“Residential fire sprinklers are a good, preventive measure,” said Bridgeview (Illinois) Fire Chief Michael Daly in a recent article in SuburbanChicagoland. Chief Daly was reacting to the good news that the Bridgeview village board took steps at their June meeting to ensure continued safety for its residents by unanimously approving amending the sprinkler ordinance requiring home fire sprinklers in new construction and manufactured housing, as well as homes with new additions and major rehab work. The ordinance realigns the village code language with the International Fire Code, 15 years after Bridgeview originally passed its zero square foot ordinance requiring sprinklers in all new construction, commercial, and residential.
“We have seen an absolute difference when a fire breaks out in a building that has sprinklers versus a building that doesn’t have a sprinkler system,” Chief Daly was quoted as saying in the article. A sprinkler, he said, acts within a matter of seconds; a room can go to flashover in less than three minutes, pointing to today’s modern home furnishings, popular open spaces, and unprotected lightweight construction, which can all contribute to an increased rate at which home fires burn, causing a significant reduction in the time occupants now have to safely escape.
Two states, California and Maryland, and the District of Columbia require sprinklers in all new construction homes. Illinois itself has more than 110 communities that have adopted home fire sprinkler ordinances in accordance with NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes. Long Grove was the first village in Illinois to pass a home fire sprinkler ordinance in April 1988. The village was also one of the first with a sprinkler save in a home. Three days before Thanksgiving 2001, a fire started in a child’s bedroom filled with stuffed animals. Two sprinklers activated, controlling the fire, allowing the homeowner and children to safely evacuate. The homeowner admitted that she would not have chosen to have sprinklers installed in her home if she had the option, but was grateful they were required and her home was protected.
“With their fire sprinkler requirements, communities such as Bridgeview and Long Grove have long been at the forefront of fire safety for their residents, business owners, and firefighters alike,” stated Erik Hoffer, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB), who works with the fire service and life safety officials in the state to provide resources and underscore the necessity of sprinkler requirements. Hoffer added there are a few municipalities currently working to upgrade their codes to include the requirement for home fire sprinklers.
Additional information and available resources can be found on NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative webpage. Home fire sprinkler educational resources are available at the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition webpage.