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.