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2017

 

 

In the latest edition of NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter, read about a legislator urging other decision makers to require fire sprinklers following the devastating Grenfell Tower fire in London. The newsletter also includes stories on: 

 

  • a developer who reaped financial benefits after deciding to fire sprinkler new homes
  • a town now offering discounts on home fire sprinklers
  • the first Canadian province to form a fire sprinkler coalition

 

Got 30 seconds? Sign up to receive NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter and stay educated on crucial news pertaining to home fire safety and legislation on this issue. 

Keith Flood, chair of the Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition, discusses home fire sprinklers and a crucial state building code update with a local reporter.

 

The perpetual myth from fire sprinkler opponents that "nobody is dying from fire in new homes" was proven wrong in the worst way last year. A six-year-old girl from Plainfield, Connecticut, died from a fire in a new home her family moved into only months before the incident. Local fire officials have confirmed that the home had at least one working smoke alarm. 

 

Looking to finally end these tragedies, members of the Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition are urging a state building code committee to finally adopt the model building code requirement to sprinkler new homes. The Codes Amendment Subcommittee of the Connecticut Codes & Standards Committee met this week to discuss the adoption, focusing heavily on a 55-page report developed by the coalition. The report addresses 13 topics pertaining to home fire sprinklers--among them, installation cost and water protection concerns--that the subcommittee wanted addressed. "We want to make sure people get out of their homes safely, live in their homes safely, able to live safely,” Coalition Chair Keith Flood told a reporter attending the subcommittee meeting. The news story also highlighted Connecticut residents Michelle Allyn and her two teenage daughters, who lost their home from fire and rebuilt with fire sprinklers. The family was featured in NFPA's Faces of Fire campaign last year. 

 

In a prepared statement to the media, the coalition applauded the subcommittee for considering the sprinkler requirement: "Updating Connecticut's codes to comply with national model safety codes, and requiring sprinklers in new, one- and two-family homes, will protect families throughout the state and cost less than other fire safety measures." 

 

The subcommittee will vote on August 9 whether or not to recommend the inclusion of a fire sprinkler requirement to the state's larger Codes & Standards Committee. Please check this blog often for updates to this story.

 

Please watch NFPA's video featuring the night Michelle Allyn and her daughters lost their home to fire and how it altered their lives: 

 

Set to sunset this year was a law in Hawaii prohibiting counties from adopting requirements for fire sprinklers in new, one- and two-family homes. According to a Hawaiian news station, the Building Industry Association of Hawaii, the same opponents that pushed for the original law, recently pushed to extend this ban permanently. A legislative bill would have made this permanent prohibition possible. 

 

Instead, the Hawaii State Legislature decided to extend the prohibition by 10 years, now set to expire on June 30, 2027. Hawaiian Governor David Ige recently signed the legislation into law.

 

Prior to its passage, safety advocates voiced their concerns with new homes unprotected with fire sprinklers, including a fire captain who shared his story of a fire in his own home. 

 

We know that setbacks to adopting fire sprinkler requirements are demoralizing. Even if laws in your region prevent sprinkler requirements, those laws don't prohibit you from staying vocal about fire sprinklers in every new home. Before sprinkler bills are even introduced, start educating your legislators about your town's home fire problem. Link them up with our free resources as a starting point.  

In an effort to cut the cost of home fire sprinkler installations, the Alamance County Inspections Department in North Carolina is now offering a discount. 

 

Through its new Fire Sprinkler Incentive Program, the county is discounting the cost of a new home permit by 50 percent if fire sprinklers are installed. Moreover, the county is waiving all fees charged for the plan review or fire sprinkler permit. According to a news release on the new incentive:

 

 

Congratulations to Alamance County for initiating an ingenious discount aimed at increasing the use of home fire sprinklers.  If you'd like more information on this incentive, please contact Robert Key, the inspections department director. Perhaps you can convince your town to introduce a similar discount. 

Thus far, close to 80 people have been killed from the Grenfell Tower fire in London. Attention has been partly placed on the structure's lack of fire sprinklers and the technology's presence in both existing and new residences. A lawmaker wants other decision makers to start embracing the fire safety aspect of sprinklers via sprinkler requirements in the wake of this tragedy. 

