now is the time to bolster laws that will lead to safer homes for future generations.”

 

Earlier this year, the six-year-old girl and her family moved into their Plainfield home. Had the home followed requirements found in all U.S. model building codes when it was built earlier this year, it should have included fire sprinklers. This technology can reduce the risk of dying in home fires by 80 percent, according to NFPA.

 

However, Connecticut’s code-making body has decided not to adopt this requirement each time it has updated the state building code since 2010. Similarly, legislative bills that would have required fire sprinklers in new homes have been defeated with help from local fire sprinkler opponents. These opponents, mainly the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Connecticut, claim this technology is burdensome, not necessary, and expensive—all myths countered by solid research. 

 

 

At today’s event, which was covered by a local news station and a Fox affiliate, a side-by-side fire demonstration using two identical structures underscored how quickly fire spreads in homes and how rapidly home fire sprinklers can extinguish fires. Moreover, the local fire service once again urged state decision makers to pass a requirement to fire sprinkler all new homes following the recent tragedy. Backing this requirement is the Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition, which was formed in 2014 to educate the public and state’s decision makers on how this technology can successfully combat the state’s home fire problem.

 

Connecticut law requires homebuilders to offer fire sprinklers as an option to homebuyers, but state fire officials say this option doesn’t go far enough to protect lives.

NFPA's Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy, underscores the necessity of home fire sprinklers at the Connecticut event

 

The Connecticut Coalition is part of a grassroots movement aimed at eliminating home fire deaths and injuries. There are now 30 state sprinkler coalitions addressing America’s home fire problem. “Fire sprinklers are virtually commonplace in every other setting except the place where fire causes the most injury and death,” Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy, said at the Connecticut event. “States and communities across the country have seen the successes of creating requirements for fire sprinklering new homes. Connecticut, too, can make a significant improvement in its home fire problem by requiring fire sprinklers, which research proves can be a cost-effective addition to new homes."

With a tagline of "home is where our heart is," Angie's List takes home safety seriously.

 

The company, which runs a website offering crowd-sourced reviews of local businesses, has conducted its own investigation into what is making today's home fires so catastrophic. Ken Willette, a segment director for NFPA and 35-year veteran firefighter, said in a story written for the company that research comparing home fires then versus now mirrors what he has seen in the field. During his firefighter training, firefighters expected a room to hit the point of flashover after about 10 minutes of heavy fire development. “All of our expectations have changed in terms of the volume of fire that firefighters can expect on arrival and how quickly a building will fail,” Willette told Angie's List. “That 10 minutes has become three minutes."

 

Also interviewed for the story was Jeff Hudson, one of NFPA's regional fire sprinkler specialists highlighted in NFPA's Faces of Fire Campaign. While fire chief for the Shawnee, Kansas, Fire Department, he lost fellow firefighter and friend John Glaser, 33, during a home fire response. "He was working in very dangerous conditions," said Hudson. "Had there been home fire sprinklers in that house, we probably would have ended up with a few firefighters just cleaning up water waste and [would have returned] safe at home with their families that night." Hudson recently moved into a new home fully equipped with fire sprinklers.

 

Angie's List suggests installing fire sprinklers can be one of the best ways to protect residents from fire. 

 

Read the full story for more information. 

sprinkler myths.jpgThe following was written by Gregg A. Cleveland, fire chief of the La Crosse, Wisconsin, Fire Department and chair of the Wisconsin Fire Sprinkler Coalition:

 

"Newer homes are safer homes" is a main argument from homebuilders pertaining to home fire sprinklers. I recently read an article from a leading homebuilding advocate that identified a number of reasons why homes should not require this technology, since "no one is dying in newly constructed homes." What, then, is a definition of a newly constructed home?

 

If I buy a new car, take it home, and bring it back years later, it is no longer a “new” car. I certainly will not get the same price I paid for it because it is no longer "new." When is a new home no longer new?  When does it become an existing or old home?  I have yet to find the answer to this question.

 

Recently a six-year-old Connecticut girl died in a Habitat for Humanity home that was constructed only months ago. The issue is not whether she died in a new or older home; the issue is she perished in her home, where most fire fatalities occur. I simply don’t understand the new-versus-old home analogy. All homes get old at some point. It is like getting hanged with an old rope or a new rope--the result is the same.

 

All homes become old at some point in their life cycle.  It would seem logical that if we require new homes to have home fire sprinklers, we will not have fatalities in new or old homes.

 

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Share this eye-catching infographic on social media and elsewhere to alert the public that the claim "new homes are safer homes" is bogus.

ME_FSI.jpgResponding to a commentary that questioned the necessity of requirements for home fire sprinklers, a fire official has given solid facts on why this requirement has been a tremendous benefit in his town.

