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2018


Do you own a home with home fire sprinklers? Were the sprinklers retrofitted? You may be able to earn a $25 Amazon gift card. The Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy is inviting homeowners who have retrofitted their home with home fire sprinklers to complete a survey about their experiences with home fire sprinklers. Eligible homeowners who agree to participate and complete the survey will be given a $25 gift card to Amazon. The survey takes about 20 minutes to complete. 

 

If you have any questions about the research survey, please email the project director, Elise Omaki, or call her at 410-645-0178. 

A recent news broadcast eloquently described the hidden fire dangers of the modern home. The broadcast's effectiveness was due in part to Fire Marshal Ed Ruckriegel, who described the research behind these dangers in layman's terms.  

 

"The contents in our homes and, to some degree how building are built, is what makes our homes less safe," he told a Madison, Wisconsin, news station. He hit other salient points, such as studies proving that homes built more than 30 years ago hit the flashover point slower than today's new homes built with unprotected, lightweight construction. He underscored toys and upholstery created with synthetic materials that are flammable. He also pointed to the technology that helps combat today's home fire dangers. 

 

"Install automatic sprinklers," he says. 

 

Become an advocate like Fire Marshal Ruckriegel; please understand and start promoting today's home fire dangers and fire sprinkler performance by using NFPA's popular PowerPoint underscoring these points. 

Ever since the requirement to fire sprinkler new homes made it into all U.S. model building codes, Sheridan, Wyoming, officials have decided not to adopt it. Citing fire safety issues, the city now seems to be seriously considering this requirement as it goes through its next building code update. 

 

The Sheridan Press states that "safety concerns as well as arguments that the sprinkler requirement's impact on building costs have been overstated are leading [city] council members and members of the community to question whether the [requirement] should be omitted again this year." According to this story, building officials are exploring ideas that address installation cost concerns, including tax rebates and insurance reductions. Noting that the sprinkler requirement in the model building code "is unlikely to go away," local building official Kevin Bare also told the news outlet that "we hope to make this proposed change a wash when it comes to the costs of construction." 

 

Furthering the need for a sprinkler requirement was a study of Sheridan's fire department response times, which noted that firefighters would have difficulty quickly responding to the city's fires due to its staffing levels. Responding immediately to fire, fire sprinklers can help ease this burden. 

 

One of Sheridan's city councilors, who had voted against the requirement during the last two code adoptions, seems to now understand the role sprinklers play in firefighter safety. "If our firefighters aren't rushing into a structure that's on fire, that's a good day," he told The Sheridan Press. 

 

This blog will post updates to this story as NFPA is made aware of them. 

Proven methods to either slow or stop fire spread in homes (e.g., fire sprinklers) should be considered. Here's another tactic the team at UL is promoting: keep your bedroom door closed while sleeping. 

 

UL assembled a group of eight strangers and asked them about fire safety. Many of them didn't believe keeping a door open or closed had any impact on fire spread--that is, until they were taken to a fire test site and witnessed a burn firsthand. Watch their reactions in the following video created by UL to raise awareness about their #CloseBeforeYouDose campaign. 

 

In a recent commentary, the Sauk Valley Media Editorial Board addressed the home fire sprinkler debate. They foresee the day when "sprinkler systems in new homes are as common as smoke alarms," and adds that "politics" is only delaying the inevitable.  

 

"The National Fire Protection Association’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative is gaining momentum, but it’s a tough battle trying to reach everyone at the local level," states the board's commentary. "The cost is a legitimate concern, but according to the NFPA, sprinklers can reduce the risk of death from home fires by 80 percent and property loss by 70 percent."

 

The commentary points to Rock Island, Illinois, which recently passed a fire sprinkler ordinance for new homes. (Read NFPA's interview with the town's fire marshal.) "While detractors had predicted that the extra cost would be $4 a square foot, the actual cost has come in closer to $2 a square foot," states the board, adding that sprinklers have a life-saving impact that should put the cost debate to rest. 

 

NFPA also addressed the question, "how long before all new home are sprinklered?" in this feature story for NFPA Journal. Please give it a read, and submit your comments via this post. 

During Fire Prevention Week, the team at the National Fire Sprinkler Association showcased the power of home fire sprinklers during a segment on "Fox & Friends." This wasn't your average burn from a fire sprinkler trailer, though; NFSA created a new portion of their trailer to showcase how a closed door impacts fire spread. 

