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2020

Welcome back to our Mythblaster Monday series, where we explore the myths and misconceptions that surround home fire sprinklers, clear the air and provide resources that refute the myths and tout their many benefits. Last week we discussed the dangerous belief that because the fire department is on the way, there is no need for home fire sprinklers, when sprinklers provide vital help suppressing the fire before it grows too large.  With a busy wildfire and hurricane season, thoughts of the natural environment and how we fit into it might be on many people’s minds, leading us to today’s topic.

 

Myth: Sprinklers don’t benefit the environment

Fact: Fire hoses, on average, use eight-and-a-half times more water than sprinklers do to contain a fire.Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition water use comparison

 

Last Monday we reviewed how the quick response of home fire sprinklers helps control a fire, limiting the amount of danger to life and property. But by suppressing the fire as soon as its heat is detected, sprinklers also can either extinguish fires or keep them small enough that they require less water to put out once first responders arrive. According to research conducted, home fire sprinklers can reduce the water usage for fighting a home fire by as much as 91 percent. Meanwhile, once firefighters arrive, the high-pressure hoses they use produce water at 125 gallons per minute, and they must use more water to deal with flames that have spread beyond the room of origin.

 

The Environmental Impact of Automatic Fire Sprinklers report also shows that home fire sprinklers can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 98 percent, partly because of the impact on building sustainability when accounting for the difference in fire damage and necessary reconstruction between sprinklered and non-sprinklered homes. Wastewater from fires where sprinklers are present also have fewer persistent pollutants, showing decreased water pollution.

 

In short, in addition to being a no-brainer for safety, home fire sprinklers are green. This brochure for water purveyors, local officials, and the fire service gives a detailed look into home fire sprinklers and water supply. To find more resources on home fire sprinklers and how to get them into your community, check out the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative.

Today we continue our Mythblaster Monday series, where we explore the myths and misconceptions that surround home fire sprinklers, setting the record straight and providing resources that share their many benefits. Last week we exposed the superstition that home fire sprinkler installation is expensive, finding the costs to be much lower than imagined. This week, we turn to a myth that leads to complacency around safety.

 

Myth: The fire department will be able to put out the fire and save my things.

Fact: Fire departments may not be able to get to your home for 9-12 minutes—plenty of time for a fire to grow to be deadly and cause massive damages.

 

Firefighters are highly trained, dedicated professionals that possess the skills and equipment necessary for our first line defense against the ravages of fire. However, arriving at the scene of an emergency and completing the necessary preparations takes time. This fact sheet shows that with unprotected lightweight construction common in new homes and modern, often synthetic furnishings, a home fire today can burn more quickly and create a highly toxic environment very fast. Without fire sprinklers, flames can grow unhindered, heat and gasses can spread, and flashover can occur—igniting everything. It can take less than two minutes for a fire to become deadly, as shown in this video.

In the 9-12 minutes fire departments may need to respond, depending on the presence of home fire sprinklers, they would face a very different scene.

 

Home fire sprinklers, once activated by the high temperature, begin suppressing the fire immediately. This early response proves vital in saving lives and property, but also creates a safer environment for first responders. In deciding to protect his own home with fire sprinklers, Chief Brower highlighted the increased health and suppression risks associated with exposure that responders face. A fateful fire in 2008 went to flashover, trapping four firefighters and burning one severely enough to force retirement. By suppressing fires before they can reach that point, home fire sprinklers help firefighters contain a fire and keep them safer.

 

Of the 1,318,500 fires that US fire departments responded to in 2018, 73 percent of the 3,655 fires resulting in civilian deaths happened in the home. In 2019, an NFPA report found that of the ten firefighter deaths at structure fires, three involved one- and two-family homes. Instead of placing resident and property safety on the back-burner for those 9-12 minutes, installing home fire sprinklers actively increases the chance that lives and possessions can be saved.

