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In case you missed it, Alabama's governor recently signed into law a bill allowing plumbers to install home fire sprinklers. Granting this group access in Alabama and elsewhere has initiated discussions on who should be permitted to perform these installations. 

 

Addressing this issue in the latest edition of NFPA Journal is Matt Klaus, NFPA technical services lead for fire protection engineering. Klaus notes that NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes, leaves it to the authorities having jurisdiction to decide licensing requirements and who is permitted to install fire sprinklers. 

 

Here is an excerpt of Klaus' column: 

 

Ultimately, there are two different schools of thought on this issue. The first is that, because many states only permit licensed sprinkler contractors to install systems designed to NFPA 13, Installation of Sprinkler Systems, or NFPA 13R, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in Low-Rise Residential Occupancies, this concept should be applied to NFPA 13D as well. The other side of the argument is that plumbers, who are already on-site installing domestic systems, should also be permitted to install NFPA 13D systems.

 

The idea of allowing plumbers to install NFPA 13D systems is based on a few principles that have been discussed by the technical committee for residential sprinkler systems.

 

The first is the simplicity of the NFPA 13D system when compared to larger commercial systems. Sprinkler systems designed and installed to NFPA 13 can be fairly complex and employ system components or installation practices that are unique to fire sprinkler systems. NFPA 13D systems, by comparison, are rather simple. NFPA 13D contains few requirements for system attachments beyond a control valve, piping, a drain connection, and the sprinkler itself.

 

Another reason why plumbers are often deemed qualified to install these systems is their familiarity with the material used in home sprinkler systems. Unlike NFPA 13 and NFPA 13R, NFPA 13D permits the use of copper and polyethylene PEX tubing to be used throughout the system. These materials, along with CPVC, which is used in all three types of sprinkler systems, are used on a daily basis by many plumbers for supplying domestic fixtures. The plumbers’ general familiarity with these materials and their joining methods can create efficiencies in the installation.

 

Those efficiencies lead to the final argument for allowing plumbers to install the systems: cost.

 

Visit the NFPA Journal site and read Klaus' full column. Also, let us know your thoughts on this discussion by replying directly to this post. 

We've always said that fire service members can be some of the best voices in support of home fire sprinklers. Here's proof. 

 

The Chilliwack Fire Department in British Columbia publicly praised a fire sprinkler activation. A fire that initiated on a stovetop was quickly extinguished by the time firefighters arrived on the scene. "Early control and suppression of the fire by the sprinkler system significantly limited damage to a small area around the stove and kitchen cabinets," Assistant Fire Chief Chris Wilson told the media. "Without a working sprinkler system in place, this fire had the potential to cause extensive fire, smoke, and water damage."


Across the border in Wisconsin, another fire official took a stance on sprinklers following recent news there that officials have scaled back a state sprinkler law. Fire safety should be a concern for everyone, Jeff Murphy, division chief for the La Crosse, Wisconsin, Fire Department, told an ABC news station. "The fire that we have today in the buildings that are constructed today are made of lightweight construction, meaning that they burn a lot quicker," he said. "A fire in a home that's 50 years old, by the time we get there, we have quite of bit of working time yet."

 

If you're a member of the fire service and need help promoting this technology, we're here to help. Visit the "take action" page on NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative site. 

Damages following Hurricane Harvey could reach $180 billion, per a recent article by Reuters. Before rebuilding begins, people are weighing in on how it should be done. The conversation is part of a larger, national debate on the necessity of building codes amid fire and environmental hazards. 

 

Texas, specifically, has "one of the most relaxed approaches to building codes, inspections, and other protections," states an article by Bloomberg, adding that it's one of four states near the Gulf and Atlantic coasts without a statewide building code. As for fire sprinkler requirements, the state cannot enforce local sprinkler provisions in new homes unless an ordinance was in place before 2009, according to NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative. Currently promoting this technology with an overall intent of passing a fire sprinkler requirement is the Texas Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

 

Making sure fire sprinkler requirements stay off the books is the Texas Association of Builders. According to the Bloomberg article, this group "boasted" about killing legislation last year that would have given local jurisdictions the authority to create their own fire sprinkler laws. The association also fought other building code proposals it deemed "onerous." 

 

However, constructing in accordance to model building codes in a post-Harvey Houston could put safety on display. Creating safer homes, particularly those equipped with fire sprinklers, can serve as a lesson in fire risk reduction. "Disasters don't have to be devastating," Eleanor Kitzman, former Texas state insurance commissioner, told Bloomberg. "We can't prevent the event, but we can mitigate the damage."

 

Read the complete Bloomberg article for more information. 

Here are the highlights from NFPA's recently released Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter:

 

• the link between firefighter cancer and the new home environment
• new data from us proving (once again) that fire sprinklers save lives
• commentary tying a sprinkler save in Washington, D.C., to one state’s decision to nix a fire sprinkler law

 

Please remember to take a few seconds and register for this monthly publication, which is delivered right to your inbox. The newsletter promises to alert you to new fire sprinkler advocacy resources and important news from across North America.  

NFPA, the American Red Cross, Vision 20/20, and a team of other safety experts and organizations recently convened in Connecticut for a conference aimed at saving lives. The Fire and Life Safety Educator Conference discussed disseminating effective fire safety messaging, a smoke alarm installation program enacted by the Red Cross, and the power of home fire sprinklers. 

 

During the event, Tim Travers, an NFPA fire sprinkler specialist, and Keith Flood, chair of the Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition, were both on hand to discuss this technology via a live burn/fire sprinkler demonstration. They attracted the attention of Connecticut State Representative Jeff Currey, who inquired about the value of home fire sprinklers. He was curious about cost and the groups opposed to mandatory fire sprinkler requirements. Currey was also taken aback by the speed of the fire's flashover. 

 

Another Connecticut resident recently learned the benefits of home fire sprinklers. Watch our interview with builder John Dempsey:  

 

 

 

 

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 new study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) emphasizes the likelihood of either dying or getting injured in home fires based on certain age groups. 

 

The study "Identifying vulnerable populations to death and injures from residential fires," determined that home fire deaths are more likely among frail populations, or what researchers have identified as people age 65 and older and not in robust health. Adults between the ages of 20 and 49 are more likely to acquire nonfatal injuries during home fires. Published this month in the research journal Injury Prevention, the study used data over a five-year period from the U.S. Census, the National Fire Incident Reporting System, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

 

NFPA's research also confirms that older adults are at high risk of dying in fire. According to its "Characteristics of Home Fire Victims" report, 30 percent of all home fire fatalities were at least 65 years old, even though this group represents only 13 percent of the U.S. population. 

 

"Our findings indicate that frailty, especially in elderly populations, hinders the ability to escape and should be recognized as a key factor in home fire deaths," stated NIST economist Stanley Gilbert, one of the study's authors. "Therefore, measures to overcome this population-specific vulnerability, such as automatic sprinklers in bedrooms, may help reduce the number of fatalities." 

 

Brush up on all the research underscoring today's home fires and fire sprinkler effectiveness by visiting NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative site.

Here a quick reminder about two resources recently produced by NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative: 

 

  •  Filled with our most popular downloads for sprinkler advocacy, this toolkit includes an eye-catching infographic, PowerPoint presentation underscoring the fire concerns of modern homes, a video clip humanizing the aftermath of home fires, fact sheets, and more.
  • A PowerPoint presentation that's customizable and includes information on fire sprinkler performance, sprinkler laws, research supporting this technology, and idea for bolstering sprinkler advocacy in your region.

 

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! 

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