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2016

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During a news conference this week, fire sprinkler advocates in New Jersey demonstrated how quickly an unkempt Christmas tree can go up in flames. While underscoring holiday safety tips, they also highlighted how home fire sprinklers can extinguish the flames or help keep them tenable until the fire department arrives.

 

New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski, a longtime supporter of fire sprinklers, joined members of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Coalition during the demonstration. "The holiday season should be a time of joy," Wisniewski said at the event. "But each year, fires caused by Christmas trees or holiday decorations bring tragedy to families all across our country."

 

According to NFPA, one quarter of all Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems. One in every four tree fires is also caused by the tree being too close to a heat source. Follow these safety tips to keep your home fire-free this year, and watch this video from the demonstration of a Christmas tree on fire in a mock home with and without fire sprinklers. The results are night and day. 

It's small. It fits in the palm of your hand. It can save your life. 

 

Safety advocates across North America are posing with home fire sprinklers. These photos underscore the simplicity of this life-saving technology while urging others to "ask for them" when in the process of building a new home.  

 

Sprinklers are also small enough for advocates to store in their pockets and grab at the ready, whether during live burn/fire sprinkler demonstrations or addressing the media at scenes of home fires. In the following photo, members of the New Hampshire Fire Sprinkler Coalition took a break from one of their meetings for a pose:

 

 

Members of the Connecticut Fire Marshals Association also did the same: 

 

Join these advocates and take a picture showing your support for home fire sprinklers. Send the photo to NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative or tweet the photo to us.  Also, consider a small donation to the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition to help them create a home fire sprinkler display.

If you're looking for a lesson on obtaining homebuilder support for fire sprinklers, look to Camas, Washington. 

 

Failing to secure an ordinance in 2003 to fire sprinkler the town's new homes, fire officials there developed another tactic: offer financial incentives to builders. The city began waiving fire impact fees on new homes equipped with fire sprinklers. According to an article that appeared on Fire Engineering, "the fee in Camas is 20 cents per square foot, or $700 for a 3,500-square-foot house, an amount that lessened the extra cost to builders of adding sprinklers."

 

Moreover, when builders asked for waivers to the fire code, city officials pitched home fire sprinklers. Narrower roads and an increased number of lots were some of the outcomes of the compromise. Sprinkler protection, stated the article, "would offset any increased risk in loosening the fire code."

 

The homebuilders bit. The number of sprinklered homes in Camas has swelled to about 7,500. This slow-and-steady approach to fire sprinkler acceptance also led to the passage of a sprinkler ordinance this year. The local building industry association, according to the article, submitted a letter in opposition, but did not testify against it during hearings.

 

"It was a very emotional moment for me," Randy Miller, deputy fire marshal for the Camas-Washougal Fire Department, said about the passage of the ordinance. "It's like a weight was taken off my shoulders."

 


Learn about all of the "trade-ups" homebuilders and developers can take advantage of if they fire sprinkler their homes. 

Created by members of the South Carolina Fire Sprinkler Coalition, this display uses fire sprinklers to underscore U.S. and state fire deaths. The sprinklers in the bin represent the 2,860 U.S. fire deaths in 2014 and the sprinklers on display represent the 63 fire deaths in South Carolina in 2015. 

 

Other states have created similar displays to showcase their home fire problem at public events and outings with the fire service. 

In November, a fire occurred at the National Wood Products of Maine in the town of Oxford. According to the Sun Journal, the fire erupted in a room housing a piece of machinery at risk of starting accidental fires. Since the building was sprinklered, the fire was extinguished in 20 minutes. 

 

"I have no doubt in my mind that if that sprinkler system wasn't there, things would've been much, much worse," Fire Chief Dennis Yates told the publication. "If a new nightclub were to open in town, that type of building would require sprinklers, according to the town's building code. It's not required for residences to install them."