 

For a quick rundown of the facts surrounding home fire sprinklers in an easy-to-share format, check out these fact sheets. More information on the home fire threat and how home fire sprinklers are a vital part of alleviating that threat can be found at the Fire Sprinkler Initiative and Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

Last Monday, we introduced our Mythblaster Monday series that explores common myths that people have about home fire sprinklers, to illustrate their many benefits and provide resources to advocate for their use. We began by debunking the idea that smoke alarms alone are sufficient protection from a home fire. This week, we turn to a myth that has often floated to the top of the discussion and is used erroneously by opponents to the lifesaving technology. Home is where the heart is, where we feel safest, and these days, where many spend most of their time. But as will see, protecting it does not mean sinking the ship.

 

Myth: Home Fire Sprinkler installation is too expensive.
Truth: Average fire sprinklers cost $1.35 per square foot of sprinklered space in new construction

 

The $1.35 per square foot average cost includes design, installation, permits, and more. Like plumbing or electrical systems, home fire sprinklers are paid over the life of a mortgage, adding to their affordability. Local ordinances can cause this figure to vary slightly, but that is a far cry from what a home structure fire might cause in property loss. In 2018, the NFPA reported $6.5 billion in property loss from fire in 1- and 2-family homes. In an Arizona study, over a 15-year period the average loss per sprinklered fire incident was $2,166, while unsprinklered homes had an average loss of over $45,000.

 

One a wider scale, a recent study performed in California echoed results from an earlier Maryland report, which found no evidence that sprinkler requirements impacted housing supply or cost. The introduction of new materials has also had a positive effect on the cost of sprinkler installations, and once home fire sprinklers are installed they have been found to decrease water usage by 50 to 91 percent, resulting in savings on the water bill.

 

In short, financial concerns should not deter people from pursuing the life and property protections that home fire sprinklers can provide. Matt Klaus, NFPA Director of Technical Services, briefly discusses these concerns in the video above, and home fire sprinkler advocates in Las Vegas provide a useful case study for how to achieve a sprinkler ordinance even when faced with vocal opponents. A detailed breakdown of home fire sprinkler costs can be found here. For more information, check out the Fire Sprinkler Initiative and Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition websites.

home fire sprinklers

A huge fire engulfed the upstate New York home of television host and celebrity cook, Rachael Ray, causing massive damage to the second floor and destroying the roof of the mansion.

According to news sources, the house, situated in New York State’s Adirondack Park, is in a remote area where there are no fire hydrants for miles. Adding to the challenge of getting water on the scene, according to Warren County's (NY) fire coordinator, Brian LaFlure, “… there was no sprinkler system which is something that down the road we would like people to deal with.” Other fire chiefs on the scene echoed the sentiment saying fire sprinklers “could have stopped the raging inferno.”

The issue pointed out by fire officials, remote areas with limited access to water, is certainly one of the values of home fire sprinklers. But there are others.

Home fires account for four of every five fire deaths and three of every four fire injuries.The design of modern homes, along with the materials used to build them and highly combustible furnishings, result in fires that burn much faster today than they used to, shrinking the time to escape to as little as two minutes.

 

Home fire sprinklers are a crucial, life-saving technology that have been proven as the best protection available to minimize home fire injuries and death for both civilians and responding firefighters. According to NFPA research, the risk of dying in a reported home fire is 85 percent lower if sprinklers are present. Having sprinkler systems in homes reduces the risk of dying in a home fire by 50 percent.

 

Sprinkler opponents are quick to share false information about home fire sprinklers allowing thousands of new homes to be built without this protection despite their inclusion in all model building codes. Research and facts that contradict the myths and false statements about sprinkler systems like installation costs and water usage are readily available to educate others about the dangers of home fires and what they can do to reduce their risk. Simply put, sprinklers are the most affordable, reliable, and effective protection for families.

Despite the intensity of the fire, the first floor of the house that includes Ray’s state-of-the-art kitchen survived the fire. Thankfully, Ray, her husband, mother, and dog were able to escape the fire without injury.  

LeFlure mentioned to news outlets that he would like to see residents deal with sprinklers down the road. To better protect communities, let’s shoot for sprinklers being right around the corner rather than down the road.

The cause of the fire in Ray’s home is under investigation, but initial findings don't point to suspicious behavior.

 

For more information about the life-saving benefits of home fire sprinklers and free resources to share, visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative websites.

