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The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) has taken the guesswork out of creating a live fire/sprinkler demonstration via its free, downloadable guide. Following the success of this resource, HFSC has created its latest tool: a step-by-step guide for building your own home fire sprinkler display.

 

The display mimics a fire sprinkler riser in accordance with provisions in NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes, but can be customized to match a jurisdiction's unique sprinkler requirements. The new guide includes a listing of the required materials and an assembly steps.

 

The display can be a photo-worthy addition to fire station open houses, state fairs, Fire Prevention Week activities, or any municipal events. 

 

Download the new guide today. 

NFPA has released its latest "Home Structure Fires" report. As is the case with its previous reports on this topic, the data is a cause for concern. 

 

Here are some of the highlights from the new report: 

 

  • NFPA estimates that U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 358,500 home structure fires per year during the five-year-period of 2011-2015.
  • These fires caused an estimated average of 2,510 civilian deaths, 12,300 civilian injuries, and $6.7 billion in direct property damage per year.
  • Eighty-four percent of the home fire deaths occurred in one- or two-family homes, including manufactured homes. The remainder occurred in apartments or other multi-family housing.

 

According to the related fact sheet underscoring trends in home fires, the number of home fire deaths has largely plateaued since 2006, hovering between 2,380 and 2,865. The death rate per 1,000 fires was in fact higher in 2016 than in 1980. 

 


Please educate yourself on this new data by downloading the latest "Home Structure Fires" report in addition to related reports on fire loss and injury found on NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative site.

Keith Flood (second from right) is the 2017 recipient of the Bringing Safety Home Award. Honoring Flood during NFPA's recent Sprinkler Coalition Chair Summit was (from left) Fred Durso, communications manager for NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative; Tim Travers, NFPA regional sprinkler specialist; NFPA President Jim Pauley; and Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president of Outreach and Advocacy.

 

The Bringing Safety Home Award is a joint effort by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) and NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative. The award honors members of the fire service and other sprinkler advocates who use HFSC and Fire Sprinkler Initiative resources to educate decision makers on fire sprinklers and convince them to support sprinkler requirements.

Announced at NFPA's recent Sprinkler Coalition Chair summit, this year's recipient is Keith Flood, fire marshal for the West Haven, CT, Fire Department.


Keith launched the Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition in October 2014. The night before the kickoff event, local firefighter Kevin Bell was killed in the line of duty while conducting firefighting operations at a house fire. While some wanted to postpone the event, Keith insisted that the event take place in order to honor Kevin and promote a technology that might have saved his life.


The event was a success. Keith used resources and guidance by HFSC to build a side-by-side demo, send out media alerts, and create the proper speaking points. His fire department is also one of HFSC’s Built for Life Fire Departments, meaning it promotes fire sprinklers during its outreach efforts.


Following the coalition’s launch, Keith has been instrumental in championing for pro-sprinkler laws. Recently, Keith and the coalition have been diligently urging Connecticut’s code-making body to adopt a fire sprinkler requirement for new homes. He’s been an active voice on a codes and standards subcommittee, educating this group on the necessity of a statewide, fire sprinkler requirement. Keith has been instrumental in leading thoughtful discussions on this technology. Thanks to his efforts, this committee recently voted to require sprinklers in all of the state’s new townhomes. Keith will continue to champion for this requirement as a state legislative body weighs in on this potential requirement.


In front of TV cameras last year, Keith joined NFPA at a news conference following the death of a six-year-old girl in her home following a fast-moving fire. The family moved into the home only months before the incident. Responding to a local homebuilder’s claim that “nobody is dying in new homes from fire,” Keith reinforced the point that the home—which was a new home—also has its fire challenges and its working smoke alarms weren’t enough to save this child.

 

Keith’s presence is also felt throughout West Haven. As fire marshal, he conducts many public fire safety education events in schools and civic organizations. All of these efforts exemplify Keith’s tireless advocacy for home fire sprinklers. HFSC and NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative applaud his efforts.

 

For previous winners of the award, visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiative site.

Fighting back tears, Bobby O'Neal, Sr., described the day he received the call that the home his 32-year-old son was living in was in flames. His son eventually died from the incident. 

 

“I feel like if [home fire sprinklers were] mandatory, it would save a lot of lives,” O’Neal told a CBS station in Texas. “It would have been a big aid that day in putting the fire down enough until the fire department could get it control. It might not have got so far out of hand.”

 

His son was one of about 150 Texans who die every year from home fires. A powerful force there is spending serious dollars preventing, what some believe, is the answer to end future fire deaths. According to a report by the National Institute on Money in State Politics underscored by the CBS station, Texas homebuilders and realtors have spent more than $24 million lobbying against home fire sprinklers. In Texas, jurisdictions are unable to enact any new fire sprinkler ordinances. 

