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2017

Even though Maryland has a statewide requirement for home fire sprinklers, safety advocates there understand the need to keep this technology in the limelight. 

 

Last month, a toddler died from a fire in an unsprinklered home in Taneytown, Maryland. News reports state that the fire originated in the attic, where another toddler was able to escape. "This is a classic example of had this been a home with fire sprinklers, this would be a non-event, because the sprinklers would have activated at the early onset of the fire and would have saved that child's life," Deputy State Fire Marshal Bruce Bouch told an ABC affiliate.

 

Despite the proven, life-saving capability of fire sprinklers, this technology was challenged last year in Maryland, when legislation was introduced to weaken the requirement. Keeping sprinklers (literally) in front of the media via a series of live burn/sprinkler demonstrations, statements similar to Bouch's to reporters, and public events helped kill the bill. Advocacy is proven to be just as effective in convincing decision makers to pass fire sprinkler requirements. 

 

Learn more about Maryland's advocacy tactics, and see what you can mimic in your region. 

 

The Missouri Sprinkler Coalition was one of 15 recipients of the 2016 Fire Sprinkler Initiative Bringing Safety Home Grant. The Missouri coalition received $5,000, which was used to host a local summit to understand the cost disparities of fire sprinkler design and installation. The summit also hoped to compare these findings to the national average of $1.35 per sprinklered square foot, and discuss possible solutions for reducing this gap.

 

The summit was held on November 4, 2016 in St. Louis, and was attended by 20 stakeholders representing a variety of interests including fire sprinkler contractors, fire service, local government, homebuilders, NFPA, and others. The group was led through a serious of discussions and exercises that encouraged the exchange of various perspectives, ideas, and problems. Ultimately, the summit led to four action items: the creation of a fire sprinkler database for the St. Louis area, implementing a “pilot” home fire sprinkler project, engaging with the insurance industry about liability rates for designers and installers, and improving coalition support.

 

For more information on the Missouri coalition, other winners, and the grant, download the grant report.

 

In front of Jefferson City, Missouri, council members this month, Donna Henson recounted the horrific details of her son's death. A burning candle placed too close to Dominic Passantino's bed started a fire. His roommate heard the screams, and after a few life-saving attempts, he couldn't save his friend. He died in 1999 at the age of 19 while attending the University of Missouri. 

 

Using her son's story, Henson made a point to remind council members that home fires will continue to kill unless decision makers take preventative action. "[Our residents' safety] should be our number one concern," Henson told the News Tribune. "Those who don't provide safety devices [like home fire sprinklers] to protect their occupants should be held accountable." 

 

Her testimony comes at a time when Jefferson City is reviewing its building codes. Fire sprinklers have been at the forefront of these discussions, notes the paper. Missouri law requires builders of one- and two-family dwellings to offer fire sprinklers as an option to potential home buyers, but safety advocates want to bolster this law and make sprinklers mandatory in all of the state's residences. "We protect our businesses from fire, but what about our homes?" Henson, a member of the advocacy group Common Voices, told the publication. 

 

Showcasing the ease of fire sprinkler installation, the Missouri Fire Sprinkler Coalition worked with a local Habitat for Humanity to recently sprinkler its 100th home. The coalition has also been hosting local summits, linking various stakeholder groups with facts on sprinkler performance and benefits. 

 

According to the News Tribune, a building construction codes committee will continue reviewing the city's building codes before taking a final vote on any updates, likely occurring in May or June. 

 


Learn how to become as passionate an advocate for home fire sprinklers as Donna Henson; download our new advocacy toolkit to get started. 


You've never seen a fire sprinkler demonstration video quite like this. In the latest edition of NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter, watch NFPA's new 360-degree video of this recent demonstration. 

 

The newsletter also features: 

 

  • story of a fire claiming a teen and her parents, and a former fire chief's urgent plea for fire sprinkler requirements
  • our new fire sprinkler advocacy toolkit 
  • how you can interact with NFPA's Faces of Fire during an upcoming, online chat

 


If you're serious about fire sprinkler advocacy, please subscribe to our newsletter. Delivered to your inbox monthly, it offers must-read news from across North America.

Quickly exiting her home after discovering a fire, Princella Lee Bridges frantically reentered it after assuming her daughter hadn't made it out. While firefighters later found her daughter and treated her for smoke inhalation, Bridges' injuries were more serious; she was burned on about 50 percent of her body, was in a coma for two months, and underwent numerous surgeries. Having lost her hands from the fire, her career as a nurse ended. Her marriage also didn't withstand the recovery.

 

Bridges was forced to alter her life and adjust to a new normal. Find out what Bridges has been up in the 25 years since the home fire during an upcoming, online chat with her and other members of our Faces of Fire Campaign. Get a recap of their heartbreaking stories, learn how they have become some of our best champions for home fire sprinklers, and ask them any questions that come to mind. 

