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Feike van Dijk spoke to a room of mainly fire service individuals about the 2014 home fire that claimed two of his children, Zephan and Noah. He, too, was, injured in the blaze while attempting to save his boys. He can still smell the smoke, feel the heat of the flames. The memories have contributed to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Van Dijk is on a cocktail of medications to help with the pain. 

 

Medication, however, wasn't a cure-all. He also took steps to address his emotional trauma, steps that go against what he says is "firefighter culture." For example, he highlighted the "silence when dealing with personal problems" and "machismo" persona that doesn't tend to ask for help. Finding that help, however, was what led van Dijk on his path toward healing. His steps and his story were highlighted during his session, "Addressing PTSD in the Firehouse," at NFPA's Conference and Expo in Vegas. 

 

Complementing van Dijk's path to recovery was additional emotional support services by the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. Amy Acton, executive director of the organization, highlighted these services during the session, including peer support. 

 

Van Dijk's journey from burn survivor to safety advocate was documented in NFPA's five-part podcast series, "The Survivors." Please listen to the podcast to hear his full story and about the far-reaching impact home fires have had on the fire service and many families nationwide. 

Here's a quick rundown of what you'll find in the latest edition of NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter:

 

  • We asked our sprinkler advocates to take action on Home Fire Sprinkler Day on May 19, and they did not disappoint. Read our recap of this project, and see photos of the events.  
  • Experts weigh in on how fire impacts unprotected, lightweight construction and upholstered furnishings common in today's home settings.
  • You said you wanted more information from us regarding NFPA 13D requirements. Our website now features insights about home fire sprinkler installation. 

 

Don't miss an issue of our monthly newsletter. Take a few seconds, and subscribe today! 

I had many burning questions for Robert Nolan, fire marshal for the city of Las Vegas Fire and Rescue. News broke earlier this year that Vegas' city council unanimously approved a requirement to fire sprinkler its one- and two-family homes. Since Vegas is the hottest real estate market in the U.S. (per Realtor.com), this decision will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the safety of its residents. Nolan, his fire chief, and others worked behind the scenes to see this requirement through. I needed to know how they did it. 

 

I chatted with Nolan on the specifics, and my interview with him appears in the latest issue of NFPA Journal. To my surprise, he and others worked with the local homebuilding association, which in the end, also supported a Vegas fire sprinkler requirement. "At no point did we say [to the Southern Nevada Home Builders Association], ‘Hey, we’re going to steamroll you’—that was never an option for us, and it shouldn’t be anyone’s tactic,” Nolan told me. “We learned, through negotiations, what they wanted and what was important to them. And we were able to deliver on most of those.”

 

Read how this success story came to be, and let us know your thoughts on these tactics by replying directly to this blog post. 

A bill has been introduced in Albany County, New York, that would require the sprinklering of new, one- and two-family homes and townhomes there after January 1, 2019. The bill references Maryland as a crucial reason why the new law is necessary, stating, "Experience from the state of Maryland, which mandates home fire sprinklers, shows that there has not been a fatality from a home fire in a sprinklered home since they mandated their use."

 

As it has done in earlier this year, the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs advocated for fire sprinkler requirements on TV. Jerry DeLuca, the association's executive director, recently discussed fire sprinkler benefits with an ABC news station. Using a blown-up version of the home fire timeline produced by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC), DeLuca underscored fire's power. 

 

"Fire doubles in size every 30 seconds," DeLuca told the reporter. "So the expansion of that fire...can be astronomical," he says. 

 

According to the ABC story, the fire sprinkler proposal goes to committee next month.  

 

If being interviewed by a reporter, it helps to have visuals. Use the home fire timeline and HFSC's new fire sprinkler prop for support. Also, don't forget to stick to these important talking points.

Scottsdale, Arizona, is well-known for its ordinance to fire sprinkler its new homes, a requirement that has been in existence there for more than 30 years. Home sprinkler naysayers need only look to this report by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition to understand how this ordinance has reduced Scottsdale's home fire losses and led to installation costs well below the national average. 