 

This inconsistency in fire protection is prompting certain Mainers to change the status quo. Uniform fire protection--particularly sprinkler protection--across the state's new homes is the goal of the Maine Fire Sprinkler Coalition. "Some people have the benefit of early warning with smoke alarms, but [with flashovers in new homes starting in minutes], the time that people have to escape the fire is shrinking," said Joseph Tomas, the coalition's chair and Maine's state fire marshal. "We're trying to show people that if you have early-warning smoke alarms and residential sprinklers installed, your ability to escape improves."



One Maine town has already reaped the benefits of this dual protection. Read this case study on how a fire sprinkler requirement in Rockland, Maine, has been a tremendous benefit to the town. 

Last year, the New York Fire Prevention and Building Code Council adopted the 2015 edition of the International Residential Code, but decided to not adopt the requirement to sprinkler new, one- and two-family homes. While seen as a setback for home fire safety, an NFPA sprinkler advocate recently noted a glimmer of hope. 


"There are some important positives that came out of this battle," writes John Caufield, NFPA's Mid-Atlantic Regional Director, in a recent issue of Size Up (page 9-10), the magazine for the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs. "For one of the first times in recent memory, all of the primary fire service organizations, both code-making organizations, enforcement associations, as well as other interested parties such as burn victim advocates, architects, and engineers joined forces in supporting home fire sprinklers." Bringing these parties together for the cause were members of the New York Sprinkler Initiative, which joins 29 other states in educating and advocating for sprinklers.

 

While the efforts may not have led to a code requirement for home fire sprinklers (yet), it has bolstered public awareness of this technology. "Slowly but methodically, many fire chiefs are carrying the safety and prevention message out to their community members. It is becoming increasingly more common for fire chiefs, in their post-incident press briefings, to point out "this fire could have been far less serious, or even prevented, if home fire sprinklers were present."

 

Watch this video underscoring the power of forming an effective state sprinkler coalition:

 

Culling data from NFPA's 2016 "Home Structure Fires" report, a new fact sheet sheds light on the horrific effects of today's home fires. 

 

Did you know that from 2010 to 2014: 

 

  • there were more than 358,000 home structure fires on average each year?
  • home fires caused an astounding 93 percent of all civilian structure fire deaths and 87 percent of all civilian fire injuries?
  • on average, seven people died daily in U.S. home fires? 

 


Please download and share the fact sheet to underscore the enormity of our problem. Underscore these stats on Facebook or Twitter, since these tidbits are perfect for social media sharing. 

A proposal to remove a code requirement to sprinkler all new homes has been defeated. 

 

As we had reported on this blog, International Code Council (ICC) voting members were tasked with casting a vote supporting or opposing the proposal, which would have eliminated the requirement to sprinkler new, one- and two-family homes. The requirement has been in every edition of ICC's International Residential Code (IRC) since 2009. 

 

ICC's preliminary online voting results show that the proposal, RB 129-16, has been "disapproved" by voting members. Therefore, the requirement to install sprinklers in newly constructed homes will remain in the 2018 edition of the IRC. 

 

NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative team would like to thank sprinkler advocates nationwide for raising awareness about this crucial vote, and to the ICC members who helped keep this requirement intact. 

 

Now is the time to let your state code-making bodies and legislators know that this important requirement has now made it into four editions of the IRC. Please tell them that building homes without adhering to this requirement is building substandard housing. If fire sprinklers are an important enough requirement listed in all U.S. model building codes., why isn't this technology important enough to make it into all of our new homes? Use our advocacy materials to help bolster your message. 

In case you missed it, NFPA interviewed a fire official in Wales about how fire safety advocates secured a requirement to sprinkler all of the country's new homes beginning this year. Offering his congratulations in person for this effort was NFPA president Jim Pauley, who recently attended the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association's biennial conference in Cardiff, Wales' capital. 