 

The president of the Dallas Builders Association stated that fire sprinklers would price 20,000 homeowners out of a home. The news report does not indicate how that figure was derived. However, Chris Connealy, the Texas State Fire Marshal and member of the Texas Fire Sprinkler Coalition, has based his support for sprinklers on sound data.  

 

"The statistics tell the story," he told CBS. "No one has died in a sprinklered occupancy in Texas."

Students in New York not only got to witness the incredible impact of home fire sprinklers--they helped build its power. 

 

High schoolers from Troy and Rochester, New York, with an interest in construction built from scratch two pods simulating living rooms. One unit included a home fire sprinkler, the other didn't. According to a recent article on the construction, "the participating students gained practical construction experience in building the structure. More importantly, they also learned about fire codes and fire safety, the importance of home fire sprinklers, and how a sprinkler system is installed and operates."

 

NFPA, FEMA, and others supplied funding for the demonstrations, which were spearheaded by the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs, a member of the New York Fire Sprinkler Initiative. The demonstrations received stellar coverage from a number of local news outlets. One student told a reporter that the effect fire had in the nonsprinklered unit made him realize the necessity of fire sprinklers in homes. 

 

Curious to see one of these live burn/fire sprinkler demos? Check out the following video of one initiated by the Maine Fire Sprinkler Coalition

 

The U.S.has seen its share of natural disasters this year. Following Hurricane Harvey, in particular, which ravaged parts of Texas, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) supplied manufactured housing units to area residents. One unique feature of these units: all of them included fire sprinklers. 

 

This technology will make its way into future manufactured housing units supplied by FEMA, a decision that was "no small feat of engineering—or of political maneuvering," reports NFPA Journal. In a feature story highlighting this safety achievement, Journal's associate editor Jesse Roman interviewed key sources that led to this decision and those impacted by it. 

 

“Most fire deaths occur in single-family homes, and the data clearly shows that fire suppression systems like sprinklers save lives,” said Chris Connealy, the Texas fire marshal and a member of the Texas Fire Sprinkler Coalition. “We always appreciate when fire prevention and safety equipment are taken into consideration.”

 

“The complexity of it just boggled my mind. I came from the fire protection industry, so I thought, ‘sprinklers in a manufactured home? Boy, that’s a no brainer—that should take me about three hours to install,'" Lawrence McKenna, Jr., a fire protection engineer at the USFA, told NFPA Journal. "Well, putting sprinklers in one unit is easy. Putting them in 20,000 on a couple weeks’ notice, not knowing where the homes are going to end up, not knowing what the water supply situation is going to be—that’s an entirely different matter." 

 

Learn how this idea to sprinkler FEMA's manufactured housing came to fruition by reading the Journal article. 

A single residential fire sprinkler had extinguished a fire on a desk located in a second-floor home office.

 

The communications team at the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition alerted us to two likely tragedies averted thanks to fire sprinkler activations in the same fire district. 

 

According to a story on HFSC's blog, the Novato Fire District now has thousands of sprinklered homes following the district--and the state of California--embracing requirements to sprinkler new homes. (Information on California's requirement can be found on NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative site.) Earlier this year, sprinklers activated in two of Novato's homes. One of the fires occurred in a home's garage, where workers were conducting renovations. A result of spontaneous combustion from contaminated rags, the fire was quickly extinguished by a single sprinkler. 

 

"[The general contactor] was so relieved, he actually gave the sprinkler contractor a big bear hug when he came to replace the head, thanking him and acknowledging that the sprinklers saved the house,” Fire Marshal and Battalion Chief Bill Tyler with Novato Fire District told HFSC. 

 

The second activation occurred following a fire on a desk inside another home. In both incidents, there was no structural damage. It was estimated that the sprinklers "saved more than $2 million in damage," reported HFSC.

 

These stories might not make the news like home fires do, but they need to be heard. If you need help perfecting your pitch for home fire sprinklers, please use the array of resources produced by HFSC. As always, these resources are 100 percent free. 

Every day seven people die from American home fires, and another 13,000 are injured each year. These statistics, while important, are only a small piece of America's complex home fire problem.

 

NFPA has released a new, five-part podcast series that answers the question: What follows a home fire? Through the story of one family, we are giving listeners a powerful story that goes beyond our statistics. Titled “The Survivors,” this five-part series centers on the van Dijk family. In 2014, a fire at their home killed two of their children. The podcast showcases the lifelong toll fire has taken on this family and others. Interviews with burn treatment and recovery specialists in America, the fire service, and top safety advocates underscore the rarely seen ripple effects of home fires experienced across North America.

