Skip navigation
All Places > FSI > Blog
1 2 3 4 Previous Next

FSI

1,283 posts

Two news stories not only the feature the damage associated with home fires, but the technology that could have prevented it. 

 

In Ludlow, Massachusetts, an air conditioner started a fire in July that eventually killed a couple, 82 and 78 years old, and their adult son. State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey told WCVB that "fire sprinklers could have made a difference between life and death in this fire." 

 

This month in Westminster, Maryland, another fire completely destroyed a home, resulting in $90,000 worth of damages. The volunteer fire department took 35 minutes to extinguish the blaze. According to information from the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office that was highlighted in a news report, "no fire alarms or sprinklers were detected in the house at the time of the fire." 

 

Whenever at the scene of the fire, remember to tell the media of the presence--or lack thereof--of fire sprinklers at the scene of a home fire. (Use our media tips, found under "talking home fire sprinklers.") This tactic alerts reporters to this technology and gets them into the habit of asking the question,"Were fire sprinklers present during this fire?"

A small fire at the Smithsonian Castle building in Washington, D.C., made minimal headlines, mainly because its sprinklers quickly extinguished the flames. No deaths. No injuries. Minimal damage. 

 

In a well-written commentary by writer Dave Statter, he promotes the protection at this building and the "care...to protect...priceless artifacts and many visitors from fire" and how this level of protection is constantly (and ridiculously) debated in the residential setting. What has riled Statter is recent news from Wisconsin that the state will no longer enforce a rule to fire sprinkler apartments that have three to 20 units. This announcement reverses a previous one made earlier this year by the state's Department of Safety and Professional Services, which stated the sprinklering of these residences would remain in effect. According to the Associated Press, the Wisconsin Builders Association opposed the sprinkler rule. 

 

"It's the same old story in Wisconsin as it is in Virginia, where I live, and in much of the rest of the country," stated Statter. "The expertise of [the fire service does] not matter to the politicians. What matters are the builders. 

 

"School-aged kids from all over the country come to Washington to visit the Smithsonian. They learn valuable lessons about our country. But the lesson today...is for the adults like [Wisconsin] Governor Walker...who help lead this great nation: sprinklers save both valuable property and the lives of the children from Wisconsin, Virginia, and the 48 other states who come to Washington to eagerly peer through the glass at the history on display along the National Mall. The builders won't ever teach you that lesson, but the fire chiefs always will."

 

Please teach this important lesson to the people and decision makers in your community. Take action by using NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative's resources.   

We recently highlighted this video produced by the Texas State Fire Marshal's Office featuring State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy encouraging fire sprinklers in new dwellings. He has once again alerted the media to his state's home fire problem (165 Texans, on average, die each year) and his opinions on fire sprinklers. 

 

 

"The thing about sprinklers, it's like having a firefighter up in the ceiling ready to provide water to extinguish the fire," Connealy, a member of the Texas Fire Sprinkler Coalition, recently told a San Antonio news station. 

 

The news story also covered a fire demonstration inside a baby's nursery, one with sprinklers and one without. In the unsprinklered room, temperatures reached 1,400 degrees in under four minutes of the fire. As these types of fires--and the accompanying deaths and injuries--continue to occur across North America. Connealy reminded the media that many of these losses are "preventable."

 

"Fire sprinklers work," he told the news outlet. "They have a long history, and they are consistent."

 

Follow Fire Marshal Connealy's lead and keep fire sprinklers on the media's radar. Research reporters in your area who have covered stories on home fires or home fire safety and pitch them a story on fire sprinklers. Use the information in our fact sheets and research reports to aid your pitch.  

Now, there's even more data to support the stance that fire sprinklers should be a staple in all new homes. 

 

NFPA's new report, "U.S. Experience With Sprinklers," sheds light on fire sprinkler operation during home fires and the loss mitigated by this technology. Consider these statistics found in the new report and accompanying fact sheet. During reported U.S. home fires between 2010-2014:

 

  • the civilian death rate was 81 percent lower in homes with fire sprinklers than in homes without them
  • the average firefighter injury rate was nearly 80 percent lower when fire sprinklers were present during fires
  • when sprinklers were present, fires were kept to the room of origin 97 percent of the time
  • the home fire death rate was 90 percent lower when fire sprinklers and hardwired smoke alarms were present. By comparison, this death rate is only 18 percent lower when battery-powered smoke alarms are present but automatic extinguishing systems weren't

 

During this time frame, fire sprinklers were present in only seven percent of reported home fires. You can help increase this number. Please share these eye-opening statistics found in the new "U.S. Experience With Sprinklers" report with your region's decision makers and demand they start taking their home fire problem seriously. Please link them with the facts. 