 

What might not be as well-known is how this ordinance came to be. Launched in conjunction with this year's Home Fire Sprinkler Day, Scottsdale released a short documentary film and accompanying article about their ordinance. Hear or read the compelling story of how this requirement began with the successful sprinklering of two model homes in Scottsdale. 

 

“We are a big city and we get looked at and studied all the time,” Scottsdale Deputy Fire Chief Jim Ford, who was influential in the ordinance's passage, says in the documentary. “People come to look at us and ... I’m able to say without a doubt that (residential sprinklers) make a huge difference in how our community is protected.”

 

Watch the documentary: 

With more than 50 events occurring in 25 states and Canadian provinces, Home Fire Sprinkler Day has been deemed a success. This project initiated by NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition tasked safety advocates with taking action showcasing the power and performance of this technology. Whether hosting a side-by-side burn demonstration or touring a sprinklered home, all of our advocates contributed to the project's success. 

 

We've gathered photos of Sprinkler Day activities and placed them in a gallery on NFPA's Facebook page. View the gallery to see the many ways home fire sprinklers were put on display. If you have photos from your event, please send them to NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative team.

Going forward, all new homes built or commissioned by a specific English city council will include fire sprinklers. 

 

This decision followed a favorable vote in May by city councilors in Cornwall, a county in Southwest England. They also determined homes currently under development that the council is either building or commissioning would also require fire sprinkler protection. Supporting this requirement is the Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service. 

 

The life safety of fire sprinklers seemed to be at the heart of the council's decision. According to a news story on the new requirement, "councilors said that the cost [of installation] was not as important as [how] the move could save lives." 

 

According to news release on the requirement, Andrew Mitchell, Cornwall Council cabinet member for homes, stated the Cornwall fire service "has long advocated for the use of sprinklers, as the evidence shows that they can prevent fire from spreading--not only making sure routes are clear for occupants to escape to safety, but also limiting property damage. While it is not mandatory to install sprinklers in new homes, this is our opportunity to lead by example.

 

"I hope that through our example we can promote wider adoption of this approach...by developers more generally."

 

Educate yourself on the many benefits of fire sprinkler requirements; view research reports on this topic from NFPA and others. 

Fire sprinkler advocates are likely familiar with the popular myths associated with home fire sprinklers. (No, smoke won't set off fire sprinklers.)  Lesser-known myths pertain to requirements found in NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes. Setting the record straight is NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative, which now includes a section on its site listing where fire sprinklers are and aren't required, per the standard. Take, for example, the following: 

 

Sprinklers shall not be required in garages, open attached porches, carports, and similar structures.
Many are surprised to learn that NFPA 13D does not require sprinklers in garages. But, in fact, few deadly fires start in garages. A simple cost-benefit analysis can illustrate that the extra expense of placing sprinklers in garages does not provide an equal balance of protection due to the fact that most garages are not heated and the sprinkler system would need to be a dry system or an antifreeze system in many geographic regions. This cost-benefit analysis and the fact that most residential building codes require a one-hour fire resistance rating for the walls separating the garage and the remainder of the home led to this omission. 

 

Keep in mind requirements for installations may vary from region to region. Check with your authority having jurisdiction for specifics. 

 

For a list of fire sprinkler omissions in homes per NFPA 13D, visit NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative site.

If two New Jersey legislators have their say, all new homes in the Garden State will be protected by fire sprinklers. 

 

A bill introduced in the State Assembly by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano and another introduced in the State Senate by Senator Teresa Ruiz would require fire sprinklers in new, one- and two-family homes. Similar bills in previous years have made it to former Governor Chris Christie's desk, only to be vetoed both times. NFPA firmly supports these bills. 

 

"New Jersey averages more than 15,000 structure fires each year, and more than 80 percent of them occur in one- and two-family homes," says David Kurasz, executive director of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board and member of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Coalition. "This bill takes a major step forward in protecting our residents in making sure they live in homes that are equipped with fire sprinklers, which can protect them from devastating and often deadly consequences of home fires."

