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2018

NFPA recognized Ann Jones with the 2017 James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal

NFPA is accepting applications for the 2018 James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal, which recognizes outstanding efforts that take a firm stance on fire and life safety issues. 

The James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal was established in honor of former NFPA President James Shannon. Under his leadership, NFPA significantly advanced its mission of protecting the general public and members of the fire service by working towards key changes to reduce fire loss. Shannon, for example, was a vocal advocate for home fire sprinklers and intensified NFPA’s efforts to support requirements for this technology. The award honors other advocates involved in activities that help advance NFPA’s mission: to help save lives and reduce loss with information, knowledge, and passion. 

Last year's recipient was Ann Jones. In 2007, Jones headed a legislative proposal that would give the country of 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.

Nominations are open to members of the fire service or any other person or group advocating for a cause pertaining to fire and life safety. Candidates who have collaborated with NFPA and beyond to help spread the reach of their efforts are strongly encouraged to apply.

The nomination application, which includes all award criteria and is available for download on NFPA’s site, is due February 23, 2018 and can be sent to publicaffairs@nfpa.org. The award recipient will be honored at NFPA’s Conference & Expo in Las Vegas in June. NFPA will cover the recipient’s travel and lodging. Please nominate someone today. 

A deadly end to 2017 and similar start to 2018 in Delaware prompted a recent story on the state's home fire problem. The story also debates the necessity of fire sprinkler requirements in new homes, and gave NFPA the chance to offer its perspective.  

 

While smoke alarms have helped decrease home fire deaths, we cite a plateau--2,500 people, on average--that is unfortunately occurring year after year. (More on this trend can be found in our recent "Home Structure Fires" report.) The inclusion of fire sprinklers in new homes can help reduce and eventually eliminate these tragedies. 

 

Backing up our stance in the story while offering his own perspective was Paul Eichler, chair of the Delaware Fire Sprinkler Coalition. He compared water use of fire sprinklers with water from a fire hose. The "noxious fumes and billowing, black air pollution" from a fire that's given time to grow versus quickly extinguished by a sprinkler has become a firefighter health and safety issue. 

 

While sprinkler opponents complained about installation cost in the story, they failed to recognize the cost-effective results of fire sprinkler ordinances, specifically what has occurred in nearby Prince George's County, Maryland.

 

Read the full story, and add your thoughts on this debate in this blog post's comments section. 

Did you know the recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act includes a significant tax incentive for fire sprinklers in a number of settings? 

 

We highlight this new incentive in the recent edition of NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter. Learn what the tax incentive entails, and what types of buildings and residences are applicable. We've also highlighted a new section of our Fire Sprinkler Initiative website underscoring the fire concerns (unprotected, lightweight construction and upholstered furniture, for instance) inside today's homes. 

 

Have you missed this edition of the newsletter? Want to start receiving the newsletter monthly in your inbox? Contact us and we'll make sure we get all to you. 

New Jersey is about to get a better idea on which of its schools are protected by fire sprinklers and which ones aren't. 

 

A new law now requires the state's Division of Fire Safety to conduct surveys of fire suppression systems--or lack thereof--for all public and nonpublic school buildings. The results, in turn, will be sent to the state's Department of Education. 

 

"The law provides appropriate agencies with the information necessary to take appropriate action," stated Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, the bill co-sponsor, in a news release. "Many school buildings in the state were constructed decades ago and do not have adequate fire suppression systems, while others have systems that are not fully operational. This is a hazard.

 

"We cannot properly address this serious problem without accurate information regarding the status of fire suppression systems."

 

According to the news release, all school surveys need to include:

 

• whether a fire suppression system is installed and operational
• the year in which an existing fire suppression system was installed and any year in which additional piping or standpipes were added to the system or an additional system was installed in the same structure
• the cost of curing any defect if an installed fire suppression system is not fully operational
• the cost of a re-installation or annual maintenance of a fire suppression system that is inadequate or not fully operational

 

Praising the new law was Dave Kurasz, a member of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Coalition and executive director of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board. "This is a great first step in the process of determining the status of fire sprinklers in schools across New Jersey," he says. "Fire Sprinklers save lives, but only if they are installed and working properly."

 

What are your thoughts on the new law? Does it go far enough in protecting New Jersey residents? Let us know by replying to this post. 

I recently wrote an article for Sprinkler Age, the magazine for the American Fire Sprinkler Association, on effective tactics for fire sprinkler advocacy. The following are key takeaways from that piece which hopefully can help better your local efforts. 

