In a recent interview the Washington DC CBS affiliate WUSA9, Loudoun County Fire Chief Keith Johnson nailed how Virginia residents can be safer from fire – install home fire sprinklers in new homes.
The story pointed out that Maryland and the District of Columbia both require all new homes to have home fire sprinklers, an effort that dramatically reduces the loss from fire. NFPA statistics say that if you have a reported fire in your home, the risk of dying decreases by about 80 percent when sprinklers are present.
According to the piece, Virginia removed the building code provision for home fire sprinklers that is included in model codes on which the Virginia one is based.
The reporter asked Chief Johnson if people were safer living in Maryland or D.C. and he is quoted as saying, “I would say they're safer in homes that have residential sprinkles, absolutely.” Further saying that it’s a scary thought to not have sprinklers in your home.
Recent statistics from Maryland help make the case. According to the Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal, there were 66 Marylanders who died due to fire, compared to 71 in 2018. There were 471 incidents where a smoke alarm alerted the occupants where there were five fatalities, and 27 injuries to civilians and 164 incidents where residential sprinklers activated resulting in no deaths or injuries.
While smoke alarms are an essential fire safety component, home fire sprinklers provide an added level. Chief Johnson made a great analogy to the reporter about the progression from seat belts to seat belts and airbags in cars. He said, “It's kind of like seat belts in cars, smoke alarms back in the 70s in homes. We want that same protection for residential sprinklers because we know we can save lives. Property loss goes down by an average of 71 percent in homes that have protection by automatic sprinklers.”
As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.