 

Additionally, the “The Survivors” expands beyond the family’s story to discuss the fire challenges inside today’s new homes. Experts also highlight a solution to America’s home fire problem—home fire sprinklers—and a powerful group spending millions of dollars to keep this safety feature out of new homes.

 

Visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiative site to listen to the five-part story, developed in cooperation with the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. The podcast is also available via iTunes and Google Play; simply search “NFPA The Survivors."

The following commentary was written by Gregg A. Cleveland, chair of the Wisconsin Fire Sprinkler Coalition:

 

There is a lot of discussion about changing the culture of the fire service today. In my nearly 40 years in the fire service, I have witnessed a lot of positive change; firefighters smoking cigarettes are rare, most all firefighters wear SCBA, and there is more awareness for health and safety of firefighters than ever before. However, there is still one area we need to address: home fire sprinklers.

 

With the recent emphasis on cancer prevention, we see the need for cancer screening, regular cleaning and decontaminating of our personal protective clothing, and carrying wipes on apparatus for immediate use following a fire. These are all good things that we need to do. However, are we treating the symptoms or are we treating the problem?

 

We need to take these precautions because of the number of fires that occur in non-sprinklered buildings, especially homes. I would expect that the fire service would be clamoring for home fire sprinklers because eliminating or greatly reducing our firefighters to the toxic products of combustion will result in the long-term elimination of cancer due to exposure. It will also eliminate firefighter injuries and deaths and make our workplace much safer for our firefighters.

 

My experience is that home fire sprinklers (or sprinklers in general) are still not a major topic of discussion among the fire service. Sprinklers and fire prevention must become the top priority of fire service if we are truly determined to make a serious effort to reduce cancer, other diseases, injuries, and deaths to firefighters. Why is this not happening? When I joined the fire service nearly 40 years ago, I joined to fight fires--not conduct fire inspections! All of my training focused on fighting fires and response, nothing on preventing fires. I believe the same holds true today. Fire prevention is not sexy. Responding to a fire that is nearly extinguished on arrival is not as gratifying as a good stop of an uncontrolled, fast-moving fire. There is still a sense that home fire sprinklers will some way downplay the importance or need for fire suppression forces. There is definitely a lack of understanding by the fire service that home fire sprinklers will have a positive impact on firefighter safety and health.

 

This is where our culture must change. We need to realize that we are unnecessarily exposing ourselves to preventable injuries, deaths, and serious diseases such as cancer. Many of these will come back to haunt us in what is to be the most precious years in our lives and impact time spent with our spouses, children, grandchildren, and friends.

 

I remember my uncle who died of lung cancer after smoking for the vast majority of his life. He told me that if he only knew how smoking would have affected his life today he would have stopped smoking yesterday. How many of our brothers and sisters who are dying from cancer today would have taken advantage of home fire sprinklers yesterday? 

Speaking out in support of home fire sprinklers is an effective way of getting the public's attention on a technology that might be foreign to them. Doing just that is Brian Bechtel, chief inspector with the Crawfordsville, Indiana, Fire Department. He recently wrote a piece for The Paper, a local publication, that underscores a plethora of myths on fire sprinklers. His opinion piece includes the following facts:

 

  • representatives from the National Association of Home Builders, he states, argue fire sprinkler requirements drive up housing costs and price people out of new homes. Bechtel sites research from NFPA and others stating there have been no negative impacts on development in towns that have embraced sprinkler requirements 
  • modern fire sprinklers are inconspicuous and not eyesores 
  • fire sprinklers are suitable for homes in both rural and urban settings; water for sprinklers can come from a home's domestic water supply or a tank-and-pump system

 

"I do believe that it has been proven over and over again that air bags combined with seatbelts have saved numerous lives and prevented unnecessary trauma to people," Bechtel states in his piece. "I think sprinklers could help just the same in our homes.

 

"If a simple thing like a few well-placed sprinkler heads in a home could prevent a tragedy, why wouldn't it be worth looking into?"

 


Educate yourself on all of the myths and facts on home fire sprinklers. 

In a state currently battling fire sprinkler requirements, a news story discusses the potential effects of not embracing these requirements in residential settings. 

 

The Tampa Bay Times recently underscored the death of 25-year-old Zachary Means, who died from fire earlier this year in his Florida residence. Means was an Eckerd College graduate and described as a "superstar" for his research involving environmental and medical issues. Following a horrific account of how Means and his roommate attempted to flee the fire, the article also discusses how Florida fire officials have been pushing for residential fire sprinkler requirements. The article focuses on a sprinkler's impact in condos, but the same arguments for this technology are applicable in the new, one- and two-family home setting. 

 

"Smoke alarms are great, but my 94-year-old mother, if she gets on her walker, her face is up in the smoke and she's not going to get out," Jon Pasqualone, executive director of the Florida Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association, told the paper. "Sprinklers stop the fire from growing and spreading." 