 

"What I would like to see is the U.K. government [take] a leaf from Wales," Welsh legislator Ann Jones told the BBC. She was recently honored by NFPA for her influential role in passing Wales' requirement to sprinkler all of its new dwellings. Wales is the first country to pass such a requirement. "I would like to see the U.K. government and the ministers put a commitment that they will put fire safety higher up the agenda - that they will stop talking about the costs because, for me, it's a small amount of money to have.

 

"I was astonished to see how U.K. ministers could inflate costs of installing sprinkler systems and yet we see the tragedy that's happened." Some legislators seem to be getting the message, as efforts are now under way to fire sprinkler certain residences in certain areas of London. 

 

In North America, the same lofty, cost estimates and cost-cutting efforts prohibiting fire sprinklers have resulted in similar tragedies in one- and two-family settings. (Research has consistently countered these myths.) Please read NFPA President Jim Pauley's commentary on the London fire and how today's fire problem is the result of a "broken system." 

Fire chief Keith Brower was en route to a home fire when mayday was called. "I was approximately seven to eight miles out, and my heart stopped,” Brower says. “It literally froze me. It was chilling.”

 

Fortunately, four firefighters escaped the burning home, but one sustained serious burns. His injuries forced him to retire. “When I see this firefighter, I don’t know what to say,” Brower says, “I really feel awkward saying, "Hey, how’s it going?‟ because I know how it’s going. He’s partly incapacitated. He can’t do the job he loves."

 

Brower has been a vocal advocate for home fire sprinklers since the 2008 fire, often wondering why such a life-saving device has such equally vocal opponents. "We used to have a saying that we could fight fire in a building for eight hours," he says. "The building would burn down before it would fall down." With newer home environments, he adds, that's not the case. 

 

People from all walks of life are impacted by home fire. Please watch and share Brower's story, one in a series of NFPA's Faces of Fire campaign: 

 

Showcasing North America's growing support for home fire sprinklers, the province of British Columbia initiated Canada's first fire sprinkler coalition this month. 

 

NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative has updated its sprinkler coalition map to include the country of Canada, the new coalition (which advocates are calling the British Columbia Fire Sprinkler Initiative), and the 30, state-based coalitions. Prior to the official launch of the coalition, Canadians have voice their support for sprinklers in unique ways. For instance: 

 

  • The Co-Operators, a Canadian insurance company that vocally supports home fire sprinklers, has partnered with NFPA to produce this stellar video on this technology: 
  • A new study by Canadian researchers determined that home fires have cost the Canadian economy $7.6 billion

 

Visit the new British Columbia Fire Sprinkler Initiative page for more information on Canada's efforts to promote home fire sprinklers. 

I recently had a chat with a number of fire and life safety educators, and the majority of them said the public is vastly unaware of home fire sprinkler operation or the necessity of this technology. Hollywood's portrayal of fire sprinklers, they added, doesn't help.  

 

You, our fire sprinkler advocates, can be a valuable mythbuster. The more times you're able to set the record straight about home fire sprinklers, the more informed the public will become on this technology.

 

  • If presenting on home fire sprinklers, please differentiate the myths versus the facts. Use our new PowerPoint presentation to help you.
  • Each week, share a new sprinkler myth vs. fact on social media. (How about Sprinkler Myth Mondays?)
  • Write letters to the editor underscoring the truth on sprinklers, especially if you've read or seen anything that's inaccurate. "Sprinklers, once activated, will flood your home" or "smoke alarms are adequate fire protection in your home" are myths that always need a dose of reality. 

 

Take, for instance, the latter myth. NFPA's research notes that the percentage of fire fatalities in homes with working smoke alarms is increasing. Twenty years ago, about one of every five home fire fatalities occurred in homes with a working smoke alarm. That figure today is about one in every three. While this trend could be attributed to more homes being equipped with the device, it does indicate that smoke alarms should only be a component to home fire safety. Home fire sprinklers reduce your risk of dying by 80 percent. Smoke alarms alone cut this risk by half.

