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We recently published commentary from Jerry DeLuca, a New York safety advocate, about two home fires in two days that killed eight people in his state. Other advocates have been equally vocal about similar tragedies occurring there this month. 

 

A Bronx residential fire killing 13 people in December was deemed the deadliest fire in New York City within the past 27 years. "There has never been a multiple loss of life in any structure protected with a properly installed and maintained fire sprinkler system," stated John A. Viniello, former president of the National Fire Sprinkler Association, in a recent letter to the editor. "This omission [of fire sprinklers in residences] continues to result in lives lost. The city's fire department...was on the Bronx fire scene within three minutes, yet people died.

 

"How much higher does the body count have to get before proactive fire sprinkler legislation is enacted? These deadly fires will continue unless wisdom prevails and the codes are updated."

 

Fire fatalities last year in New York City rose 35 percent when compared to fire deaths in 2016, reports the New York Fire Sprinkler Council, an advocacy group that's a division of the Mechanical Contractors Association of New York. While the city has consistently expanded sprinkler requirements, "it is clear the city still has a long way to go in protecting all residents with fire sprinklers," says Anthony Saporito, executive vice president of the Mechanical Contractors Association of New York. Per the council, New York City hasn't passed a law improving fire sprinkler safety in residential buildings since 1999.

 

Are you and the sprinkler advocates in your state just as vocal about your home fire problem? Help raise awareness--constantly--about these tragedies by writing your own letter to the editor or commentary to your local media outlets. Just a couple paragraphs will suffice. Use  NFPA's data or statewide data (if available) to back your reasoning for home fire sprinkler requirements.

Photo: GoFundMe

 

Earlier this month, firefighter Jason Penwell was en route to a fire in a neighborhood that was oddly familiar; the neighborhood was his. Making the experience all the more tragic, it was his home in flames. 

 

"I happened to be at the firehouse at the time [the call came in] and never thought it could be my house," he told the Courier-Post. "All I had time to do was pull up my suspenders, jump on the truck, and answer the call." The flames eventually destroyed the entire home. Penwell's wife and four kids were not injured in the fire, but one of the family's dogs was killed in the incident. Penwell's son was able to rescue five other dogs inside the home. 

 

According to the news report, the home was in such bad shape that it had to be demolished the night of the fire. "Of course we are all upset," Penwell told the paper. "But today is day one of recovery, and I have to stay positive for my kids." A GoFundMe page has been established for the family. 

 

However heartbreaking they are, stories involving home fires help humanize fire's effects to the public. Please familiarize yourself--and help share--the many stories NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative has documented over the years. They can be found on the site's new "Survivor Stories" page. There, you'll have the opportunity to share your own story involving a home fire. Please consider sending us few paragraphs about your experience, whether you're a firefighter who responded to a home fire that impacted you or if you experienced a fire at your own home. We'll be able to share it with our North American audience. 

You may be familiar with this eye-catching fire timeline created by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC). This visual is a great accompaniment to any public education outing featuring home fire sprinkler or for social media sharing. Now, HFSC has animated the timeline, and in the process has created something even more compelling. 

 

Check out and download the new HFSC video that brings the timeline to life. The video shows the speed of today's home fires and the effect fire sprinklers have in keeping the fire tenable. There's even audio, too. 

 

Please share this new resource, along with the other free resources produced by HFSC.

Could Canadian building codes include a requirement for home fire sprinklers?

 

Currently investigating this requirement is a task force formed by the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes that recently completed a report on sprinkler cost and benefits. The analysis will aid the commission as it updates Canada's National Building Code. According to CBC News, the national code "forms the basis for provincial building codes." 