 


Register today for this important--and free--online discussion, taking place on Wednesday, April 12, 12:30-1:30 p.m. EST.

Proof that the home fire sprinkler movement is spreading throughout North America, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) has launched a new website strictly for Canadian stakeholders. The site will serve as an educational outlet for a growing army of Canadian fire service and other safety advocates now championing for fire sprinklers in new homes. 

 

The site places a Canadian spin on resources found on HFSC's main site; for instance, there's a new library filled with Canadian-specific reports, including a recent study on the economic impact and potential years of life lost from home fire deaths conducted by the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. Similarly, many of HFSC's popular resources for homeowners, homebuilders, real estate agents, insurance professionals, and the fire service have been Canadianized. 

 

The site "will be helpful for the fire service and other sprinkler advocates as they work to educate Canadians about sprinklers' ability to save lives and protect property," says Lorraine Carli, HFSC president and NFPA vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. 

 

HFSC's Canadian partners, the Canadian Automatic Sprinkler Association and The Co-Operators, helped make the site possible. 

 

Peruse the new site today, and let us know what you think by commenting directly to this post. 

The Maryland State Fireman’s Association, a member of the Maryland Fire Sprinkler Coalition, was a recipient of the 2016 Bringing Safety Home Grant, which proved critical in their fight against legislation to weaken the state’s sprinkler requirement for new homes. The association was awarded $10,000, which funded educational efforts on the importance of home fire sprinklers.

 

The grant funded  two mobile trailers that traveled throughout the state to conduct side-by-side burn demonstrations. In total, 19 burn demonstrations took place in 2016. Additionally, the grant was used to produce educational materials for legislators at the state capital and within their communities, and to host a booth at the Maryland Association of Counties. Ultimately, the efforts paid off as the anti-sprinkler bill died in committee.

 

For more information on the Maryland coalition, other winners, and the grant, download the grant report.

There have already been more than 20 fire deaths in Massachusetts this year. Even more alarming is that 11 of those deaths occurred in March, making it the state's deadliest month for fire in the last five years.

 

Calling these statistics "intolerable," Fire Chief James McDonald from the Lynn Fire Department has identified a solution to reduce the state's fire risk: " a concerted effort combining technology, economic incentives, and enforcement." In his commentary, McDonald wrote that fire departments should have more resources and a bigger responsibility when dealing with building inspections. He suggests merging a town's fire department with its building inspections department to create a clearer picture of the area's fire risks and more stringent crackdown on landlords or building owners for not adhering to fire safety measures.

 

Secondly, he proposes that insurers should initiate more policy discounts for fire safety upgrades. "Insurance companies can reduce costly claims filed in the wake of fires by providing significant premium discounts to owners who are willing to spend money on fire safety," McDonald wrote. 

 

Lastly, the fire chief recommends the increased use of fire suppression technology, specifically home fire sprinklers. These three efforts, he notes, will help make a dent in the state' home fire problem. 

 

Like McDonald, please help champion for safer homes in Massachusetts. The state is currently in the process of updating their building code and is accepting comments on code contents through April 10, 2017. Please demand that fire sprinkler requirements make it into the next edition of the state's building code. Use this draft language as a template, and send your comments to Robert.Anderson@state.ma.us

 

I strongly support the inclusion of residential sprinkler requirements in the state's building code. All model building codes used in the US. require fire sprinklers in all new homes. Removal or alteration of such provisions is in direct contrast to all model building and life safety codes, which have been developed through open and voluntary consensus processes by the leading code development organizations in this country. I recommend the inclusion of residential sprinkler requirements as stated in the model codes. Thank you for your consideration on these matters of public safety. 

NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative began its Faces of Fire Campaign in 2010 to humanize the devastating impact of home fires and live-saving ability of home fire sprinklers. NFPA is conducting a free, online chat so you can get caught up and interact with some of our famous "Faces." Hear what they have been up to since we have profiled them, and ask them anything you'd like about their fire stories and current sprinkler advocacy efforts. Get inspired by their efforts. 

 

Take 30 seconds and register today for "Faces of Fire: Where Are They Now?" The online event takes place Wednesday, April 12, 12:30-1:30 p.m., EDT.

You might pay no mind to what's filling your home's comfy sofas, but you should; fire safety experts have likened this material to "foam gasoline."

 

Many of today's homes are made with synthetic materials—upholstery stuffed with combustible polyurethane foam, for example—that burn quicker than "legacy" furnishings made of leather, wool, and cotton. Studies have confirmed that rooms filled with synthetic furniture that are set on fire reach dangerous temperatures quicker than similar rooms filled with legacy furnishings. Now, NFPA has released a new report further underscoring upholstered furniture impacts on home fires. 