Photo courtesy of the American Fire Sprinkler Association

 

Having overseen nearly 2,000 home installations of fire sprinklers, Randy Miller knows these systems backwards and forwards. He's now receiving national recognition not only for these installations but for his assistance in passing an ordinance to fire sprinkler every new home in Camas, Washington. 

 

His efforts are the reason Miller was recently named "fire sprinkler advocate of the year" by the American Fire Sprinkler Association. The recognition honors efforts to advance the use of automatic sprinklers by people not directly involved in the fire sprinkler industry. 

 

Nearly 15 years ago, Miller, now deputy fire marshal with the Camas-Washougal Fire Department, pushed for a residential sprinkler ordinance in his town. The opposition was swift and severe. "The building industry came out in droves," Miller told AFSA in a recent article appearing in its Sprinkler Age magazine. 

 

Miller and his colleagues then decided to initiate conversations with local builders and developers to discuss ways fire sprinklers can address building challenges. “We came up with compromises,” Miller told AFSA. “We told them, you can have narrower streets in your subdivision, if you sprinkler it. You can have one way in, if you sprinkler it. You can have a gated community, if you sprinkler it. You can have steeper slopes or longer dead end roads or less hydrants, but you have to sprinkler the entire subdivision.” Known as "trade-ups," these compromises can be key pitches to builders.

 

The fruits of Miller's labor are astounding; 98 percent of homes in Camas and Washougal had sprinkler protection prior to the ordinance, making the 2016 passage all that easier. The vote to pass the ordinance was unanimous. Read the article by AFSA for more information on Miller. 

 

NFPA sends its congratulations to Randy Miller for receiving this prestigious honor. 

Our friends at the Blue Mountains Fire & Rescue in Ontario sent us a comparison of two fires in their community and the astounding results of each. 

 

A cigarette that accidentally dropped onto bedding inside a residence ignited one of the fires. The elderly resident attempted to extinguish the fire with a pail of water. When that didn't work, he fled to his balcony and called 911. Firefighters arrived in minutes, but fire suppression was delayed since rescue operations were performed first. The fire destroyed the residence, resulting in thousands of dollars in damage. The aftermath is documented in the above photo. 

 

A more recent fire was the result of a damaged chord on an oscillating fan. Since the structure was in a rural setting, the fire department's response time was considerably longer. However, the fire activated the fire sprinklers, which extinguished the fire. Damage was estimated to be $1,000. "Had this structure not been monitored and sprinkler-protected...it would have surely been a total loss," stated Duncan Rydall, chief fire prevention officer with Blue Mountains Fire & Rescue, in an email to NFPA. "The automatic sprinklers truly saved this building."

 


We love hearing about fire sprinkler saves! Please email us any that occur in your town or that you see in the news. 

 

Free Webinar: Solving the Home Fire Problem--Five Steps to Better Advocate for Home Fire Sprinklers

 

Thursday, Sept. 21, 12:30-1:30 p.m. EST

 

Every year, the majority of North America's fire deaths happen at home. The solution to this problem - the home fire sprinkler - exists. However, many regions face intense opposition for fire sprinklers, despite this technology being a model building code requirement. As a safety advocate, you can be a powerful voice in support of this technology. This webinar will demonstrate (in five easy steps) how attendees can participate in a growing grassroots movement across North America in support of this technology. By better understanding the power of advocacy and linking up with like-minded advocates in their region, attendees can better promote fire sprinklers, counter sprinkler opponents, and underscore a technology designed to save lives. 

 

Register for this free webinar today! 

A recent editorial appearing on NorthJersey.com eloquently captures the frustration felt by many of our safety advocates. The editorial is in response to state legislators stalling on fire code reform following the massive Edgewater apartment fire in 2015, which led to more than 500 residents losing their homes and another 500 being temporarily displaced. While the editorial underscores sprinkler requirements for large buildings, the same arguments could be applied to the failure of adopting fire sprinkler laws for one- and two-family homes. 