 

 

 Photo Credit: Hot Shots Fire Video via TMX.news

As advocates and educators of home fire sprinklers, we continue to search for ways to help increase awareness about the importance and benefits of this life-saving technology. But as you likely know, getting positive attention from the media can sometimes prove challenging. So, in an age where the world is saturated with news and information, how can you break through the “noise” and find the most effective ways to communicate sprinkler messages to news outlets and reach the audiences that we know will benefit from our information?fire sprinklers

 

The American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) recently hosted a “Speaking to the Media about Sprinklers” webinar, which included a presentation by Peg Paul, communications manager for the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC), who provided a wealth of information to help sprinkler advocates enhance their ongoing efforts.

 

According to Paul, start by identifying the type of media outlets that will best support your message and story. Between traditional print publications, online news outlets, social media platforms, and bloggers, there is a lot to choose from, but not all platforms work for all stories. By doing some research, you’ll be able to determine which outlets can best tell your story and put your messages into the right hands.

 

Paul also recommended the following:

  • Keep track of media outlets and reporters. By following news sources and understanding the topics they cover, you can identify the kinds of stories and information they are looking for, when they want to be contacted, and how best to reach them.
  • Provide tools and resources to help media outlets tell your story. While words are powerful, so are the materials that support your messages. Props and related tools help reporters tell the most accurate stories. Whether it’s a fact sheet with sources, talking points, b-roll, or props, media outreach tools provide legitimacy to your messages that reporters look for in storytelling.
  • Think about the timing of your story. Finding the most effective angle and the right timing is key to successfully reaching the media with your story. For example, after a fatal or significant fire or a public hearing or meeting is a good time to provide the media with the facts they need to tell an accurate, compelling story.

 

What it all boils down to, said Paul, is that members of the media will become interested in a sprinkler story if they have good information supported by the right outreach tools. Having an media plan at the start can prove valuable as you navigate this journey.

 

For more information about working with the media and to find free home fire sprinkler resources you can use and share, visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition website and start your media outreach today!

fire sprinkler

 

For many, fire sprinklers are like ocean buoys: people know of them, and that they do something important. But that is often where consideration stops, and the same can be said for home fire sprinklers.

 

We continue to see misinformation from sprinkler opponents and with this weekly series we aim to set the record straight, tackle the myths head on, and prove they just “don’t hold any water”.

 

The first myth we’re addressing can have particularly dangerous consequences:

 

Myth: I have smoke alarms, so I don’t need home fire sprinklers.

Truth: Smoke alarms detect, sprinklers protect.

 

Smoke alarms are indispensable and decrease the risk of dying in a home fire. But they cannot fight the fire itself.

 

A recent NFPA report found that in home structure fires from 2013-2017, the fires caused an estimated average of $6.9 billion dollars in direct property damage per year and an annual average of 2,620 civilian deaths. Sixty-nine percent of reported home fires from that five-year period occurred in one- or two-family homes. A fire can become deadly in as little as two minutes. So while a smoke alarm is vital for alerting people to escape, a home fire sprinkler can activate even when occupants are unable to act—maximizing the time they have to get out, limiting damage to the home, and giving emergency personnel a less-dangerous scene to walk into.

 

In fact, the report found that in home fires where fire sprinklers were present, the death rate dropped by eighty-five percent when compared to fires without any automatic extinguishing systems (AES). Home fire sprinklers are a safety investment that actively prepares for and assists in emergency response—connecting two parts of what NFPA calls the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, a framework that helps guide all affected stakeholders though the process for identifying fire, life safety, electrical and related hazards, and creating solutions to manage such hazards. Plus, their benefits move beyond the individual home, as shown by a fire in San Jose last week, where the blaze from one home quickly spread and damaged another.

Government officials, first responders, and homeowners all stand to benefit from increased home sprinkler installations. Find a fire sprinkler coalition in your area for opportunities and information on advocating for home fire sprinklers in your neighborhood.

 

Each week, additional resources will be highlighted in this corner. To learn more about the case for home fire sprinklers, visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiative and Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition websites. For a deeper look into home fire sprinklers and the myths that plague them, check out the newest episode of the NFPA Podcast “Debunking Home Fire Sprinkler Myths”.

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