 

Offering technical support on the task force was the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada. (Check out its previous research on fire behavior in homes.) In a nutshell, NRC has determined fire sprinklers help control the spread of fire in new homes, which are fiercer than ever. Philip Rizcallah, an NRC director, told the CBC that fire sprinklers are a component to safer homes. More exits and building with fire-resistant materials are others. "It's not safety at all costs," Rizcallah said. "It's safety at a reasonable cost, because you can make it so that it's unaffordable, and if nobody can actually afford a home then you've missed the boat."

 

Vince MacKenzie, a director with the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, underscored sprinkler installation affordability to the CBC, adding "I think the concept that the fire department will come and save you all the time is a myth." 

 

The public will get the chance to weigh on any proposed building code changes before it's finalized. 

 

Learn how Canada's sprinkler advocates have highlighted this technology by visiting the British Columbia Fire Sprinkler Initiative page. 

NFPA praises the recent passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which offers significant incentives for fire sprinkler installation.


“Our research time and again stresses the life-saving importance of fire sprinkler protection,” says NFPA President Jim Pauley. “The financial incentives allowed by this act will undoubtedly lead to safer establishments throughout the U.S.”


Under the new act, small businesses can expense building improvement purchases tied to fire protection systems, including fire sprinkler retrofits, up to $1 million in each year of the expense. Moreover, sprinkler installations in commercial settings and other larger buildings can be fully expensed until 2022. After 2022, the amount allowed to be expensed gradually declines. 


For decades, fire safety professionals have advocated for bolstering fire sprinkler laws. “While fire chief for the Louisville, Kentucky, Fire Department, we implemented the first proactive, high-rise sprinkler retrofit ordinance in the country,” says Russ Sanders, regional director for NFPA’s Central Region. “We were working with Mayor Jerry Abramson, who was also the president of the USA Conference of Mayors, in drafting the local ordinance. Simultaneously, during the early ’90s, we were also working with Congressman Ron Mazzoli in drafting federal legislation that would offset sprinkler installation costs, which was the genesis of the new tax act.”


NFPA and other sprinkler advocates—including the National Fire Sprinkler Association and American Fire Sprinkler Association—have also supported federal sprinkler incentives. All organizations have championed for the passage of the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act, which was introduced soon after The Station Nightclub Fire in 2003 and would have offered its own financial incentives for installation.


Research continually supports the necessity of fire sprinklers. According to NFPA’s 2017 “U.S. Experience with Sprinklers” report: 
• the civilian fire death rate per 1,000 reported fires was 87 percent lower in properties with sprinklers than in properties with no automatic extinguishing systems
• the average firefighter fireground injury per 1,000 reported fires was 67 percent lower where sprinklers were present than in fires with no automatic extinguishing systems
• sprinklers were effective at controlling the fire in 96 percent of fires in which they operated


The new act does not offer incentives for sprinklering new, one- and two-family homes. NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative is currently working with North American advocates in getting sprinkler requirements adopted across North America. When installed in new homes, fire sprinklers can be cost-effective.


If you have any questions regarding the sprinkler allowances in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, please contact us.

Right before Christmas, 74-year-old Janice Tyrrell got a phone call every parent dreads. The caller stated that there had been a fire at the home of her daughter, Theresa Freeman, a 55-year-old disabled woman. "On the day it happened, we got a phone call about 8 a.m., to say that the fire brigade was there at her house," Tyrell told the Cambridge News. "They told us that we needed to get over to Cambridge. We both have health issues and can't drive, so we had to eventually get a train, and it was nine hours before we actually got to the house."

 

Following the fire, Freeman was taken to the hospital, where she eventually died from her injuries. Soon after the tragedy, her mother entered the world of fire sprinkler advocacy, telling Cambridge News, "I think that there should have been sprinklers in the bungalow. It might even have saved her life. All houses for disabled people should have them."

 

Commenting on Tyrrell's statement, a spokesman for the Cambridge City Council in England told the news outlet that sprinklering its properties is not a requirement, adding that installing them in "all our homes would be very expensive indeed." The response, I'm sure, is of little comfort to Freeman's family. 