 

I. Understand the home fire problem. Before you can promote the solution to America’s home fire problem, you must explain why the solution matters. Use NFPA’s data on the issue and obtain local fire statistics over a 10- to 15-year period to better illuminate what’s happening in your area to the public and your local decision makers. Check the Fire Sprinkler Initiative's sprinkler coalition pages, many of which include this data. 

 

II. Join the good fight. Speaking of coalitions, 30 states and one Canadian province have developed one. If your region has a coalition, contact the coalition chair and see how you can get involved. If it doesn't, contact NFPA. We can help you initiate one.

 

III. Promote the solution. If you’re looking for resources promoting the life-saving aspect of sprinklers, visit our “take action” page. There, you’ll find infographics, fact sheets, and videos ideal for social media sharing. Our newest resource is a downloadable, advocacy toolkit featuring the Fire Sprinkler Initiative’s greatest hits. 

 

IV. Counter the opposition. In case you missed it, a 2016 story by the nonprofit news organization, ProPublica, illuminated the power of the homebuilding industry, one of the most powerful opponents against fire sprinkler requirements. The report states that this industry has spent more than $517 million in the last decade on state politics, and has been influential in thwarting sprinkler requirements in at least 25 states.


We might not be able to match these dollars, but we do have fire safety on our side. Anytime you hear or see a “sprinkler myth” being perpetuated in your region, use your voice and state the facts. Write a letter to the editor in response to an anti-sprinkler story or let the public know a home fire incident may have been prevented if fire sprinklers were present. If there is a “sprinkler save” in your region, highlight it. 

V. Stay in the know. We're constantly producing new content for our advocates. Make sure you're the first to learn about it by taking a few seconds and subscribing to our monthly newsletter.

We recently published commentary from Jerry DeLuca, a New York safety advocate, about two home fires in two days that killed eight people in his state. Other advocates have been equally vocal about similar tragedies occurring there this month. 

 

A Bronx residential fire killing 13 people in December was deemed the deadliest fire in New York City within the past 27 years. "There has never been a multiple loss of life in any structure protected with a properly installed and maintained fire sprinkler system," stated John A. Viniello, former president of the National Fire Sprinkler Association, in a recent letter to the editor. "This omission [of fire sprinklers in residences] continues to result in lives lost. The city's fire department...was on the Bronx fire scene within three minutes, yet people died.

 

"How much higher does the body count have to get before proactive fire sprinkler legislation is enacted? These deadly fires will continue unless wisdom prevails and the codes are updated."

 

Fire fatalities last year in New York City rose 35 percent when compared to fire deaths in 2016, reports the New York Fire Sprinkler Council, an advocacy group that's a division of the Mechanical Contractors Association of New York. While the city has consistently expanded sprinkler requirements, "it is clear the city still has a long way to go in protecting all residents with fire sprinklers," says Anthony Saporito, executive vice president of the Mechanical Contractors Association of New York. Per the council, New York City hasn't passed a law improving fire sprinkler safety in residential buildings since 1999.

 

Are you and the sprinkler advocates in your state just as vocal about your home fire problem? Help raise awareness--constantly--about these tragedies by writing your own letter to the editor or commentary to your local media outlets. Just a couple paragraphs will suffice. Use  NFPA's data or statewide data (if available) to back your reasoning for home fire sprinkler requirements.

Photo: GoFundMe

 

Earlier this month, firefighter Jason Penwell was en route to a fire in a neighborhood that was oddly familiar; the neighborhood was his. Making the experience all the more tragic, it was his home in flames. 

 

"I happened to be at the firehouse at the time [the call came in] and never thought it could be my house," he told the Courier-Post. "All I had time to do was pull up my suspenders, jump on the truck, and answer the call." The flames eventually destroyed the entire home. Penwell's wife and four kids were not injured in the fire, but one of the family's dogs was killed in the incident. Penwell's son was able to rescue five other dogs inside the home. 

 

According to the news report, the home was in such bad shape that it had to be demolished the night of the fire. "Of course we are all upset," Penwell told the paper. "But today is day one of recovery, and I have to stay positive for my kids." A GoFundMe page has been established for the family. 

 

However heartbreaking they are, stories involving home fires help humanize fire's effects to the public. Please familiarize yourself--and help share--the many stories NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative has documented over the years. They can be found on the site's new "Survivor Stories" page. There, you'll have the opportunity to share your own story involving a home fire. Please consider sending us few paragraphs about your experience, whether you're a firefighter who responded to a home fire that impacted you or if you experienced a fire at your own home. We'll be able to share it with our North American audience. 

You may be familiar with this eye-catching fire timeline created by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC). This visual is a great accompaniment to any public education outing featuring home fire sprinkler or for social media sharing. Now, HFSC has animated the timeline, and in the process has created something even more compelling. 

