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Our fire sprinkler advocates have told us on repeated occasions that they would like an easy-to-download toolkit filled with useful advocacy resources. Ask and you shall receive. 

 

NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative has created this free download that includes some of our most popular resources to help you better promote home fire sprinklers to the public, code-making bodies, and elected officials. The toolkit includes: 

 

  • our popular PowerPoint presentation on the fire concerns of today's modern homes, including research on lightweight construction
  • an eye-catching infographic underscoring our home fire problem
  • a video clip from our Faces of Fire campaign that humanizes the aftermath of home fires
  • facts sheets, and more

 

Download the toolkit today, and give us your feedback on this new resource by responding directly to this post. 

The Fire Sprinkler Initiative team was on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls last week presenting at the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs Mid-Term Meeting. We highlighted some key activities showcasing growing support for home fire sprinklers in Canada, including: 

 

  • an inquest into two home fires that led the Ontario's Office of the Chief Coroner to recommend "the installation of [fire] sprinklers as a component of fire and life safety in all newly constructed residential homes"
  •  a new study by the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Ontario underscoring a $7.6 billion economic loss from fire in unsprinklered homes
  • the first-of-its-kind Canadian sprinkler summit for the fire service and homebuilders held in Toronto earlier this year 

 

The latest endeavor is the creation of a new advocacy video produced by The Co-Operators, a Canadian insurance company that has been vocal in its support for home fire sprinklers. NFPA partnered with the Co-Operators for the video, which describes the role sprinklers can play in creating resilient communities, the truth behind common sprinkler misconceptions, and how sprinklers can safeguard firefighters, especially in rural communities. Please help share this important video with your contacts, and note the growing support for this technology throughout North America, not just in the U.S. 

 

A woman who lost her brother, sister-in-law, and their four grandchildren in a 2015 house fire in Annapolis, Maryland, is urging the public to take simple yet proactive steps that could save lives this holiday season. 

 

Sher Grogg, one of the newest voices for the group Common Voices, an advocates' coalition determined to create a fire-safe America, is the face behind the coalition's #DoItForDon campaign. "[Don, my brother] would want me to spread information that could save other families’ lives," says Grogg. “The tragic fire that claimed six members of my family was started by their Christmas tree. Don died trying to save his loved ones. There are simple steps that everyone should know to keep their family safe. We also know that if the house had fire sprinklers, the outcome would have been much different."

 

While underscoring home fire sprinklers, the holiday campaign is also asking fire safety advocates to share a special flyer on Christmas tree safety with local tree sellers, take a special pledge on home fire safety, and share the video below underscoring Grogg's story and home fire safety. Please help spread the message by posting the video on social media and sharing with your contacts. Don't forget the hashtag, #DoItForDon! 

 

In the November edition of NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter, read how a recent death of a six-year-old girl—and comments from a homebuilder downplaying the severity of today’s home fires—prompted NFPA and a sprinkler coalition to action. You'll also learn about: 

 

  • a new study that places the economic loss from home fires in the billions of dollars
  • how legislators, water purveyors, and homeowners in states requiring home fire sprinklers view this technology
  • a new timeline underscoring the speed of today's home fires

 

Stay informed as a growing grassroots movement in support of home fire sprinklers spreads across North America. Subscribe today to our free, monthly Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter.

A few ingenious minds in Oregon have secured federal dollars to safeguard some and educate entire communities on a key, home safety technology.  

 

Members of the Oregon Fire Sprinkler Coalition have received a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to fire sprinkler two new homes. While the grant will cover the installation costs in homes, the money will second as a public education tactic for the necessity of home fire sprinklers in all new homes. 

 

"We'd really like to get the message out [that] if you are building a new house, consider putting a sprinkler system in," Greg Kleinberg, a coalition member and fire marshal for Medford Fire-Rescue, told the local media. His department and Ashland Fire and Rescue received the grant. "They will save your family's lives, and they will save your property."

 

Kleinberg told NFPA that fire sprinkler contractors are currently bidding on the project, and the installations will be completed by January. Check this blog often for updates to this story. In the meantime, watch this news clip highlighting the installations.