 

According to Kurasz, the bill would not apply to manufactured homes or one- or two-family homes not connected to a public water supply. Check this blog often for updates on this bill. 

Rain may have been in the forecast for many parts of North America on Saturday, May 19. However, it did not dampen efforts to finally give home fire sprinklers the widespread attention this technology deserves. 

 

More than 50 events in 25 U.S. states and Canadian provinces took place on or around North America's first Home Fire Sprinkler Day. The project was an idea generated by sprinkler advocates and put into action by NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition. Using a little ingenuity and a ton of passion, advocates took local steps to raise awareness about a proven, life-saving technology and in the end energized a grassroots movement in support of sprinklers.  

 

As news reports on these events filled my inbox and flooded my Twitter feed (check out the hashtag #HomeFireSprinklerDay to see what I saw), I felt a sense of pride for the countless number of advocates who had participated. The following is by no means an exhaustive list of what happened on Home Fire Sprinkler Day, just a sampling: 

 

  • In Philadelphia, a resident living in a sprinklered rowhome opened her doors to the media, as safety officials discussed sprinklers in homes and distributed sprinkler information around town.
  • Members of the North Carolina Fire Sprinkler Coalition initiated a live burn/fire sprinkler demo to attendees at the 2018 Got to Be NC Festival. They have covered, grandstand seating to protect people from the rain.
  • NFPA joined U.S. Fire Administrator G. Keith Bryant, Maryland State Fire Marshal Brian Geraci, and others for a Home Fire Sprinkler Day media event in College Park, Maryland. 
  • In addition to hosting a couple live burn/fire sprinkler demonstrations in South Carolina, the town of Tega City declared May 19 Home Fire Sprinkler Day. I had also heard that Scottsdale, Arizona, and Bend, Oregon, had signed proclamations for this day.  

 

NFPA will be creating a digital gallery of all Sprinkler Day events. Please send your photos and a brief write-up to NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative team. To those who had participated in events and to members of the Sprinkler Day steering committee who got this project off the ground, thank you for making this inaugural event such a success! 

The big day is almost here. Are you ready? 

 

Advocates across the U.S. and Canada are initiating more than 50 events for Home Fire Sprinkler Day, set to take place in the U.S. on Saturday, May 19. (Visit our event map to see where these events are occurring.) The end goal for hosting these events on the same day is to raise awareness of this life-saving technology while breaking down the myths and legislative barriers to its use in new homes. 

 

Whether you're participating in an event or helping to spread the sprinkler message on social media, we have the resources to help you. Visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Day page for:

 

  • sample social media posts and eye-catching social media cards
  • news release and letter-to-the-editor templates
  • a Home Fire Sprinkler Day proclamation
  • and much more

 

To our advocates participating in this great day, NFPA and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition wishes you a world of success! 


Photo: Twitter

Five children lost their lives during a Greensboro, North Carolina, residential fire this month. News reports state that the two boys and three girls, ranging in age from 18 months to nine years old, were refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The fire started in the kitchen, and the home did not have working smoke alarms, according to a CBS affiliate that obtained this information from the North Carolina Department of Insurance. 

"People tell me all the time that, 'I know my way out. I know my house,'" Greensboro Fire Department Timothy Henshaw told a local Fox station. "Even in a house that you live in and when that smoke is on the floor, the toxic gases are so hot. They become super-heated. You become unaware of what's going on."

According to NFPA, you may have as little as one to two minutes from the time a smoke alarm sounds to safely escape a fire. Per NFPA's research, three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. 

In a separate fire incident this month in Asheville, North Carolina, NFPA has received a report that a kitchen fire was controlled by a single fire sprinkler. A family was displaced, but the activation resulted in no injuries or deaths. 

NFPA research confirms the live-saving abilities of working smoke alarms and home fire sprinklers; according to NFPA's most recent "U.S. Experience with Sprinklers" report, the home fire death rate was 90 percent lower when fire sprinklers and hardwired smoke alarms were present. 