 

"Residents have a right to better protection," states the editorial. "They need to have peace of mind that structures...will withstand, or at least slow down, slow-raging fires." 

 

Another concern underscored in the editorial is the slow vetting process of the bills aimed at bolstering fire safety. "While legislators do their vetting, let us hope no New Jerseyans lose their lives or their valued possessions, or the places they call home, in the meantime."

 

You don't have to be a member of an editorial board to have your voice heard. Create your own letter to the editor that underscores your displeasure for laws that prohibit home fire sprinklers or delays in getting them off the ground. Here's how to make a convincing case for home fire sprinklers that you can use in your write-up.

As Connecticut currently updates its building code, members of the Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition are recommending the state's Codes and Standards Committee to embrace the solution to the state's home fire problem by adopting a model building code requirement to sprinkler all new homes. The coalition has based its recommendation on findings outlined in a new position paper.

 

The building code update follows the 2016 home fire death of a six-year-old girl from Plainfield, Connecticut. The Connecticut home had at least one working smoke alarm. Moreover, had this home’s construction followed requirements found in all U.S. model building codes—specifically, a requirement to sprinkler new dwellings that has appeared in every edition of these codes since 2009—it should have been sprinklered. The coalition joined NFPA at a news conference in October 2016 to underscore the recent tragedy.

 

"Inaction by our state’s decision makers has led to another tragedy," said coalition Chair Keith Flood following the fire. "We need them to finally start embracing home fire sprinklers and stop listening to the rhetoric by local fire sprinkler opponents. Now is the time to bolster laws that will lead to safer homes for future generations.”

 

Please take action by August 8 to ensure every new home in Connecticut is equipped with home fire sprinklers. We're asking all advocates to email the state Codes and Standards Committee to adopt the model building code requirement to sprinkler new, one- and two-family homes. Visit the Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition site for more information.

A recent issue of NFPA Journal offered a sobering look at the toll cancer is taking on firefighters. Modern homes and the combustibles within them are partly to blame; these synthetic materials under fire produce substances "proven or widely believed to cause cancer," states the article. While exact statistics are hard to come by, the figures that are available are disturbing: 

 

  • According to the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), 61 percent of line-of-duty firefighter deaths between 2002 and 2016 were caused by occupational cancer
  • there were more than 1,050 line-of-duty firefighter cancer deaths during that period 

 

Another news outlet recently underscored this problem. "We have absolutely seen an increase in firefighters getting cancer, and the cancers we are seeing are abnormal cancers, unusual cancers for people in their age groups," Charles Hood, fire chief for the City of San Antonio, told KSAT-12 during a recent interview. "We are seeing younger, healthier firefighters contracting cancer." 

 

Hood added that modern home furnishings--many of which are synthetic--can "put off some really toxic gases" when on fire. Moreover, today's unprotected homebuilding material of choice is leading to more rapid structural failure when burning and placing firefighters in pretty precarious situations. (Not convinced? See the groundbreaking research on this topic.) 

 

Reducing fire risks to both residents and firefighters is home fire sprinklers. While there isn't data pointing to fire sprinklers and decreased cancer rates, consider this: When compared to structure fires in homes with no automatic extinguishing equipment present, analysis of home structure fires with sprinklers present showed a 65 percent reduction in firefighter injuries per 1,000 home structure fires, states NFPA's "Impact of Home Sprinklers on Firefighter Injuries" report.

 


Please convince your decision makers that today's home fires pose significant threats to your local fire service. Take a stand in support of requirements for home fire sprinklers, which can help safeguard them from the risks of their job.  

Residential fire sprinklers have been receiving some positive press in recent weeks. In response to the Grenfell Tower Fire in London that killed 80 people, Florida Governor Rick Scott vetoed anti-sprinkler legislation that would have again delayed installing fire sprinklers in certain residences. A North Carolina town has begun offering discounts for fire sprinkler installations. Alabama Governor recently signed into law a bill giving local plumbers the ability to conduct installs.