The Western Massachusetts Fire Chiefs Association took a break from a recent meeting to underscore their support for home fire sprinklers. Each chief received a home fire sprinkler and were instructed to keep it in their turnout coat for quick access during news conference at the scene of a home fire. (View this blog on how to effectively promote home fire sprinklers at fire scenes.) 

 

Front and center of this photo is Mary Regan, a Massachusetts fire chief and chair of the Massachusetts Fire Sprinkler Coalition. This group is diligently working to get requirements for home fire sprinklers passed in their state. Regan is also holding a copy of the special sprinkler issue of NFPA Journal.

 

Learn what the coalition and other coalitions have been up to by visiting their state coalition pages.

 

Here's a commentary of a home fire that occurred earlier this year and killed five people in Virginia. The commentary focuses on the Chesterfield County Fire and EMS Department doing all they could to save the residents, but were up against a daunting task. 

 

"The root cause of this tragedy is not the lack of a well-trained and well-equipped fire department response," wrote Robert Avsec in his commentary. "Without a residential fire sprinkler system, this fire quickly grew to a size and magnitude that engulfed the majority of the structure before the first firefighters arrived on the scene.

 

"Because a residential sprinkler system was not installed in this home, one family has suffered a catastrophic loss. Sprinklers need to be mandatory in all new...housing."

 

Avsec's commentary reminded me that fire scenes can serve as important locations to delicately weave in sprinkler messaging. While there has been great progress in mentioning whether or not working smoke alarms were present during home fires, could we be doing more to mention the presence--or lack thereof--of fire sprinklers post-fire? 

 

How you deliver sprinkler information is important. Please be delicate--you do not want to shame the victims for not having fire sprinklers in their home. Rather, you could state, "Had this home had home fire sprinklers, this tragedy may have been avoided." This statement could lead to a nice segue with reporters--or in a news release on the fire--regarding:

 

  • sprinkler effectiveness ("Home fire sprinklers reduce your risk of dying in home fires by 80 percent")
  • sprinklers being a model building code requirement ("all model building codes used in the U.S. require fire sprinklers in new homes, but our state's decision makers have refused to adopt this requirement," if this indeed matches what has happened in your region) 
  • sprinkler cost ("When factoring in a home's total construction cost, fire sprinklers account for a mere one percent")

 

Speaking in soundbites will resonate with reporters. 

 

So, the next time you're at the scene of a fire and/or crafting a news release about a home fire, delicately weave in some sprinkler messaging. 

 

Need additional tips or resources? Visit NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative site for help. 

There were no screams, no pain. Pamela Elliott can’t even recall the smoke or flames that enveloped her bedroom inside her West Virginia home as she awoke that April day in 1959. Elliott does remember a young man, a stranger who saw the fire from the highway, wrapping her in his navy-blue jacket and whisking her to safety.

 

Elliott, then five, screamed only when she assumed the man carrying her was going to throw her into a nearby rose bush. Instead, he gently placed her in his car and sped to the nearest hospital.

 

Third-degree burns covered half her body, but they hardly fazed her. Neither did the realization that the fire had fused the end joints of her fingers; the digits, while altered, were fully functional. “My mother instilled in me that I was just like any other little girl and I can do anything other little girls can do,” says Elliott, who lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She spent more than a decade undergoing reconstructive surgery during her elementary and high school years, she says, but not a single peer poked fun at her appearance.

 

Then came college. She had her heart set on becoming a physician’s assistant, but Elliott was told by medical personnel that her appearance “would instill in patients a deeper fear” of doctors. “Honey, what happened to you?” was a common query while she attended Piedmont International University. “That’s when I became acutely aware of my appearance,” says Elliott. “I became an angry, snotty, bitter woman.”

 

Read how Elliott turned her anger into advocacy for home fire sprinklers by reading her profile in the special sprinkler edition of NFPA Journal.

We need your help to defeat a code proposal that would eliminate a crucial requirement to fire sprinkler all new dwellings. 

