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Laurie Christensen and Rachel Moreno with the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office receive the 2018 Fire Sprinkler Leadership Award  

 

The Texas Fire Sprinkler Coalition honored two advocates during the Texas Fire Marshal's Association Conference in October. Both received the 2018 Fire Sprinkler Leadership Award and are no strangers to fire sprinkler advocacy.

 

Chief Chris Connealy
Connealy served as the Texas state fire marshal from 2012 to 2018. During his leadership; Connealy conquered many challenges, including the West Texas Ammonium Nitrate Explosion. He was a powerful voice for firefighter safety and took to the road, visiting each of the 68 Texas counties that have fertilizer plants. Connealy has also been a vocal advocate for fire sprinklers in homes and all other occupancies.

 

Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office
From October 2017 to September 2018, the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office highlighted 14 fire sprinkler activations.  Under the supervision of Chief Laurie Christensen, Public Information Officer Rachel Moreno produced news releases for each sprinkler save that were published by Houston/Harris County local media. 

 

Roland Garcia, co-chair of the Texas Fire Sprinkler Coalition, and NFPA Regional Manager Bob Sullivan presented the awards to the recipients during the conference. 

 

Interested in recognizing a fire sprinkler advocate in your area? Nominate them for the NFPA/Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition Bringing Safety Home Award. The recipient will receive $1,000 to fund local fire sprinkler education/advocacy efforts. Nominations are due November 30. 

The town of Sheridan, Wyoming, upset safety advocates last week when its city council updated its building codes, but passed on a requirement to fire sprinkler its new homes. However, their vote doesn't appear to be a resounding "no" to sprinklers. 

 

According to The Sheridan Press, city staff will continue discussions on installation affordability, insurance incentives, and potential cost savings. Community Development Director Brian Craig said he and his staff want to confirm these financial incentives before "encouraging council to adopt the requirement." Discussions on this requirement, he added, will likely continue through the winter and in 2019. 

 

A local builder also welcomed further conversations that could lead to a requirement. "We would like to propose that we continue our discussions with council...along with other members and people in the community to figure out the best way this can be put into use in the future, which wouldn't damage the affordable housing situation and yet encourage the safety of installation for the residents," Ron Patterson, president of Big Horn Homebuilders, told the publication. 

 

Arguing against stalling the adoption of a requirement was J.D. Gamble, owner of Life Safety Solutions. He told The Sheridan Press that fire sprinklers respond immediately to home fires and address real concerns about local firefighters being unable to get to a home fire in ample time. "There is not one good excuse for not having [the fire sprinkler requirement]," he said. 

 

If you reside in Wyoming and want to help promote home fire sprinklers, please join the Wyoming Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

As we reported on this blog, the Geneva, Illinois, City Council recently voted not to require fire sprinkler its new homes. The lone dissenter of the 8-1 vote against sprinklers was Alderman Jeanne McGowan. Praising her in a recent letter to the editor was Bill Webb, executive director of the Congressional Fire Services Institute. 

 

"Kudos to Councilwoman Jeanne McGowan for taking a stand in support of the public safety community on this important issue," states Webb. "While this is a local decision, I have seen too many victims of fire disasters across the nation."

 

Installation cost estimates for fire sprinklers seemed to be why the city council voted the way they did; builders told members that sprinklering a single-family home could exceed $20,000. Webb took that claim to task. "It’s disconcerting for public safety officials when we hear about local jurisdictions rejecting sprinkler requirements in newly constructed homes," he stated. "It’s also disconcerting when opponents of fire sprinklers inflate the costs to bolster their arguments against automatic fire sprinklers.

 

"When it comes to safeguarding our homes where we spend a preponderance of our time, there’s still resistance in communities across our nation to make wise decisions that will save more lives."

 

Educate yourself on NFPA's research on home fire sprinklers. Furthermore, work with your local safety advocates and sprinkler industry to obtain state or regional estimates of installation costs. These localized numbers will help counter the opposition.  

Stephan Cox (left) and Richard Smith with the Maryland State Firemen's Association received the 2016 Bringing Safety Home Award from Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president of Outreach and Advocacy and president of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

 

One lucky fire sprinkler advocate will receive $1,000.

 

NFPA and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) are accepting nominations for its Bringing Safety Home Award, which recognizes outstanding efforts by a safety advocate who diligently promotes the importance of home fire sprinklers.

 

The award honors members of the fire service and other fire sprinkler advocates in North America who use HFSC educational information, NFPA data, and NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative resources to educate decision makers on home fire sprinklers. These efforts are aimed at convincing legislators and code officials to support sprinkler requirements at the local, state, or provincial level. The award recipient will receive a $1,000 grant to further fire sprinkler advocacy and educational efforts in their area.

 

Past recipients of the Bringing Safety Home Award have included members of the Maryland State Firemen’s Association, who helped defeat a legislative bill that would have weakened Maryland’s statewide requirement for sprinklering new homes. Fire chiefs influential in passing fire sprinkler requirements in their town have also received this award.

 

“This year, a number of communities have successfully passed requirements for fire sprinklers in new homes,” says Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy and HFSC president. “We are gradually seeing more and more towns embrace this technology thanks to the dedication of fire sprinkler advocates who educate on the life-saving ability of fire sprinklers. They know how to effectively counter sprinkler opponents who downplay today’s home fire problem and the need for fire sprinklers in all new homes.” According to NFPA research, fire sprinklers reduce the risk of dying in a fire by 80 percent.

 

NFPA and HFSC will accept nominations for the Bringing Safety Home Award through November 30, 2018. Visit NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative website to submit a nomination. 


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. 

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