 

Years ago, Rockland, Maine, adopted NFPA 101, Life Safety Code®, and decided to include the requirement to sprinkler new, one- and two-family homes. [Maine does not require sprinklers statewide, but allows jurisdictions to adopt.] The fire chief at the time helped "educate the city council and those interested in the benefits of sprinklers, and subsequently the council adopted the Life Safety Code,"  wrote Assistant Fire Chief Adam Miceli with the Rockland Fire Department in his commentary. "The fire department...merely supported leaving the requirements as they were written by NFPA.

 

"We feel it is the fire department's role to provide the citizens and council with factual best practices and information and allow them to decide what measures to legislate."

 

As a fire service member, Miceli and his colleagues also see the reality behind statistics. In the commentary to which he responds, the author questions the necessity of sprinklers due to the effectiveness of smoke alarms. "NFPA estimates that residents have a 99.45 percent change of surviving a fire if a working smoke alarm is present," wrote Miceli, a member of the Maine Fire Sprinkler Coalition. "Rockland firefighters can tell you firsthand how few homes in our community have working smoke alarms. During last fall's smoke alarm campaign, we evaluated over 50 homes. Only one of the 50 homes had properly working smoke alarms. Many were too outdated to be reliable.

 

"All conditions would need to be perfect to reach the 99.45 percent statistical mark. On the other hand, home fire sprinklers, once installed, require next to no continual checks or maintenance."

 

Cost-saving "trade-ups" have also made Rockland's sprinkler requirement palatable to local builders. There you'll find longer access drives without turnarounds and water mains sized for domestic systems versus ones to accommodate fire hydrants.

 

Miceli admits that allowing consumers to decide whether or not to install this life-saving technology has its drawbacks. "I know of only two [sprinkler] systems in Rockland that pre-date the ordinance requiring them."

 

Further educating the public on sprinkler benefits has been a priority of Rockland and the Maine State Fire Marshal's Office.

 

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Read this recent story on Rockland sprinklering its first Habitat for Humanity home.

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Arguments from proponents and opponents of home fire sprinklers will culminate in a crucial vote by the city council for Gig Harbor, Washington, on whether to sprinkler its new dwellings. Not requiring this life-safety technology would be "shortsighted," according to local fire officials who hope Gig Harbor joins more than a half-dozen Washington towns with a sprinkler ordinance.

 

For months, both sides have debated the necessity of sprinklering Gig Harbor's homes. According to a local news story, city officials and building industry representatives opposed to sprinkler requirements met over the summer to see if they could agree to a compromise. "No common ground was reached on the fire sprinkler debate," according to the story.

 

“[The Master Builders Association of Pierce County] looks at the national fire protection statistics and sees them one way, and we see them the other way,” Paul rice, Gig Harbor's building official and fire marshal told The News Tribune. “The main statistic we look at is that home fire sprinklers reduce the chance of death by 80 percent, and that is a huge, huge number for us.”

 

Countering another popular claim that fire sprinklers aren't on homebuyers' must-have lists is a 2014 survey conducted on behalf of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition that the majority of respondents were more likely to buy a home with fire sprinklers than without them.

 

The Gig Harbor vote on the sprinkler requirement is set for Oct. 24. Check this blog for updates to this story.

IAFC.pngWhen it comes to promoting the solution to end North America's home fire problem, Fire Chief John Sinclair states, "we can do more, and need to do more. The best fire is the one that doesn't happen or is out before we arrive."

 

As the newly appointed president and board chair for the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), Sinclair urged his companions in the field to make a serious push for home fire sprinklers. In a recent letter, he pitched NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative website, stating that it gives "a local fire chief...plenty of helpful information for meeting with local builders about the average cost of home fire sprinklers and the evolving science." Whether your push for sprinklers is on the local or regional level, NFPA is there to help, he added.

 

Sinclair also noted that state sprinkler coalitions have been formed in more than half the country. NFPA is an active member of every coalition, and works with state fire chiefs and other safety advocates to create others. "[NFPA] is an everyday friend, ally, and partner as we work on major issues. Every time we as the IAFC tackle[s] an issue involving prevention, NFPA is there, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with us."

 

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Please heed Chief Sinclair's advice and use the free resources created by NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative.

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If you haven't registered for our free webinar on harnessing the power of social media to underscore North America's biggest fire problem, please do so today.

 

"#TheSolutionExists: Using Social Media to Underscore Today's Fire Problem & Home Fire Sprinklers," takes place Thursday, October 20 at 12:30 p.m. EST. You'll learn NFPA's tactics for promoting the fire problem in today's homes; building a large support base for home fire sprinklers, the solution to this problem; enticing people to not only "like" your content but also take action; and developing strategies on where and what to post on social media. Lauren Backstrom, NFPA's social media manager, and Fred Durso, communications manager for NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative, will be your presenters.

 

Register today for this important webinar.