 

Our research also points to a 99 percent survival rate from fire in homes with working smoke alarms. Our opponents love to highlight this statistic since, they feel, it captures the device's effectiveness in saving lives. But consider this: 

 

  • Each year, approximately 2,500 home fire deaths occur in more than 365,000 reported structure fires. Therefore, the likelihood of surviving a home fire is approximately 99 percent without regard to the presence of smoke alarms or any other fire safety provisions. Does that mean 2,500 deaths are acceptable? Most people would say no.
  • Each year, there are an estimated 12,000 deaths due to falls in homes and an estimated 11 million fall injuries in the home. The likelihood of surviving a fall is therefore 99.9 percent. Does that mean 12,000 deaths are acceptable? Most people would say no.

 


Please educate yourself on the facts and become a local mythbuster on home fire sprinklers. Use these responses to aid you. 

A new residential subdivision will likely include home fire sprinklers following a pitch by a code official. 

 

In order to forego an extremely wide boulevard entrance for the new development that's meant to accommodate emergency vehicles, a town director of building and codes convinced the developer, Pete Belmonte, to fire sprinkler the homes. "The fire sprinklers give better protection than a wider road," Town Director Steve Myers told CNWeekly.com. "It's really a minor cost to building a house, and [the developer] will get a good price on the sprinklers and the labor with all the volume."

 

Noting that fire sprinklers will lead to a "better project," Belmonte added that reducing the development's black top would make it more environmentally sensitive. "What we save on asphalt will just go into the sprinklers."

 

A big tip of the hat to this developer for embracing life safety in his new homes and business-booming trade-ups.

 


Is there a new development under construction in your town? Please make sure you alert the developer or homebuilder that they can benefit from a series of trade-ups if they install home fire sprinklers.  

Fire sprinklering all of Sin City's new homes could be a reality, if certain safety advocates have their say. 

 

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a proposal to sprinkler new, one- and two-family homes in Vegas has advanced and will be voted on by Vegas' city council as soon as this month. 

 

"Where the people are dying, where they're affected by fire most, is where we want to concentrate our resources,” Las Vegas Fire Marshal Robert Nolan told a local NBC affiliate. "[Homebuilders] do want to build safe homes. Automakers want to build safe automobiles, but they didn't put seatbelts in cars until they were mandated. They didn't put airbags in cars until they were mandated. The homebuilders put smoke alarms in homes when they were mandated."

 

NFPA obtained a copy of a 2016 study on residential fire suppression by the University of Las Vegas commissioned by the Las Vegas Fire and Rescue Department. The report, "Residential Fire Sprinkler Cost Benefit Analysis for the City of Las Vegas (NV) Fire and Rescue," concluded that for a 2,000-square-foot home, the cost benefit analysis placed installation costs for a new tract home in Las Vegas at under a dollar per sprinklered square foot. Fire sprinklers, the study determined, would eventually pay for itself. While listing a series of homebuilder trade-ups that could lower construction costs if fire sprinklers are installed, the report also recommends the town's city council to "immediately pass the ordinance mandating fire suppression for all new, single-family residential home construction."

 


Other towns have successfully passed ordinances to fire sprinkler their new homes. Read the benefits of these ordinances by downloading our reports on this issue. 

The dedication and passion that our advocates for home fire sprinklers possess is nothing short of admirable. Those attending NFPA's Conference and Expo in Boston this week got the chance to share their passion with other members of the now 30, state-based coalitions and Canadian advocates during an informal meet and greet. Public educators were also in attendance. 

 

During the event, NFPA President Jim Pauley warmly thanked the advocates for their on-the-ground efforts and relentless persistence in promoting home fire sprinklers, despite the opposition they might be experiencing. Through informal conversations, they shared tactics and made new connections. 

 

As pictured above, coalition members proudly wore new NFPA Fire Sprinkler Initiative hats given out during the event. Download some of our newest advocacy materials by visiting the initiative's site. 

 

Spearheading legislation to require fire sprinklers in all new homes in Wales, NFPA honored Ann Jones during its Conference and Expo in Boston. Jones received the James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal, established in honor of NFPA's former president, a dedicated advocate for fire sprinklers who helped launch NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative. 

 

In 2007, Jones headed a legislative proposal that would give Wales authority to ensure that all new homes are fitted with automatic fire sprinklers. She worked diligently to get cross-party support for sprinklers, sought out skeptical legislators, educated them on safety benefits, and won over the fire and rescue service with her enthusiasm and belief. The sprinkler law passed in 2011, making Wales the first country to pass a nationwide requirement and providing a model for all jurisdictions to follow.