 


Learn how Wales, England's neighbor, addressed the sprinkler cost issue and enacted a requirement to sprinkler all of its new homes. 

The following commentary was written by Paul Eichler, chair of the Delaware Fire Sprinkler Coalition. His words have been picked up or quoted by a handful of media outlets: 

 

Delaware has suffered another fire fatality, over one million dollars of fire damage/property loss and an undeterminable amount of air and water pollution in just the last few weeks of 2017. Fourteen families were displaced from their apartments just before Christmas due to fire. Three houses completely lost in Slaughter Beach due to fire. A two year old was killed in Lincoln and seven family members injured due to the same fire.

 

If lives and property are to be saved, and air and water pollution significantly reduced, then Delawareans must step up and insist that local legislators stop deleting the residential sprinkler requirements out of their adopted building codes. The inclusion of sprinklers in the residential building code has existed [in all U.S. model building codes since 2009]. Yet,  municipalities throughout Delaware continue to delete the sprinkler portion of the model code. While not all of the recent fires were in residential settings, having working smoke alarms and sprinklers available still would have reduced some of the injuries, property loss, and pollution.

 

Due to welcoming Delaware tax laws, Delaware is becoming increasingly popular for 55+ neighborhoods. This is the same population that becomes more susceptible to fire injury and death as they grow older in their homes. These homes should be protected with residential fire sprinklers. Even when they are requested, builders stonewall the request with outlandish price quotes. The correct information is easily available through the Delaware State Fire Marshal's Office website.

 

Finally, with the revisions in the U.S. Tax Code and the corporate rates being significantly reduced, it would be nice to see the developers and builders pass some of these savings on to their customers and actively offer and build their houses with residential fire sprinklers. 

 

Here's to a fire-safe 2018. 

 

Learn more about the Delaware Fire Sprinkler Coalition by visiting its website.

The following true story about an unusual fire "sprinkler" save was sent to us by Chief David McClarty of the Lilbourn, Missouri, Fire Department: 


The odd circumstances around a fire occurring in rural New Madrid County, Missouri, demonstrated the advantages of rapid water application to a fire in its incipient stage. On the evening of January 2, just before 5 p.m., a fire occurred in an occupied, single-family dwelling. The home was located approximately eight miles outside of New Madrid, along a gravel county road. The closest water supply for firefighting was six miles from the home. The weather was clear, but temperatures were in the single digits. 

 

The fire department arrived in 15 minutes with an engine carrying 1,000 gallons of water, followed by a tanker carrying 2,500 gallons of water. However, upon investigation, crews found the fire already extinguished. The fire originated in an electrical wall receptacle. As the flames began to climb both the inside and outside of the wall, a PVC water line that happened to be located in the stud space melted. A stream of water discharged from the line, creating a de facto fire sprinkler, controlling the fire before the fire department even arrived.

 

It doesn’t take much of an imagination to think how this fire could have spread and developed had the “sprinkler” not functioned, and whether the 3,500 gallons would have been enough to control the fully developed fire. Home fire sprinklers can truly make a big difference, especially in rural communities in which fire department response times can be longer, and water supplies can be limited.

 

For additional insight into how Missourians are promoting home fire sprinklers, visit the Missouri Fire Sprinkler Coalition page.

A new study soon to be examined by the Las Vegas City Council states council members should enact an ordinance requiring fire sprinklers in the city's new, one- and two-family homes. 

 

This analysis was commissioned by the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). According to a story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, before the state enacts a fire sprinkler ordinance for buildings with fewer than 5,000 square feet of livable space, a cost-benefit analysis must occur.

 

The UNLV study, according to the Review-Journal, states that smoke alarms are insufficient on their own. Sprinklers, it states, complement the job of smoke alarms and, when installed in new homes, pay for themselves in a matter of months. 