 

The sprinkler requirement's passage followed a relentless push from Welsh fire service officials and Assembly Member Ann Jones (shown in the photo with Pauley), a vocal supporter for this technology. "We are inspired by your accomplishment and look to your success as an example of how it can be done," Pauley said during the conference. "I assure you, we are working extremely hard to follow your lead. With this, Wales is a global leader in home fire safety. The result will undoubtedly be lives saved for generations to come. You are to be thanked, admired, and copied."

 

Pauley also noted the same sprinkler pushback from the Welsh homebuilding industry also experienced in North America. "I guess I would say I was heartened to see that the U.S. is not alone in its opposition from the homebuilders when I looked at some of the press from Wales at the time  you were aggressively pushing this forward," he said. "I saw an article where builders said home fire sprinklers would scare away development in Wales."

 

To allay stakeholder concerns, Welsh officials organized committee meetings with all stakeholders-- the water industry, homebuilders, fire officials, and building-control authorities. Jones and the fire service worked together to address all critical points that came up during the meetings. 

 

"While we often feel the weight of the opposition, we cannot let that dissuade us," said Pauley. "We should not have to imagine a future where no one dies in a fire in the place they feel safest – their home. It can be a reality. Just has it has here in Wales."

If you think fire sprinklers in commercial settings are similar in scope to what you'd find inside a home, think again.

 

In a recent issue of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs Bugle, a fire sprinkler advocate clarifies the difference between NFPA 13, Installation of Sprinkler Systems, and NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes. 

 

"The biggest difference is cost," writes Tom Rinaldi with the New York State Codes Coalition. "An NFPA 13 system is what we normally find in commercial occupancies...and there are several variations."

 

Fire sprinklers installed in accordance with NFPA 13D are "very simple," stated Rinaldi, adding that there are no special valves or special equipment needed, leading to a less expensive installation. "The residential sprinkler...has been developed to allow  you, your family, and your pets to safely exit the dwelling. It will certainly limit damage as a secondary result." Read Rinaldi's article for more information on the difference between NFPA 13D and NFPA 13.

 

Also, check out this video of NFPA's sprinkler expert addressing freezing pipe concerns for fire sprinklers: 

 

Here is the second installment from our new blogger and fire sprinkler advocate Cindy Rutter, who was burned in a home fire when she was six years old: 

 

Growing up with burns on more than 85 percent of my body was not easy. Since kids made fun of me for many years, I wore clothing—turtleneck shirts and long pants, even during the summer—to conceal all of my burns, my face being the exception. Even after these attempts, people were ruthless in their staring and comments. I eventually become very thick-skinned and, with the support of my family, began to ignore the comments and stares, though the feeling of being inside a fishbowl never completely goes away.

 

I soon realized that my injuries were going to be a lifelong process, that my scars would never go away. I kept wondering how I could use what happened to me to better the lives of others. Accepting my reality sent me on a new journey of self-discovery.

 

At the age of 18 I began volunteering for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, an organization in Sherman Oaks, California, that helped burn survivors. While working as a medical assistant, I decided that I wanted to become a burn unit nurse. The job would be my way of giving back. I wasn’t a scholarly high school student and was discouraged by many who told me I wouldn’t make it through nursing school. However, I got accepted and excelled. I had found my calling and my passion. While in nursing school I went to work in the burn unit at St. Mary’s Hospital in Tucson, Arizona, as a burn technician. I felt like I was where I belonged.

 

I was also excelling in my personal life. I got married and had two daughters. Due to my burn injury, I was told I would not be able to carry a pregnancy to term but I did—twice! My daughters in turn gave me two amazing grandchildren. I also have an incredible son-in-law. I do not know what my life would be without all of them.

 

While working in the burn unit in 1980 there was an article posted on the bulletin board about the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors and Alan Breslau, the organization’s founder. Little did I know then how this organization would completely change my life and would send me on another trajectory.

 

Stay tuned for the third and final installment from Rutter. If you have a compelling story about being injured or impacted by a home fire, please let us know.

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