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The following post was written by Marty Ahrens, NFPA's senior manager of data strategy and analytics:

 

It may be hard to believe, but NFPA's latest report on home structure fires shows that in 2010-2014, five general fire causes accounted for 84 percent of reported home fires, 91 percent of home fire deaths, and 82 percent of home fire injuries.

 

1. Cooking equipment was the leading cause of home fires and fire injuries, causing 46 percent of home fires that resulted in 19 percent of the home fire deaths and 44 percent of the injuries.

2. Heating equipment caused 16 percent of home fires, 19 percent of the deaths, and 12 percent of the injuries.

3. Electrical distribution or lighting equipment caused eight percent of the fires, 16 percent of the deaths, and nine percent of the injuries.

4. Eight percent of home structure fires were intentionally set.  These fires caused 14 percent of the deaths and 7 percent of the injuries.

5. While only five percent of home fires were started by smoking materials, these fires caused 22 percent of the deaths and 10 percent of the injuries.

 

We know what causes fires. We know how to prevent them. We have made progress. Reported home fires and home fire deaths have been cut in half since 1980.  Even so, home fires still kill roughly 2,500 people per year. That's an average of seven people dying in home fires every day!

 

According to NFPA's recent report, "Fire Loss in the United States during 2015," the death rate per 1,000 reported home fires was 7.1 in 1980; in 2015, it was 7.0, only 1 percent lower.  This suggests that most of our progress has come from preventing fires completely or from the early warning from smoke alarms.  While almost all homes have at least one smoke alarm,  roughly three out of five home fire deaths in 2010-2014 resulted from fires in homes in which either no smoke alarm was present (39 percent) or at least one alarm was present but none operated (19 percent). Ensuring that every home has working smoke alarms is critical. NFPA's has educational materials on smoke alarms for local use.

 

Fire sprinklers were present in only seven percent of reported home fires. The death rate per 1,000 reported home fires when wet-pipe sprinklers were present was 79 percent lower than it was in home fires with no automatic extinguishing systems. Home fire sprinklers can control a fire before the fire department gets there. The Fire Sprinkler Initiative has resource materials for sprinkler advocacy.

 

As the author of NFPA's "Home Structure Fires" report, I want to personally thank the firefighters, life safety educators, and others who work so hard to prevent fires and to protect people from the fires that do occur. I hope that this report can be one weapon in the fight against fire. For more specific information about the fire causes mentioned in the beginning of the piece, check out the statistical reports under "fire causes" on our website.  And please--help us help you. What types of fire experience statistics would help you in your work?  Let us know by replying directly to this post.

home fire sprinklers.jpgIt's hard to compete with doom-and-gloom news broadcasts or headlines. Rarely are "today's top stories" anything all that feel-good. For instance, when was the last time you watched TV news anchors lead with a story about a mother reuniting with her long-lost son? You're more likely to see something involving people in peril, (this month particularly) one presidential candidate attacking another, or anything involving compelling--and destructive--video footage, such as fire.

 

Like it or not, that's the reality of the news world. How, then, do we promote the importance of a fire sprinkler activation--something that (to the device's credit) typically does not produce compelling video footage, death, or injury? Is there a way to spice up an activation so that it gets on the media's radar?

 

Here are some tips, including a couple examples of "sprinkler saves" done right. Pay attention to the compelling quotes used by the advocates and the focus taken by the media when underscoring these stories:

 

"Sprinkler system likely prevented major damage in McKinney home"

 

The McKinney, Texas, Fire Department should be commended for alerting the media to this activation, but also mentioning what a disastrous situation it might have been had sprinklers not been installed. "This successful sprinkler save demonstrates the effectiveness of automatic fire sprinklers," said Deputy Fire Marshal Andrew Barr. "Had a sprinkler not been present, the outcome may have been very different."

 

He also provided some key facts that are just as eye-opening as any fire. "In residences with sprinklers, 90 percent of fires are contained by the activation of just one sprinkler. In a building without sprinklers...the fire has likely grown to levels requiring the use of multiple lines of fire hose, flowing water at 125 gallons per minute." Highlighting these activations are also key around the time of high-profile fires that have occurred in your region, as a means of creating a "tale-of-two-home fires" comparison for the public.

 

"Sprinkler System Saves Lives"

 

When it comes to highlighting sprinkler saves, details can be crucial, since the media loves a good story. The Laramie County Fire District #1 in Wyoming recently detailed its response to a residential fire. When they arrived at the evacuated apartment, they noticed light smoke and only one sprinkler activated in the kitchen. An unattended pan of oil on the stove had caught fire and spread to nearby cabinets, but sprinklers completely extinguished the fire, limiting minor damage only to the kitchen.  "Properly working smoke alarms and the quick action of the sprinkler limited damage to the residence and prevented injury to the occupant."

 

One other note: make sure you have props. The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition suggests having a sprinkler on hand to show reporters.

 

Download our sprinkler media guide for more tidbits.

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