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.