 

Final action voting for the next edition of the International Code Council's (ICC) International Residential Code (IRC) is occurring now. One of the proposals, RB129-16, would eliminate the code's requirement to sprinkler all new dwellings. Although the proposal was rejected by the IRC Code Development Committee in April and by ICC members attending the public comment hearing in October, these actions could be overturned by ICC members during online voting. To ensure that the sprinkler requirement remains in the IRC, it is necessary for ICC voting governmental members to vote against RB129-16 in the online voting process. The voting deadline has now been extended to November 27. 

 

The future of home fire safety in America hinges on winning this vote. Home fire sprinklers represent our best chance of finally eliminating America's home fire problem. Moreover, sprinkler requirements have overwhelming support in states requiring them, according to this new study. We’ve been successful in defending that requirement in the 2009, 2012, and 2015 editions of the IRC. Losing now would set back home fire safety for decades.

 

For voting information, please see this guide created by the ICC.

The following was written by Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president of Outreach and Advocacy: 

 

Sprinklers have been around for more than 100 years. They are effective and affordable and have been included in all model building codes since 2009. They have been the focus of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition’s education work for 20 years.

 

So why are we still not seeing the widespread use of this proven technology?

 

Perhaps the biggest reason is the clout of the homebuilding industry, the same industry that fought smoke alarms and other safety devices in homes by saying they would thwart housing sales and deter people from buying new homes. There have been more than 40 million single-family homes built in the United States since 1977, and more than four million built since the sprinkler requirement was included in model building codes. Imagine how many lives would be better protected from fire if all of those homes had been built with sprinklers.

 

Although there has been a great deal of progress, it continues to be an enormous challenge to reach the masses with this level of safety. That effort has been going on since 1973, when the National Commission on Fire Prevention and Control delivered its final report to the President of the United States on the country’s fire problem. The report, “America Burning,” was viewed as a seminal moment in addressing fires in the modern era. It contained far-ranging recommendations for local, state, and national efforts to reduce loss of life and property. From the report came the creation of the U.S. Fire Administration, the National Fire Academy, federal grant programs, and the endorsement of sustained efforts to prevent fires through codes and standards, research, fire prevention, and smoke alarms. This was also the time that smoke alarms were beginning to enter the market for homes, and we know they have proved to be a major contributor to saving lives ever since.

 

Included in “America Burning” was a discussion on fire sprinklers. The authors touted the benefits of automatic extinguishing systems, noting that sprinklers combined with detection offered a much greater level of protection for lives and property. For use in homes, they noted, sprinklers had to be cheap and aesthetically acceptable.

All of that has happened. Home fire sprinklers are affordable; studies have found the average installation cost is $1.35 per sprinklered square foot. In areas where they’re required, the cost can be even lower. They are aesthetically pleasing and can be flush-mounted, matching the ceiling or decor colors. You hardly know they’re there.

 

A recent series of news stories by ProPublica, an public-interest investigative journalism organization, chronicled the housing industry’s campaign to prohibit sprinkler requirements in at least 25 states—an unprecedented move to bypass the code process that has served the public good for decades. The approach was simple: go directly to legislative action, in many instances, and spend money to ensure sprinklers aren’t allowed. ProPublica’s reporting cited information from the National Institute on Money in State Politics that said the housing industry spent more than $517 million in state politics over the last decade. It’s hard to compete with that.

 

While it’s true that we’re being outspent, we should not be out-motivated. The fire service, for instance, has always been the leading champion of fire safety and a consistent, respected voice for prevention. But that voice has been less consistent regarding home sprinklers, and at a time when aggressive advocacy and education are needed most. I’m not sure if it’s a lack of understanding about the value of home fire sprinklers, a bit of fatigue in a long fight, or something else. But it surfaces in places where you don’t expect it. A city fire marshal recently expressed support for removing the fire sprinkler requirement from the next edition of the model residential code, saying the fire service doesn’t support home sprinklers. As evidence, he offered the fact that many in the fire service, as well as other public officials, don’t have sprinklers in their own homes. That is misguided logic. It’s like saying the automotive industry should not have added seatbelts to cars because Henry Ford didn’t have them in his Model T. This isn’t about everyone who supports sprinklers retrofitting their homes; it’s about building safer homes for generations to come.