 

Check out and download the new HFSC video that brings the timeline to life. The video shows the speed of today's home fires and the effect fire sprinklers have in keeping the fire tenable. There's even audio, too. 

 

Please share this new resource, along with the other free resources produced by HFSC.

Could Canadian building codes include a requirement for home fire sprinklers?

 

Currently investigating this requirement is a task force formed by the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes that recently completed a report on sprinkler cost and benefits. The analysis will aid the commission as it updates Canada's National Building Code. According to CBC News, the national code "forms the basis for provincial building codes." 

 

Offering technical support on the task force was the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada. (Check out its previous research on fire behavior in homes.) In a nutshell, NRC has determined fire sprinklers help control the spread of fire in new homes, which are fiercer than ever. Philip Rizcallah, an NRC director, told the CBC that fire sprinklers are a component to safer homes. More exits and building with fire-resistant materials are others. "It's not safety at all costs," Rizcallah said. "It's safety at a reasonable cost, because you can make it so that it's unaffordable, and if nobody can actually afford a home then you've missed the boat."

 

Vince MacKenzie, a director with the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, underscored sprinkler installation affordability to the CBC, adding "I think the concept that the fire department will come and save you all the time is a myth." 

 

The public will get the chance to weigh on any proposed building code changes before it's finalized. 

 

Learn how Canada's sprinkler advocates have highlighted this technology by visiting the British Columbia Fire Sprinkler Initiative page. 

NFPA praises the recent passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which offers significant incentives for fire sprinkler installation.


“Our research time and again stresses the life-saving importance of fire sprinkler protection,” says NFPA President Jim Pauley. “The financial incentives allowed by this act will undoubtedly lead to safer establishments throughout the U.S.”


Under the new act, small businesses can expense building improvement purchases tied to fire protection systems, including fire sprinkler retrofits, up to $1 million in each year of the expense. The National Fire Sprinkler Association has created this resource including additional details on the incentive. 


For decades, fire safety professionals have advocated for bolstering fire sprinkler laws. “While fire chief for the Louisville, Kentucky, Fire Department, we implemented the first proactive, high-rise sprinkler retrofit ordinance in the country,” says Russ Sanders, regional director for NFPA’s Central Region. “We were working with Mayor Jerry Abramson, who was also the president of the USA Conference of Mayors, in drafting the local ordinance. Simultaneously, during the early ’90s, we were also working with Congressman Ron Mazzoli in drafting federal legislation that would offset sprinkler installation costs, which was the genesis of the new tax act.”


NFPA and other sprinkler advocates—including the National Fire Sprinkler Association and American Fire Sprinkler Association—have also supported federal sprinkler incentives. All organizations have championed for the passage of the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act, which was introduced soon after The Station Nightclub Fire in 2003 and would have offered its own financial incentives for installation.


Research continually supports the necessity of fire sprinklers. According to NFPA’s 2017 “U.S. Experience with Sprinklers” report: 
• the civilian fire death rate per 1,000 reported fires was 87 percent lower in properties with sprinklers than in properties with no automatic extinguishing systems
• the average firefighter fireground injury per 1,000 reported fires was 67 percent lower where sprinklers were present than in fires with no automatic extinguishing systems
• sprinklers were effective at controlling the fire in 96 percent of fires in which they operated


The new act does not offer incentives for sprinklering new, one- and two-family homes. NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative is currently working with North American advocates in getting sprinkler requirements adopted across North America. When installed in new homes, fire sprinklers can be cost-effective.


If you have any questions regarding the sprinkler allowances in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, please contact your local tax professional. 

Right before Christmas, 74-year-old Janice Tyrrell got a phone call every parent dreads. The caller stated that there had been a fire at the home of her daughter, Theresa Freeman, a 55-year-old disabled woman. "On the day it happened, we got a phone call about 8 a.m., to say that the fire brigade was there at her house," Tyrell told the Cambridge News. "They told us that we needed to get over to Cambridge. We both have health issues and can't drive, so we had to eventually get a train, and it was nine hours before we actually got to the house."

 

Following the fire, Freeman was taken to the hospital, where she eventually died from her injuries. Soon after the tragedy, her mother entered the world of fire sprinkler advocacy, telling Cambridge News, "I think that there should have been sprinklers in the bungalow. It might even have saved her life. All houses for disabled people should have them."

 

Commenting on Tyrrell's statement, a spokesman for the Cambridge City Council in England told the news outlet that sprinklering its properties is not a requirement, adding that installing them in "all our homes would be very expensive indeed." The response, I'm sure, is of little comfort to Freeman's family. 