 

The report, "Home Fires That Began With Upholstered Furniture," describes some alarming outcomes. For instance: 

 

  • From 2010 to 2014, there was an average of 5,630 home structure fires per year in which upholstered furniture was the first item ignited. These fires caused an annual average of 440 civilian fire deaths, 700 civilian fire injuries, and $269 million in direct property damage
  • On average, one out of every 13 reported upholstered furniture fires resulted in death
  • Overall, fires beginning with upholstered furniture accounted for 18 percent of home fire deaths 

 

The report also details how smoking materials, electrical appliances, and candles contributed to these fires.

 

Upholstered furniture is one of a few concerns safety advocates pinpoint as contributing to today's fire problem in modern homes. Home fire sprinklers have the power to reduce these risks. 

 


Download the new upholstered fire report
and the accompanying fact sheet. 

 

The Massachusetts Fire Sprinkler Coalition was one of 15 fire safety groups awarded NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative Bringing Safety Home Grant in 2016 to help further the acceptance and use of home fire sprinklers.

 

The coalition received a $5,000 grant, which funded three exciting opportunities. The coalition conducted three, side-by-side burn demonstrations, a powerful live display of the difference sprinklers can make in home fires. Additionally, the coalition produced a TV spot warning homeowners of the danger of fires, and encouraging them to consider installing fire sprinklers. Lastly, the coalition produced educational brochures, which were distributed to fire departments and the state’s decision makers.

 

For more information on the Massachusetts coalition, other winners, and the grant, download the grant report.

Having hailed from Prince George's County, Maryland, home of a life-saving fire sprinkler ordinance, Orlando County Fire Marshal Bruce Faust hopes Florida will start embracing this technology on a wider scale. He's on the right track; recently, his department worked closely with the Florida Fire Sprinkler Coalition and Florida Fire Sprinkler Association to pitch fire sprinklers to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Orlando. 

 

“We have to be really cautious in costs,” Catherine McManus, the local Habitat's president and CEO, told the Orlando Sentinel. “Residential fire sprinklers never came to mind.”

 

Members of all three safety groups met with McManus and provided her accurate information on installation costs, water use, and fire sprinkler operation. McManus was eventually sold on sprinklers, telling the Sentinel that this technology is "really a no-brainer." 

 

Habitat agreed to sprinkler one of its homes, and the home's new owner moved in earlier this month. Fire protection contractors completed the installation for free. Habitat is also considering future installations. “[Fire sprinklers] provide a safer home for [Habitat] homeowners,” McManus told the Sentinel. “We want to make sure they have the best journey and the best future.”

 

If you need any assistance with pitching fire sprinklers to your region's decision makers, email the Fire Sprinkler Initiative team. A good starting point is our free downloads. Also, here's an example of another local Habitat for Humanity embracing fire sprinklers:

 

 

Misconceptions abound when it comes to home fire sprinklers. Some are confused by the technology's operation, others about the installation cost. One approach safety advocates have taken in distinguishing fact from fiction is hosting local sprinkler summits, linking certain audiences with targeted information on this technology. 

 

Missourian advocates are no exception. On March 22, the Missouri Fire Sprinkler Coalition is hosting its third annual Missouri Sprinkler Summit, aimed at increasing awareness and dispelling myths surrounding this technology. Presenters include:

 

  • a local homebuilder's perspective on installing home fire sprinklers
  • an NFPA expert detailing sprinkler installation and design
  • a local resident impacted by a home fire

 

A live burn/fire sprinkler demonstration will also take place. Early registration ticket prices are $40. For more details or to register for this important event, visit the registration page.

The following commentary was originally published in the March/April edition of NFPA Journal: 

 

Fire safety advocates are often critical of Hollywood’s depictions of various aspects of fire, because those images can create misperceptions in the public’s mind. For example, in the movies it’s common during a fire to see every fire sprinkler in a building go off when, in reality, only the sprinklers closest to the fire would activate. In action flicks, cars collide and burst into flames, a result that doesn’t happen easily or often. As implausible as those depictions can seem when we stop to actually think about them, some of those movie-generated myths can be difficult to reverse.

 

But one current movie gets fire right. In the critically acclaimed "Manchester by the Sea," we see the very real, painful, and long-term impact fire can have on an individual, a family, and a community. A moving depiction of catastrophe and its fallout, "Manchester by the Sea" was recently nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor. [The movie won an award for Best Original Screenplay, and Casey Affleck received the Best Actor award.] It is an excellent reminder that fire is still a big problem with the power to destroy lives.

 

According to the most recent home structure fire report from NFPA, U.S. fire departments respond to an estimated 358,300 home structure fires each year. These fires cause an annual average of 2,560 civilian deaths, 12,720 civilian fire injuries, and $6.7 billion in direct property damage. We know that the majority of fires, fire deaths, and fire injuries happen in homes, the place people feel safest. While these numbers are down considerably over the last couple of decades, they are not insignificant. But all they are is a set of numbers, and numbers can’t tell the whole human story.