 

That same fire marshal also said the number of residential fires has not risen to an unacceptable risk. Over the 40 years that those 40 million single-family homes were built, there were 120,905 civilian deaths and 495,610 civilian injuries in fires in one- and two-family homes. Over that period, 678 firefighters were killed in fires in one- and two-family homes. Today, the majority of fire-related civilian and firefighter deaths and injuries occur in home fires. This is happening at a time when fires in new homes—a result of building materials, home design, and the fuel load inside homes—are reaching flashover and leading to structural collapse faster than ever before. It is happening as we learn more about the cancer toll on firefighters exposed to toxins in fires. Is this acceptable risk? No, it is not.

 

Since 2009, model codes have identified sprinklers as the minimum level of safety in new one- and two-family homes. It is time to recommit to the notion that civilians and firefighters need not die in home fires. An affordable, reliable solution exists that will have an impact for generations to come. With a unified voice we can make home fire sprinklers as common as smoke alarms, and we can save lives.

 

This commentary originally appeared in the special sprinkler issue of NFPA Journal. Visit the Journal site for additional articles from the issue.

NFPA recently convened some of America's top fire safety leaders during its State Fire Marshals Forum held in Quincy, Massachusetts. Presenting to the group was NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative team, which gauged their opinions on home fire sprinklers via a survey conducted before the event. With nearly half of the country's state fire marshals responding, this is what we found: 

 

 

A vast majority of fire marshals support either a statewide, sprinkler requirement or giving local jurisdictions the ability to adopt fire sprinkler requirements 

 

Many survey takers noted their state's ability to adopt fire sprinkler requirements on a local level, while others noted that their state is prohibited from adopting any fire sprinkler requirement 

When asked about their sprinkler advocacy efforts, the fire marshals mainly pointed to legislator/code-making body outreach, involvement on a state sprinkler coalition, and participating/conducting live burn/fire sprinkler demonstrations. 

 

During our presentation, we linked attendees with resources they were craving, including:

During an event held this week, the public was alerted to a new Canadian study underscoring the economic loss associated with fires occurring in unsprinklered homes. The media and Canada's fire service officials attended the event, which included the unveiling of key statistics from the new study and a live burn/fire sprinkler demonstration. Here are some photos from the event: 

Burn survivor Sandra Treacy underscored how her injuries from a home fire has led to countless surgeries.

Partners in protection: NFPA's Shayne Mintz (left) joins Maya Milardovic from The Co-Operators, a Canadian insurer, and Matt Osburn with the Canadian Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (CASA) at the event. The Co-Operators and CASA co-sponsored the new study.

A TV film crew documents the live burn/fire sprinkler demonstration at the event.

Canadian researchers have quantified the exhorbitant, economic loss associated with residential fires in homes without fire sprinklers. 

 

Conducted by the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Ontario, the study has placed a (Canadian) dollar amount on potential years of lives lost and cost of fire deaths at home. Over a 14-year period: 

  • there was a collective loss of 24,051 years of life due to fire
  • the study concluded that these lives that were shortened or lost from fire cost the Canadian economy $7.6 billion Canadian ($5.6 billion U.S.).
  • the average cost to treat a burn patient averaged $85,000 Canadian ($64,000 U.S.)

 

"I was burned in a house fire in March 2014, and after two years, I've actually lost count of how many surgeries I've had," said Sandra Treacy, a burn survivor who spoke at a news conference today underscoring the new study. "I'm still undergoing treatment, so I haven't been able to return to work." 

 

Treacy joined NFPA and an array of life safety advocates during the event held at the Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute in Mississauga. Also attending the event was the Canadian Automatic Sprinkler Association and The Co-Operators, a Canadian insurance company, which co-sponsored the study. 

 

Released last year, the first phase of Sunnybrook's study analyzed the cost of treating patients injured from home fires, placing treatment costs at $96 million Canadian ($71 million U.S.). When all resources were accounted for--including rehabilitation, transportation, and property loss--that number swelled to $3.6 billion Canadian ($2.2 billion U.S.). 