 

Jones is from Rhyl, a town on the northern coast of Wales. She worked for more than three decades in the Rhyl Fire Service emergency call center, skillfully handling emergencies with compassion and composure. Over the years, Jones also held a number of key leadership positions with the Fire Brigades Union, was a town councilor, county councilor, and town mayor. In addition, she has been a member of the National Assembly for Wales since 1999, and currently serves as the presiding officer. Her devotion to safety, education, disability issues, and women in public life is highly regarded throughout Wales and beyond.

 

Jones currently holds chair positions with the National Assembly, and participates as an active member of various committees. She leads meetings at the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, and is vice president of the Assembly’s Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

 

NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative team warmly congratulates Ann for her dedication to life safety, and for her role in passing sprinkler legislation!

Following pointed comments to the media about Pennsylvania's lack of fire sprinkler laws, another safety advocate has come forth with an urgent plea to change the status quo. 

 

Pittsburgh Fire Chief Darryl Jones is also calling for the increased use of this technology in many settings, including homes. "I'm hopeful there can be some legislation that comes up with that," he recently told a news outlet following a local, high-rise fire that killed a 75-year-old woman. 

 

Responding to the fire, the Pennsylvania Builder's Association offered a statement to the news station that did not address residential sprinklers. "We firmly advocate for working smoke detectors and fire extinguishers as a frontline defense against fire fatalities in residential dwellings," the statement said in part. 

 

Similar to Pennsylvania's safety advocates, please keep your local home fire problem and the solution--home fire sprinklers--on the media's radar. Pitch this story to reporters who may have covered home fires in the past, and if chatting with them, use these talking points in our media guide.

If you're heading to NFPA's Conference and Expo at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center this year, take note of the these two education sessions sure to perfect your pitch for home fire sprinklers, a necessary technology in all new homes: 

 

Getting the Message Across: A Guide to Pitching Fire Sprinklers as the Tool to End Our Fire Problem
Sunday, June 4, 2017, 10-11:30 a.m.
Location: Room 256

 

The risk of dying in a home fire has not changed in nearly four decades, though the technology to reduce this risk exists. Panelists from NFPA, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, the National Fire Sprinkler Association, and Viking Group will explain how to effectively promote fire sprinklers to the public and media as that technology. Methods to be presented include crafting compelling messages using new research and resources from NFPA; pitching this life-saving technology to news reporters, efforts that have led to a better informed public and a defeat of anti-sprinkler legislation; amplifying the voices of fire and burn survivors; using and localizing props, graphics, and video footage; using social media to create widespread awareness; and communicating fire sprinkler saves (or success stories) to the media.

 

Home Fire Sprinklers: Stakeholder Perceptions in Mandatory Requirement States

Monday, June 5, 2017, 8-9 a.m.

Location: Room 256

While more and more states and jurisdictions continue to debate the adoption of code requirements for home fire sprinklers, a project was undertaken to gauge stakeholder perceptions in states with widespread adoption. This session will present the findings of a market research study conducted in two states, Maryland and California, that have required home fire sprinklers in single-family residences. The study included a survey of homeowners and local government officials and interviews of water purveyors in both states. 

 

Also, don't forget to swing by NFPA's booth on the expo floor to talk fire sprinklers with our regional sprinkler experts!

It's a good year to be a Canadian advocate for home fire sprinklers. 

 

First, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) recently launched a new website targeting Canadian fire service and other stakeholder groups interested in home fire sprinklers. Second, HFSC's popular stipend program that gives American fire departments dollars to further sprinkler education efforts has now made its way into Canada. 

 

Outlined in a recent article penned by NFPA's Canadian Regional Director Shayne Mintz, HFSC will select 10 Canadian fire departments that will each receive $1,000 to conduct live burn/fire sprinkler demonstrations in their regions. Applicants must either be or become a Built For Life fire department, which pledges to incorporate fire sprinklers into their public education and outreach activities. (If you're a Canadian department, apply here to become a Built For Life department.)

 

"The goal of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition-Canada is to enlist as many stakeholders as possible to engage with their communities and develop regional or provincial sprinkler coalitions in Canada," states Mintz. 

 

Visit the HFSC Canada site to apply for this important stipend. 

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