 

Based on comments made to the Review-Journal, council members seem to support a sprinkler ordinance; Mayor Carolyn Goodman said "safety is always first to me." Councilman Bob Coffman mirrored her comments, stating "lives would be lost without it."

 

Check this blog for updates to this story. 

 

We've made some big changes to  NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative website. We're hoping the additions and new categories make it easier for you to find the resources that can aid your pitch for home fire sprinklers and requirements for this technology in new homes. 

 

Some of the site changes include: 

 

 

The site still includes information on our more than 30 state and provincial sprinkler coalitions. To access all of the site's new sections, reference the site's new sidebar navigation. The plus signs, once clicked, reveal the pages within each section:

 

Or, review the "In This Section" at the bottom of each section's page:

 

What are your thoughts on the new site? Please send your feedback to the Fire Sprinkler Initiative team or by replying directly to this post.

Looking to get in and out of the airport as quickly as possible? Travel with Tim Travers.

 

During one of my first work journeys with him, the minute we entered the airport, he stopped our conversation and beelined it at warp speed to TSA pre-check. My attempts to catch up to him were fruitless; next time I saw him, he was sitting cozy at the gate. Me? I was out of breath from trying to chase him down. Then, when I sat beside him, the gate agent started the boarding process. Since he has JetBlue status, he boarded immediately. He popped up from his chair, gave me a "have a nice flight," and sped down the jetway, travel rolly in hand. I felt like Tom Hanks in the movie "Catch Me if You Can."

 

Tim says goodbye to NFPA this week. In a way, his Speedy Gonzalez performance at the airport mirrored the way he performed his job: efficient, punctual, flawless. Tim, though, wasn't just a great employee; he's also a stellar guy. I've had the pleasure of working with him since 2013, when I joined the Fire Sprinkler Initiative team. Knowing little about fire sprinklers in homes, Tim, who started here in 2011, was one of my tutors. It's easy to get bogged down by all the techy and legislative aspects pertaining to home fire sprinklers, but I'll never forget Tim's patience in explaining these intricacies to me. Also, whenever I needed something from Tim, he responded to emails in record time, usually within minutes. While on the road and unable to get to my email immediately (I think Tim once told me he traveled, on average, 18 days out of the month), he'd call me with an answer to my question. Again, Speedy Gonzalez.

 

It's no surprise that a 35-year veteran of the fire service has a knack for helping others. It's in Tim's blood and brain, the latter crammed with extensive knowledge on an array of topics that might make some a know-it-all or ego maniac. Tim isn't either. Brilliant but with heart, he was one of the best types of coworkers. He may appear stoic at first, but his humanity and selflessness always emerged. Whether helping me craft a story on a new sprinkler law, helping create sprinkler coalitions throughout his region (half of the U.S., mind you), or presenting at a public education summit, Tim's impact can be felt nationwide. His fire service career aside, I'm hoping Tim leaves us knowing his work has helped save lives.

 

Starting this week, Tim embarks on his next journey: retirement. The news, for me, has been bittersweet. I'm one part happy that he has ample time to spend with his family and another part sad that we (more selfishly, me) will be losing such an amazing coworker.

 

Have a happy retirement, Tim. Your many friends at NFPA and beyond will miss you.

 

NFPA will continue to be a valuable resource in the states served by Tim. Going forward, other members of our Fire Sprinkler Initiative team and NFPA’s regional staff will be available to assist with your sprinkler education and advocacy efforts. If you need our assistance in regions served by Tim, please contact Barbara Dunn at 617-984-7285, and she will direct your inquiry to the proper staff person.

Fire officials have pointed to a menorah as the cause of a Brooklyn home fire that claimed the lives of a mother and her three children. The family's father and other children were injured in the fire, reported The New York Times. Two days later, in another part of New York, another fire killed a man and three children. The cause is still under investigation, reports the Associated Press.