 

According to NFPA, a closed door may slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire. A sign stating "close before you doze" was placed near that compartment on the trailer. Smoke alarms sounded during the fire, which served as a reminder to the public to install smoke alarms inside and outside of all bedrooms in a home. (For best protection, make sure all smoke alarms are interconnected.) 

 

Watch the dramatic video by visiting the Fox News site.

Adults 65 or older comprise only 13 percent of the U.S. population, but 30 percent of all home fire victims fell into this age group, according to NFPA. Trends examined by the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that by 2030 all baby boomers will be older than 65. This age group is expected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history.  

 

All the more reason, say safety advocates, to protect the country's new housing stock with home fire sprinklers. This technology recently helped save older adults during a residential fire in Bath, Maine. A quick response from firefighters complemented the sprinkler's activation. "The sprinkler system in the hallways did activate so I think that was in our favor as well,” Bath Fire Chief Lawrence Renaud told The Times Record. “I can’t advocate enough about sprinkler systems. They do save property and lives.”

 

According to the report, a resident was transported to the hospital but likely due to anxiety and not the fire. 

 

 If you're an older adult or if you're seeking housing for one, please consider a home with fire sprinklers. Also, please adhere to these safety tips for older adults.

 

Fire safety organizations have teamed up to produce a new video succinctly outlining the life-saving benefits of home fire sprinklers. 

 

NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition-Canada, the Co-operators (a Canadian insurance cooperative), and the Canadian Automatic Sprinkler Association unveiled the video during Fire Prevention Week. The hope is to underscore the life-saving value, research, and cost estimates of home fire sprinklers to a wider audience. Narrating the video is Howard Sher, executive vice president of Quality Homes. "Builders and developers have the privilege of constructing the most imporant asset that a person can invest in: their home," he says in the video. "One of the ways is to add value and protect that investment is to install home fire sprinklers."

 

Watch the video: 

 

Geneva, Illinois, aldermen recently voted against a requirement to fire sprinkler all of the city's new homes. Their 8-1 decision seemed to be based on concerns argued extensively by the homebuilding industry. 

 

 “We’re trying to keep our housing affordable,” said Alderman James Radecki in a story appearing in the Kane County Chronicle. “It’s not prudent for us to mandate it at this time." 

 

One builder quoted in the story countered installation estimates for fire sprinklers and stated "$20,000 to $30,000 [per installation] was more accurate a cost." Fire sprinkler advocates have questioned these high estimates.

 

The lone dissenter was Alderman Jeanne McGowan; a self-described "proponent" of fire and life safety, she referenced how fire in the new home environment places residents and firefighters at increased risk of injury or death. 

 

Geneva's decision appears to buck the trend in Illinois; more than 100 communities have passed requirements for home fire sprinklers, with a few towns passing new ordinances this year. 

The following commentary appeared in the September/October 2018 "member takeover" issue of the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) Magazine. Many thanks to NFSA for allowing us to repurpose these thoughts to the fire sprinkler industry from retired Fire Chief Dan Jones, a longtime, fire sprinkler advocate: 

 

As a career fire chief, I have been an active and public supporter of automatic fire sprinklers since the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity tragedy in 1996. I am a believer in the life-saving, firefighter-protecting, property-preserving, and environmentally friendly advantages of fire sprinklers. I serve on the advocacy organization, Common Voices, and I have friends in the fire sprinkler industry. 

 

But. I have to ask all of you some questions.

 

Why do you sit back and expect the fire departments to do your marketing and advertising? Why don't I see TV commercials for fire sprinklers? Why do I not hear radio spots about fire sprinklers? Why are there no ads in popular magazines about fire sprinklers? Why are there no fire sprinkler ads in real estate sections of newspapers? Don't you believe enough in your product to spend money on advertising? I see advertising for carpeting, house paints, plumbing fixtures, windows, HVAC systems, water softeners, bathroom features, roofing materials, and any variety of other home and building products. But fire sprinklers? Nothing.

 

I know, I know. I have heard the discussion in your industry that advertising would appear self-serving. Well, isn't all advertising self-serving to some degree? It doesn't seem to bother the smoke detector industry that advertises heavily and touts the potential life-saving aspects of their product, and yet your product is more assuredly lifesaving because it does not require persons at risk to take action to ensure safety. 


The biggest problem we have in promoting fire sprinklers is education. Most policy makers, members of the public, and people in the real estate business don't really understand what fire sprinklers do, how they work, the advantages they offer, and what they cost in initial building. A concerted campaign effort by your industry would be key to overcoming that lack of understanding. There are way too many myths and bad information out there in the public domain about fire sprinklers to ever enable us to gain widespread acceptance and, dare I say, demand for automatic sprinklers everywhere we live, work, and play, including at home. We need you, the fire sprinkler industry, to engage in this effort with commercial advertising.