 

For years, legislation has prevented fire sprinklers in certain residential settings. Most recently, the state legislature passed a bill extending a deadline to install fire sprinklers for condos built before 1994 and higher than 75 feet. (The requirement deadline had already been extended twice by the legislature.) State law requires condos built after 1994 to install fire sprinklers. Following London's Grenfell Tower fire this year, Florida Governor Rick Scott, quickly vetoed the bill. 

 

When asked if fire sprinklers could have saved 25-year-old Means, Lieutenant Steven Lawrence with St. Petersburg Fire Rescue told the paper, "It probably would have kept the fire from spreading inside" and "provided a safer environment in which to escape."

Millions of Americans this week woke to a story on one of NFPA's favorite topics: home fire sprinklers. 

 

Using NFPA's data on today's home fires, "Good Morning America" underscored today's home fire problem in a news story that also included a burn demonstration inside a home. UL and the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) initiated two burns inside the home, once inside a room with fire sprinklers and one without. Both results were dramatic. 

 

ABC also reached out to the National Association of Home Builders, who told them "smoke detectors are still the most cost-effective means for saving lives in a home fire. Sprinklers can add thousands to the cost of a new home." And, it adds, sprinklers have "marginal benefits." Since fire sprinklers save lives and have been doing so in many structures across the country, I would hardly call this purpose a "marginal benefit."

 

The story also points to the Fire Protection Research Foundation's latest report on fire sprinkler installation costs. Without stating so in the story, the average installation cost per square foot is $1.35, proving the affordability of this technology. Shane Ray, NFSA's president, also calls out the number of states currently prohibiting fire sprinklers on either a local or state level.

 

Watch the news clip, and let us know what you think of ABC's coverage by replying to this blog post.

In NFPA's latest edition of its Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter, learn how homebuilders might be trying to get out of a requirement to sprinkler new homes. You'll also read about: 

 

  • five easy steps to better your advocacy for home fire sprinklers
  • Angie's List--once again--supports fire sprinklers
  • why there's no rational explanation for opposing this technology, states a recent editorial

 

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter today, and make sure you're on top of important sprinkler news happening across North America. 

It's not everyday you hear about a homebuilder having positive things to say about home fire sprinklers. However, that's exactly what happened following an installation in Boxford, Massachusetts. 

 

An article appearing in Sprinkler Age, the magazine for the American Fire Sprinkler Association, highlights a couple who wanted to create a home that was as fire-safe as possible. All homes, according to the article, have their own well, since there is no town water supply. That's why the home is equipped with a tank-and-pump system. "The homeowners and I discussed installing fire sprinklers right out of the gate," Steve Howell with Howell Custom Builders told the magazine. He adds that the home's quarter-mile-long driveway with a 120-foot rise would have been challenging for the fire service to access in the event of a fire. 

 

Boxford's Fire Chief Brian Geiger says his department always emphasizes fire prevention and role fire sprinklers play in reducing fire risks. "We spend a lot of time in homes making sure everything is to code, especially these systems," Geiger told the magazine. "We know that fire sprinklers give a homeowner the extra time needed to get out of a burning home, and that saves lives. In a town with no town water, no hydrants, and a call fire department, this team approach to fire safety is very important."

 

Read the full article appearing in Sprinkler Age (starting on page 55). 

During the recent groundbreaking, Massachusetts Congressman Bill Keating joined Paul Skarinka and his wife, Jenn, at the site of their new home

 

Corporal Paul Skarinka was eight months into his first tour of duty with the U.S. Army when his unit came under enemy fire while on a mission outside of Baghdad in 2014. During a rocket-propelled grenade explosion, Skarinka suffered a severed artery and serious damage to his left arm and leg. He was transported to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland, where he underwent 22 surgeries, including the amputation of his left leg below the knee and partial amputation of his left arm.

 

Living with his wife and two children in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, Skarinka continues to serve his community, obtaining his EMT/paramedic license to assist with the Plympton Fire Department and Brewster Ambulance Service. Still, his battle injuries remain a daily issue. Though he and his wife own their home, it is not handicap accessible or conducive to his needs as a recent amputee. 

 

Thanks to efforts by Jared Allen's Homes for Wounded Warriors, Skarinka is relocating to a home in Hanson, Massachusetts, that better suits his needs. Groundbreaking begun this week on the home, which will also included home fire sprinklers. The Massachusetts Fire Sprinkler Coalition was able to secure the labor and materials to install the fire sprinklers at no cost. The wounded warriors organization, which raises money to build and remodel handicap accessible homes for veterans injured in Iraq or Afghanistan, makes a point to sprinkler all of its new homes. 

 

Are there similar organizations in your region that might benefit from a similar partnership?

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