 

Check this blog often for more information on this groundbreaking study. 

A 15-month campaign on home fire sprinklers in New York has increased public awareness of this technology and helped state advocates fight for the passage of fire sprinklers.

 

Made possible by a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Home Fire Sprinkler Awareness Project is a multimedia endeavor incorporating messages on a home fire sprinkler's life-saving capability. Initiated by the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs (NYSAFC), the campaign: 

 

  • developed a public service announcement centered around the fire death of a two-year-old girl in a new, New York home (video below)
  • created a full-color brochure on fire sprinklers given to every state fire department and code-enforcement official
  • initiated five media events and live fire demonstrations that garned media coverage

 

These components complement NYSAFC resources found in their home fire sprinkler advocacy and awareness toolbox. (NYSAFC is a member of the New York Fire Sprinkler Initiative.) Peek inside their toolbox to see what you might be able to replicate in your state or region. 

 

A new study by the Fire Protection Research Foundation highlights positive opinions of home fire sprinklers by homeowners and most government officials in U.S. states required to fire sprinkler its new homes.


The new report, “Stakeholder Perceptions of Home Fire Sprinklers,” analyzes the opinions of three groups—government officials, homeowners, and water purveyors—following the passage of statewide requirements for home fire sprinklers. Researchers surveyed stakeholders in California and Maryland, where fire sprinklers are required in all new homes. California’s statewide requirement went into effect in 2011. Following a state building code update in 2015, fire sprinklers are now required in all of Maryland’s new homes. All U.S. model building codes include the requirement to sprinkler new, one- and two-family homes, where the majority of fire deaths and injuries occur each year.


Key findings from the report include:

  • The majority of homeowners surveyed had a positive view of sprinklers and would seek to include them in their next home
  • Most homeowners did not know whether fire sprinklers were part of a home's cost or if they incurred an additional cost for sprinklers, which refutes claims from opponents that fire sprinklers are "expensive" and "consumers won’t pay for them"
  • Nearly 70 percent of homeowners noted that their fire sprinklers resulted in a reduction in their home insurance
  • When asked about the effects home fire sprinklers have on homes in their jurisdiction, most government officials viewed the technology positively
  • Entities overseeing the states’ water resources noted that water quality was “not at all” an issue due to cross-contamination safeguards
  • Most of Maryland and California’s water purveyors did not require separate meters for home fire sprinklers. Moreover, the majority of purveyors did not implement separate service or upsized lines to water meters

 

“Based on our research, there is a deep appreciation of home fire sprinklers by homeowners and local government officials,” says Liza Bowles, president of Newport Partners, which conducted the survey on behalf of the Fire Protection Research Foundation. “Moreover, water purveyors in California and Maryland also expressed little concern for fire sprinkler performance once the state’s sprinkler requirements went into effect. We hope the study allays concerns regarding home fire sprinkler requirements, particularly the notion that home fire sprinklers negatively impact water supplies.”

 



Download the report for more information.

Following a news conference last week underscoring a recent fire death of a six-year-old girl in a new home, the Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition has continued to spotlight this tragedy and inaction by state decision makers to create safer homes.

 

Following the October 25 event, the coalition placed a full-page ad in the Hartford Courant detailing tactics by fire sprinkler opponents that have prevented the passage of fire sprinkler requirements in new homes. "These opponents claim this technology is 'burdensome, not necessary, expensive'--all myths countered by solid research," states the ad. "Allowing these lies to perpetuate is what's killing our residents in the place that they feel safest."

 

Coalition Chair Keith Flood also penned a commentary published by the Courant. "The Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Connecticut has stated sprinklers are too expensive and unnecessary since 'nobody is dying in new homes from fires.' How many more residents have to die before we stop listening to this rhetoric and finally take our home fire problem seriously?" he states. "The solution [home fire sprinklers] to this problem exists. Join us in demanding safer homes."

 

Please join the Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition in demanding for safer homes. These free resources by NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative can get you started. 

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