I want you, as an industry, to be more aggressive in promoting your life-saving product. I have challenged some companies in your industry to even educate your employees to a greater degree about their involvement in saving lives. Make your employees advocates for fire sprinkler protection as well. Help them understand that they play a part, every day, in saving lives and property. That would be a huge boost to your employee's self-worth and morale and they can help educate others. Please let them know that their work is part of fire protection efforts to save lives.

 

Let's get back to the lack of advertising. There can be no industry related to homes and buildings that has access to more dramatic video proving the value of your product than the fire sprinkler industry. Anyone who has ever observed side-by-side burn demonstrations can attest to that. You also have access to overwhelming data about the effectiveness and reliability of your product. And, you have the testimonial of the fire service, one of the most trusted public institutions in our society, at your disposal. Surely you could find some room in your profit margins to fund an advertising campaign?


The NFSA and other organizations are doing all they can with the resources they have, but it will take much more to make the kind of impact I envision. It's time to create a marketing plan on how dollars will be used to promote retrofit and residential sprinklers and raise the money to do it.


Your industry has the answer. So, what is it going to take to get you to advertise the best fire protection technology available? You have to get into the public awareness, and the only way is through major advertising. You rely way too much on code enforcement to provide your business opportunities instead of promoting your business. Stop depending on us in the fire service to be your marketing arm. You can advertise as individual manufacturers or installation companies, or you can combine your dollars as an industry and advertise the product and its effectiveness. It matters not to me how you do it, but please do it. We will work with you to promote the life-saving advantages of fire sprinklers, but we need you to engage.

 

I want to see the day when every residential occupancy built and any facility that people work, study, have fun, or spend time in is protected by fire sprinklers. I would think you would want to see that as well. It will take a greater public awareness campaign than we have ever seen before to achieve that goal. If my letter makes you uncomfortable, that's good! Comfort creates complacency, and your industry must become more proactive. I am waiting to see my first TV fire sprinkler commercial. Don't keep me waiting too long. People are at risk and you have the answer. So, promote it. 

While we have seen some unfortunate setbacks for home fire sprinklers this year, there have been some major successes on the local level. About a half-dozen towns this year have passed requirements for home fire sprinklers. See who made the list by reading the latest edition of our Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter. You'll also find stories on: 

 

  • a major homebuilding company who decided to include voice-activated features--not fire sprinklers--in all its new homes
  • a new tool by NFPA to help us get a better handle on where NFPA 13D is required throughout North America
  • a deep sleeper unstirred by smoke alarms, but saved by fire sprinklers

 

Take 30 seconds to sign up for our Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter and start receiving it directly to your inbox. The newsletter promises to link our fire sprinkler advocates with need-to-know news. 

The Warrensburg, Missouri, City Council recently voted against requirements to sprinkler certain establishments, opting instead for alternatives that were deemed "as safe as sprinklers." 

 

The council's decision would exempt certain, existing food-and-drink establishments with an occupancy load of 300 or more from installing fire sprinklers. Justin Burton, a consultant hired for one of the establishments told the Daily Star-Journal that adequate signs, lighting, and evacuation plans provide a "better level of safety." He added that the occupancy load requirement of 300 or more people was a "knee-jerk reaction" to code provisions that followed The Station Nightclub Fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island, in 2003. The fire killed 100 people. 

 

"While lighting, signs, and evacuation plans are great additions to fire safety in any establishment, they are in no way equal to, or serve as a replacement for, what a single sprinkler head can do in the event of a fire,"  sprinkler advocate Rob Feeney, who was injured in The Station fire, told NFPA. He also lost his then-fiancee in the fire. "Mr. Burton can also find that the cost of a single death or significant burn injury would far exceed the cost of a sprinkler system. Perhaps Mr. Burton should recommend a sign for patrons stating ... the reluctance ... to provide adequate and available life safety measures. Further, [these establishments] should also inform the patrons that it's the city councilors who are allowing this. 

 

"The continued need for sprinkler requirements are based on the ongoing problem of preventable fire deaths that occur year after year. There's an opportunity ... to step up and be part of the solution."

 

Be part of the solution by joining Rob in advocating for fire sprinklers in whatever way possible. Also, hear more of Rob's story by watching this video:

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