 

Jerry DeLuca, executive director and CEO of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs, offered the following statement on these tragedies to NFPA: "This week as we concluded the celebration of Hanukkah and prepare for Christmas, seven New Yorkers have once again been the tragic victims of fire. From Brooklyn to Stockholm in Northern New York, we have seen the senseless loss of life that may have been prevented if homes were equipped with home fire sprinklers.  At this time of year, fatal fires seem to have an even greater impact on all of us; the families are dealing with loss at a time they are supposed to be celebrating and the firefighters who respond are also impacted as they confront their own feelings and emotions. As the fire service, we must speak out and speak up to ensure that the decision makers take action to improve fire safety, require home fire sprinklers, and prevent such tragedies from continuing to occur."

 


Your own voice can be a powerful force to help end these tragedies. If home fires happen in your region, speak out. Use our "tips on communicating home fire sprinklers to the media" document to help you. 

Earlier this month, we highlighted a story out of Texas, where the state's homebuilding industry has reportedly spent $24 million over the past three years funding lobbying efforts against home fire sprinkler requirements. Furthering its analysis on prohibiting fire sprinkler requirements is "The Secret List," appearing on FireFighterCloseCalls.com.  

 

"Let's give car buyers three choices of braking systems: good, better, and best," states the article, which makes a comparison to other industries not adhering to the most advanced safety standards. "Maybe the makers of airplanes shouldn’t be required to have all of those crazy gauges, [but] just a few, in order to keep their costs 'affordable.'

 

"Yet some homebuilders continue to win even though their arguments [against home fire sprinkler requirements] don’t hold water. In fact, state lawmakers have made it illegal for Texas cities to mandate sprinklers ... in all new single-family homes."

 

Similar laws are unfortunately on the books in a number of other states. If that's the case in your state, don't just get mad. Take action. Our Fire Sprinkler Initiative site has the resources to push for these requirements to your state's decision makers. If your state doesn't have a fire sprinkler coalition, work with us to initiate one. 

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel recently weighed in on a state fire sprinkler requirement, stating in an opinion that requiring this technology in apartment units with three to 20 units is unlawful. This requirement, adopted by the state's Department of Safety and Professional Services for new builds after January 2011, has been challenged by the Wisconsin Builders Association. The builders argue the state legislature prohibits agencies from setting regulations. 

 

Recently coming to the defense of fire safety is the editorial board for the Journal Times. In a recent editorial, it states: "Milwaukee Fire Chief Mark Rohlfing told a Milwaukee newspaper in August: 'To think we’re going to roll that back is disheartening. As firefighters, we know that sprinklers save lives. When you look at a building and you think ‘What can I do for protecting that building and the people in it?’ the single most important component of that is a sprinkler system.'

He called on legislators to take up the issue directly. We echo that call."

 

The board adds that residential sprinklers further the progress Wisconsin and America as a whole has made in reducing its home fire problem. It references NFPA data on fire. About 40 years ago, almost 6,000 people died in home fires. Today, that number has remained at a fairly stagnant 2,500 people. "That’s progress and the Legislature should keep us on the path toward reducing those numbers with a sprinkle of support."

A statewide, fire sprinkler requirement for all new homes in Pennsylvania was set to take place in 2011. Then, sprinkler opponents there helped kill the requirement. (Read this report documenting how homebuilder influence aided the elmination of this requirement.)  

 

Despite the statewide ban for sprinkler requirements, Pennsylvania safety advocates are ramping up their efforts again. According to a story appearing on an ABC station, the Pennsylvania state fire commissioner and others will once again underscore the necessity of this technology in all new homes in the hopes of enacting another sprinkler requirement. 

 

Interviewed by the ABC station, Fire Commissioner Tim Solobay, a member of the Pennsylvania Fire Sprinkler Coalition, says countering the opponents' claims on sprinklers--particularly, the notion that this technology will surge the price of new homes--will be a primary focus.

 

Interested in getting on board for this cause? Contact the Pennsylvania Fire Sprinkler Coalition. 

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