Please take steps to make sure your home and your next home are fire-safe. Brush up on NFPA's smoke alarm safety tips and information on home fire sprinklers.

Don Jolley, fire chief for the City of Pitt Meadows in British Columbia and the first vice president of the Fire Chiefs' Association of British Columbia, offered a unique perspective to Firefighting in Canada. 

 

"Why ... has the fire service not completely endorsed, advocated for, and demanded at the highest level the inclusion of fire sprinklers in every home, everywhere?" he asks in his commentary. "I have heard, even recently, chief officers and prevention staff telling me that they do not fully support residential fire sprinklers. 'They fail too often.' 'We need to go anyways so why waste people’s money?' 'They take away from what firefighters do.' 

 

"Given actual structural fires are likely less than five percent of our total call volumes, the argument is abundantly clear that fire sprinklers will not reduce staffing levels. There are far too many other important roles."

 

Jolley adds that fire sprinkler naysayers have been inadvertently promoting the need for home fire sprinklers. "Overtly they are stating to elected officials and the public that speed is everything," he states. "Subliminally, though, they are validating for fire sprinklers in a strong manner. There will never be a quicker response than a fire sprinkler head activating in response to a fire in the incipient, or other early stages.

 

"As a fire service ... we all need to set aside bias and tradition and recognize the future. Fire sprinklers, and their future iterations, are the leading edge in fire safety. There simply is no other consideration that could be even close to equivalent, and it is time that every firefighter, inspector, and officer at all levels recognize this and live up to their sworn oath to protect."

 


Take a stand for home fire sprinkler requirements by using these free advocacy resources from NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative.

Whether or not you're hosting or attending one of the many events on Home Fire Sprinkler Day, here's a simple way of getting the media's attention: write a letter to the editor.

 

NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition have developed a free template you can use. If you're hosting a sprinkler event in your area, the template lets the media and local residents know what is planned for Saturday, May 19. Even if there is nothing taking place in your state or region, a letter to the editor draws attention to home fire sprinklers and the many myths preventing its use. By using this template, you will be joining many safety advocates contributing to Home Fire Sprinkler Day's success. 

 

Please download our template and submit it to all of your local publications this month. 

You may have heard that new homes burn faster than homes built decades ago, but why is that the case?

 

A recent news story from Arizona offers an explanation. One component is the material used to build new homes. "When homes were built out of heavy timbers and nominal lumber--like when a 2-by-4 was a 2-by-4 ... and floor joists were solid beams," structures burned more slowly, Prescott, Arizona, Fire Marshal Don Devendorf told The Daily Courier. "A lot more ceiling and floor joists are made from lightweight construction materials."

 

This form of engineered lumber is popular in new home construction. However, when this material is on fire, studies point to a "quicker failure time" when compared to fire's reaction with traditional construction methods, Tracy Vecchiarelli, a senior fire protection engineer with NFPA, told the publication. (Here's a listing of home fire behavior research.)

 

Today's synthetic and upholstered furnishings also impact fire spread. "The furniture and contents inside homes are more flammable" then ever before, Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority Fire Marshal Rick Chase told The Daily Courier. "They are made with...more veneer and plastics. This aids in the spread of interior fires and the toxins released are ... hazardous if breathed in." According to NFPA research, one out of every 13 reported upholstered furniture fires resulted in death, and fires beginning with upholstered furniture accounted for 18 percent of home fire deaths.

 

Large, open concept floor plans of today's homes also result in more rapid fire spread. 

 

All of these factors contribute to the fact that if there is a reported fire in a home, a person is more likely to die in that fire today than nearly 40 years ago. "While the overall number of fatalities is down, the number of deaths per thousand is actually higher than it was in 1980," says Vecchiarelli. "We have been more successful in preventing fires than in preventing death after a fire is reported."

 

Educate yourself on all of the fire risks of today's new homes, and how home fire sprinklers can reduce these risks. 

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