 


Learn how Wales, England's neighbor, addressed the sprinkler cost issue and enacted a requirement to sprinkler all of its new homes. 

The following commentary was written by Paul Eichler, chair of the Delaware Fire Sprinkler Coalition. His words have been picked up or quoted by a handful of media outlets: 

 

Delaware has suffered another fire fatality, over one million dollars of fire damage/property loss and an undeterminable amount of air and water pollution in just the last few weeks of 2017. Fourteen families were displaced from their apartments just before Christmas due to fire. Three houses completely lost in Slaughter Beach due to fire. A two year old was killed in Lincoln and seven family members injured due to the same fire.

 

If lives and property are to be saved, and air and water pollution significantly reduced, then Delawareans must step up and insist that local legislators stop deleting the residential sprinkler requirements out of their adopted building codes. The inclusion of sprinklers in the residential building code has existed [in all U.S. model building codes since 2009]. Yet,  municipalities throughout Delaware continue to delete the sprinkler portion of the model code. While not all of the recent fires were in residential settings, having working smoke alarms and sprinklers available still would have reduced some of the injuries, property loss, and pollution.

 

Due to welcoming Delaware tax laws, Delaware is becoming increasingly popular for 55+ neighborhoods. This is the same population that becomes more susceptible to fire injury and death as they grow older in their homes. These homes should be protected with residential fire sprinklers. Even when they are requested, builders stonewall the request with outlandish price quotes. The correct information is easily available through the Delaware State Fire Marshal's Office website.

 

Finally, with the revisions in the U.S. Tax Code and the corporate rates being significantly reduced, it would be nice to see the developers and builders pass some of these savings on to their customers and actively offer and build their houses with residential fire sprinklers. 

 

Here's to a fire-safe 2018. 

 

Learn more about the Delaware Fire Sprinkler Coalition by visiting its website.

The following true story about an unusual fire "sprinkler" save was sent to us by Chief David McClarty of the Lilbourn, Missouri, Fire Department: 


The odd circumstances around a fire occurring in rural New Madrid County, Missouri, demonstrated the advantages of rapid water application to a fire in its incipient stage. On the evening of January 2, just before 5 p.m., a fire occurred in an occupied, single-family dwelling. The home was located approximately eight miles outside of New Madrid, along a gravel county road. The closest water supply for firefighting was six miles from the home. The weather was clear, but temperatures were in the single digits. 

 

The fire department arrived in 15 minutes with an engine carrying 1,000 gallons of water, followed by a tanker carrying 2,500 gallons of water. However, upon investigation, crews found the fire already extinguished. The fire originated in an electrical wall receptacle. As the flames began to climb both the inside and outside of the wall, a PVC water line that happened to be located in the stud space melted. A stream of water discharged from the line, creating a de facto fire sprinkler, controlling the fire before the fire department even arrived.

 

It doesn’t take much of an imagination to think how this fire could have spread and developed had the “sprinkler” not functioned, and whether the 3,500 gallons would have been enough to control the fully developed fire. Home fire sprinklers can truly make a big difference, especially in rural communities in which fire department response times can be longer, and water supplies can be limited.

 

For additional insight into how Missourians are promoting home fire sprinklers, visit the Missouri Fire Sprinkler Coalition page.

A new study soon to be examined by the Las Vegas City Council states council members should enact an ordinance requiring fire sprinklers in the city's new, one- and two-family homes. 

 

This analysis was commissioned by the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). According to a story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, before the state enacts a fire sprinkler ordinance for buildings with fewer than 5,000 square feet of livable space, a cost-benefit analysis must occur.

 

The UNLV study, according to the Review-Journal, states that smoke alarms are insufficient on their own. Sprinklers, it states, complement the job of smoke alarms and, when installed in new homes, pay for themselves in a matter of months. 

 

Based on comments made to the Review-Journal, council members seem to support a sprinkler ordinance; Mayor Carolyn Goodman said "safety is always first to me." Councilman Bob Coffman mirrored her comments, stating "lives would be lost without it."

 

Check this blog for updates to this story. 

 

We've made some big changes to  NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative website. We're hoping the additions and new categories make it easier for you to find the resources that can aid your pitch for home fire sprinklers and requirements for this technology in new homes. 

 

Some of the site changes include: 

 

 

The site still includes information on our more than 30 state and provincial sprinkler coalitions. To access all of the site's new sections, reference the site's new sidebar navigation. The plus signs, once clicked, reveal the pages within each section:

 

Or, review the "In This Section" at the bottom of each section's page:

 

What are your thoughts on the new site? Please send your feedback to the Fire Sprinkler Initiative team or by replying directly to this post.

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