 

"Manchester by the Sea" puts a compelling, sobering human face to those statistics. Set in a small Massachusetts coastal community, "Manchester" is the story of Lee Chandler (played by Affleck), a young, divorced janitor who is willed guardianship of his teenaged nephew when his brother dies. To describe Lee as haunted would be understatement; years earlier, his life unraveled in the blink of an eye when he forgot to put a screen in front of the fireplace in his home before walking to a neighborhood store, as his wife and young children slept. Fire statistics cannot capture Lee’s pain over the devastation that ensued, or his thoughts as he watched flames leap from every window of his house. The numbers don’t capture the impact on Lee being ostracized by the community he grew up in and where he planned to raise his own family.

 

Before I saw it, I’d heard the movie contained references to fire, but I was surprised to find that they weren’t fleeting but rather the underpinning of the film. Although it is tempered with sporadic humor, the movie is dark, sad, heavy, and realistic. Contained in that reality is a lesson that isn’t often addressed in movies or any other form of media: the danger of complacency.

 

Complacency is one of the greatest challenges we face in fire prevention. With the number of structure fires falling in the last few decades thanks to codes and standards, widespread use of smoke alarms, public education, and other factors, the public now pays far less attention to fire safety—people don’t think fire can happen to them. I’m sure most people, like Lee, rarely if ever think that their homes and loved ones can be destroyed in an instant by fire. Most people can’t understand the profound individual pain and anguish behind every fire statistic until it happens to them, to their family, or to their neighbors.

The movie is a stark reminder that we have not yet solved the fire problem. Real people are behind those statistics, and we must all remain vigilant in our quest to eliminate fire loss—a reminder that, this time at least, Hollywood has made painfully clear.

 

This commentary was written by Lorraine Carli, NFPA's vice president of Outreach and Advocacy and president of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition. Peruse the coalition's site and educate yourself and others on the solution to end North America's home fire problem. Change can start with you. 

NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative awarded its Bringing Safety Home Grant to 15 fire safety groups in 2016 in order to help further the acceptance and use of home fire sprinklers. One of the 15 deserving recipients was the Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

 

The coalition received a $5,000 grant, which was used for a number of great causes. For example, the coalition created state-specific billboard ads and educational pamphlets on home fire sprinklers. The Connecticut Coalition also used the money to purchase a booth at the Connecticut Home Builders and Remodelers Show in Hartford. Additionally, the grant was used to buy signage at public events, including an ad (shown in this post) at the Connecticut Tigers Baseball Stadium seen by more than 50,000 attendees.  The grant also funded a side-by-side burn demonstration.

 

For more information on the Connecticut coalition, other winners, and the grant, download the full report here.


Photo: GoFundMe

 

The small town of Riddle, Oregon, (population 1,200, according to 2010 U.S. Census data) is mourning the loss of six of their own after a single home fire killed six members of the same family. 

 

According to news reports, a space heater placed too close to combustible materials caused the fire. Reports also indicate that at least one of the home's smoke alarms was working at the time of the fire. Tabitha Annette Howell, 38, four of her own children, and a foster child died in the blaze. The children ranged in age from four to 13. James Howell, listed as Tabitha's husband on a GoFundMe page established for the family, is in critical condition, reports The Oregonian. 

 

"In a small town like this, everyone knows each other and this has been devastating," city manager Kathy Wilson told the publication. "It is just such a tragedy. It's something we've never seen before. It has affected everyone."

 

“Unfortunately, Oregon has suffered a huge life loss that proves smoke alarms are not enough. Home fire sprinklers, beyond any doubts, might have saved this family's life," Shawn Olson, chair of the Oregon Fire Sprinkler Coalition, told NFPA. "I would hope that one day, the millions of dollars and the energy fighting fire sprinklers in new homes could be focused on educating and finding solutions that work for everyone.”

 

Please join the Oregon Fire Sprinkler Coalition and others showing their support for home fire sprinklers by advocating for this technology in new homes.

 

To help further the use and acceptance of home fire sprinklers, NFPA awarded its Bringing Safety Home Grant to 15 recipients in 2016. Launched a year earlier, the grant aims to ramp up sprinkler-related advocacy and educational efforts across North America.

 

What exactly were those efforts last year? NFPA has released a report highlighting these localized education and advocacy campaigns. The Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition, for example, created ads shown and exhibited at a local ballpark. The Massachusetts Fire Sprinkler Coalition created a TV commercial. Maryland advocates purchased materials and initiated demonstrations that helped kill an anti-sprinkler bill there last year. 

 


Download the full report for more information, and check this blog often for more examples of how the grant was used. What might you be able to replicate in your state or region? 

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