 

These and other pro-sprinkler actions across North America showcase increased awareness and acceptance of this technology, according to an article by Plastic News. The report forecasts that "the worldwide sales of fire safety systems...will grow at or near double-digit rates in the next five years." As for home fire sprinklers, model building code requirements for installations have helped drive up sales in areas that have adopted this requirement on a local or state level. The article also underscores the current state of home fire sprinkler requirements in America.

 

While some builders promote home fire sprinklers similarly to other home upgrades like granite countertops, others are offering installations voluntarily. "[Homebuilders offering fire sprinklers] are few and far between, but I'm making headway in my area," Tracy Moore, a fire sprinkler contractor and member of the Washington Fire Sprinkler Coalition, told the publication. "Some will do it carte blanche because they think it's a benefit to the homeowners, and there are statistics that say 78 percent of homeowners now agree they are a benefit. A few years ago, that [percentage] was really low."

In the recent issue of NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter, read an exclusive interview with homebuilder Steve Asher discussing how he has fire sprinklered 75 percent of his homes. You'll also find stories on: 

 

  • a celebration of a new, anti-sprinkler law quickly canceled by a state homebuilding association following deadly fire
  • governor signing new bill aimed at bolstering use of residential sprinklers
  • advocates demanding the adoption of a fire sprinkler requirement as their state updates its building code

 

Please help us promote the necessity of home fire sprinklers by registering for and sharing our Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter. It's monthly, free, and filled with fire safety information. 

The California Fire Sprinkler Coalition is co-hosting two symposiums addressing common questions related to home fire sprinklers. Discussions will focus on water supply arrangements, backflow, cross connection, local code amendments, and unnecessary additions to home fire sprinklers. The first symposium takes place August 10 in Rancho Cucamonga and the second occurs September 20 in Roseville. 

 

The coalition has already taken proactive steps to address sprinkler concerns; they have developed a white paper examining installation standards and why add-ons and amendments can jeopardize these requirements and increase installation costs. For residents unclear about the fire sprinklers in their own, the coalition also developed a new informational sheet offering guidance on properly maintaining their fire sprinklers. 

 

Interested in attending the symposiums? Download the registration form.

The statistics do not lie. A recent NFPA Journal article underscored today's rural fire problem, stating: 

  • "rural America is becoming more rural." In 2000, 21 percent of Americans resided in rural areas. According to recent estimates, that figure is now as low as 15 percent. 
  • The national average for the rate of fires per thousand people is 4.5. In communities with 2,500 to 4,999 people, the rate is 6.8. In communities under 2,500, the rate surges to 10.8, more than double the national average. The trend "holds true for civilian fire deaths," notes the article.
  • small communities rely on volunteer firefighters, but those volunteers are getting older and replacements are tougher to find. 

 

Response times to fires can also be impacted in rural areas. "To get down a narrow road, to get out [to a fire], is it 10 minutes out of town? Fifteen minutes out of town?" posed Lane Fire Authority Fire Marshal Dean Chappell during a recent interview with a CBS news station in Oregon.

 

Home fire sprinklers can be your best line of defense to combat the safety challenges of living in a rural home, Chappell said. "If a fire starts, that little sprinkler is going to contain it until somebody gets there," he told the CBS station. 

 


Use these NFPA resources to promote rural fire safety. If living in a rural community and in the market for a new home, please consider home fire sprinklers.   

When it comes to promoting the power of home fire sprinklers, take a lesson from a dynamic duo in South Carolina. Diane and Les Woods, members of the South Carolina Fire Sprinkler Coalition, are likely seen in the vicinity of a live burn/fire sprinkler demonstration. To date, the couple has participated in more than 40 of these demonstrations. 

 

"There is nothing better than sprinklers," Diane told The Wilson Times during a recent demo. "Sprinklers are number one. Why residential sprinklers? Because they save lives." 

 

The demo was a component of a seminar underscoring sprinkler inspections, testing, and maintenance. More and more states have been hosting targeted events for sprinkler stakeholder groups with much success. During the recent event, Les Woods wove in other safety messages, including information on smoke alarm placement and escape planning.

 

Kudos to Diane and Les for consistently attracting the media to their sprinkler demos. Don't forget to create your own using this free resource by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition. Please invite the media to these events. If unsure of what to say to a reporter, use these talking points created by NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative. 

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: