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The public might have trouble believing how quickly today's home fires can become deadly until they see one firsthand. Here's some pretty convincing evidence that you can share with them. 

 

The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition has released new video footage of an actual fire inside a home (including a timecode) and its impact on its contents. The videos also showcase a fire inside a similar home protected by fire sprinklers. The results are night and day. 

 

The videos are available on YouTube and available for download. Use them: 

  • on social media and share with your network 
  • during a presentation to your town's decision makers or public
  • by embedding the video on your company, department, or organization's website

 

Watch one of the new videos: 

Home Fire Sprinkler Day is rapidly approaching. To make sure your May 19 event is a success, NFPA and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition have produced a series of new resources. They include:

 

  • Sprinkler Day tactics and talking points documents. We've given you some ideas on creating buzz for your event and promoting it to your local media. We've also given you some sticky talking points to share with the public and media the day of the event. 
  • Sample, social media posts. Start promoting this North American event--and your event--now by using our social media templates. And don't forget to use the hashtag #FireSprinklerDay whenever you can! 
  • Social media cards. We've created four social media cards (images, like the one in this post) that can accompany your social media posts. 
  • News release template. You want the media at your event, right? Make sure to invite them. Use our template to let them know that an event is occurring in your town. 

 

Please start planning your event if you haven't done so already, and use these new resources for assistance.  

It's always nice to read about home developers--either in North America or elsewhere--who grasp the necessity of fire sprinklers. A New Zealand developer, for instance, recently went on the record with his decision to place this technology into his new development's homes. He credits his dad, a former fire service member, for his decision. 

 

"I was taught from an early age what sprinkler systems were and how they helped people," Rob Davies told the Rotorua Daily Post, adding that he's able to install sprinklers for under $500 per home. "Fire deaths in homes are devastating and more so when we learn that much can be done to lower the death rate."

 

Davies isn't the only one pitching for sprinklers in New Zealand; mirroring exact arguments for sprinklers heard in North America are members of the Rotorua Fire Brigade. They also told the publication that "ugly sprinkler heads" are a thing of the past and they "definitely" recommend sprinklers for all new buildings. 

 

A tip of the hat to New Zealand sprinkler advocates publicly praising this technology. Please join them by using the resources found in NFPA's free fire sprinkler advocacy toolkit.

Did you know that if you have a reported fire in your home, you are more likely to die in that fire today than nearly 40 years ago? 

 

This shocking fact comes from NFPA's Research and Analysis Division. Yes, there have been tremendous strides in reducing the U.S. home fire problem; smoke alarm use, public education, and code enforcement efforts have contributed to a decline in home fire deaths. For instance, in 1980, there were about 5,200 home fire deaths. In 2016, that number has decreased to about 2,700. 

 

However, the number of home fire deaths per 1,000 fires (also known as the home fire death rate) in one- and two-family homes has remained consistent, and seemed to have increased a bit. When comparing the home fire death rate in 1980 with the rate in 2016, that's exactly what happened. 

 

In her column for NFPA Journal, Lorraine Carli points to a new home's unprotected, lightweight construction, open floor plans, and synthetic furnishings as the culprit for the higher fatality rate in homes. "[The home fire death rate comparison] clearly states the problem and shows why the solutions we advocate for are so critical," states Carli, NFPA's vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. "Without adequate smoke alarms, home fire sprinklers, and a public educated about these facts, we cannot hope to change the trend anytime soon."

 

These crucial statistics are what's needed to prompt our audiences to take action and raise awareness about a nationwide problem. Read Carli's column for more on this topic.

First, there was the news earlier this year that the new U.S. tax law allows for the incentivizing of fire sprinkler installations. Then, small town Rock Island, Illinois, and big town Las Vegas passed requirements to sprinkler their new homes. Now, Hawaii is following suit.  

 

An article from the Pacific Business News reports that the Honolulu City Council has passed incentives for installing fire sprinklers in high-rises. The decision follows a fire last year at the Marco Polo apartment building, which was unsprinklered. Four people died from the incident. According to the article, a tax credit is given if sprinklers are either installed throughout a high-rise or throughout the building's common areas. Owners would also be exempt from building permit fees for fire sprinkler installations. 

 


Please help us build on these crucial sprinkler successes; use our free resources to start advocating for a residential sprinkler requirement in your region. 

Rock Island, Illinois, Fire Marshal Greg Marty (left) and Fire Chief Jeff Yerkey

 

Rock Island (population: 39,000) is a town within the Quad Cities region of Illinois and Iowa. This Illinois gem distinguished itself from its neighbors last year by passing a requirement to sprinkler its new homes. I recently interviewed Rock Island's fire marshal, Greg Marty, about tactics that led to the passage and how he and local sprinkler supporters have responded to pushback from the homebuilding industry. 

 

NFPA: You have been a fire sprinkler advocate for years. How has your position on sprinkler requirements been received by your local decision makers? 

 

Greg Marty: We hired a new fire chief [Jeff Yerkey] about two years ago. He very strongly believes in [sprinklers]. His thesis for his master's degree was on the use and benefits of residential sprinklers. So he was definitely an advocate for it. Once we presented [fire sprinklers] to our city manager, he also was very much in favor of it. 


The other thing that's unique about Rock Island from some of the other cities is that our relationship with our building department is outstanding. We don't work in opposition to each other; we work side by side. Our building official was also in favor of this. A lot of building officials come out of the trades and they'll fight [sprinklers]. But our building official definitely saw the need, since his father is a retired fire chief. 

 

How did you go about pushing for a requirement? 

We had a meeting that included the mayor and city manager. The meeting was to discuss the building code update. And that's where the fire chief and I said that we want to adopt the editions of the building and fire code as a whole. We don't want to make any changes. We believe it was written by experts. It's a consensus code that's been voted on by people not only in the fire service but also in the building trades. 

 

What was their reaction?

We explained studies that show [new homes] collapse faster in fire. People have less time to escape. We basically explained to them that you can't allow houses to be built this way but then pull out the protections that are in place to protect these structures. At that point, they basically got on board and said, "We can explore this." So the next step was a study session where the fire chief and the building official presented to all council members. It was a study session, not a general council meeting, but it was an open meeting. 


At that meeting, they talked about testing, maintenance, and upkeep, so we talked about the two different systems that are available in Illinois--standalone or the multipurpose. They learned how easy and inexpensive sprinklers can be. 

 

How did this education aid your efforts?

The council members are not experts in all the areas of city government, and that's why they rely on the fire chief and others to basically educate them on the issues before they vote on them. So we thought it was important, before [the sprinkler requirement] was debated openly, to dispel some of the myths and rumors. The education was very important to basically have them understand what they were voting for.

 

I'm assuming the issue of installation costs came up during the study session or afterwards. 

We used publish documentation, most of which came from NFPA. We cited the national average of $1.35 per sprinklered square foot. We explained that labor costs aren't the same all over the country, so there could be fluctuations. 

 

When the city council voted in November to approve the building code update and sprinkler requirement, is that when you heard from sprinkler opponents?

It didn't honestly become an issue until after the new year. That's when the pushback really came. We saw the president of the Quad City Area Realtor Association on TV and radio shows. They were taking whatever avenue they could. They were saying the requirement is going to kill growth. They were citing sprinkler installation costs of $4.26 per square foot. Once the pressure really came, we went out and got bids. We looked at houses that had been built here in the city, and we went out and got bids for them. One of those came in at $1.63 a square foot. A news reporter also did a great job with a story on why the fire department believes we need a requirement. She went out to sprinkler companies. A gentleman that actually owns a sprinkler company gave her an estimate of one to two dollars per sprinklered square foot. 

 

I've read news stories stating that Realtors and homebuilders were never invited to the table when your city was discussing a sprinkler requirement. Is that true? 

That's one of the things that's been cast against us pretty harshly. "We were never told that you're doing this. We were never invited to the table." Well, I'm a regular member of our local chapter of the International Code Council. It includes building officials, fire officials, Realtors, builders, suppliers. We meet once a month. Anytime the subject of sprinklers has come up over the last five years, we've made it very clear that when we do go to this new code, we're going to keep this provision in. We thought we did our due diligence to make it publicly known that we're upgrading to the new code, and our intentions were very clear.

 

What advice would you give other sprinkler advocates currently pitching a fire sprinkler requirement in their region? 

The thing I would recommend is not only educate the lawmakers about all the benefits. Educate them on the pushback they're going to get. I think we should have been clearer. I think we really should have told them, "This is what they're going to say. We already know their arguments. Here is the data to basically counter it."

 

With your city and the city of Las Vegas passing a fire sprinkler requirement for new homes around the same time, what do you think this says about the future of this technology in North America? 

Las Vegas is one of the fastest growing areas in the country. What that tells us is this: if lawmakers in an area that's already building, that already has massive growth, are not fearing that sprinkler requirements are going to hurt their residential growth, then smaller cities like ours shouldn't be concerned, either. 

 

Interview conducted, edited, and condensed by Fred Durso, Jr., communications manager for NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative.

Fire Chief W. Keith Brower heard the mayday call as he was approaching the scene of a home fire in 2008. The thought that a member of his crew was in danger filled him with dread. “When the mayday was called, I was approximately seven to eight miles out, and my heart stopped,” Brower told NFPA. “I feel a sense of personal responsibility to get them home safely to their families and loved ones." 

 

As his firefighters entered the burning house, a fireball erupted on the first floor, trapping them upstairs. The flashover was so intense, their hose line burned in two. Fortunately, the four firefighters escaped the burning home, but one sustained serious burns and his injuries forced him to retire.

 

“When I see this firefighter, I don’t know what to say,” said Brower. “I really feel awkward saying” Hey, how’s it going?‟ because I know how it’s going. He’s partly incapacitated. He can’t do the job he loves.”

 

In Brower's opinion, fire sprinklers are the answer to end these tragedies. As one of NFPA's Faces of Fire, he has been a staunch, sprinkler advocate for years. Brower was recently honored for these and other life-safety efforts; he received the 2018 Governor's Fire Service Award for Career Fire Chief of the Year. 

 

Retiring this spring, Brower has served Virginia's Loudoun County for 44 years and has been an advocate for fire prevention throughout the state and country, states a recent news article. His support for home fire sprinklers and "engagement with many national organizations is unprecedented," states the article. 

 

NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative team congratulates Brower on his accolade, and wishes him a happy retirement. 

 

Watch the video Brower recorded for NFPA's Faces of Fire campaign that underscores his support for home fire sprinklers: 

 

NFPA staff, members of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC), and organizers for British Columbia's first fire sprinkler summit showcase HFSC's new, hands-on home fire sprinkler prop.

 

Canada isn't taking its home fire problem lightly. Advocates there have been engaged in a growing, grassroots movement aimed at ending fire tragedies at home. In 2016, they hosted the country's first sprinkler summit that included members of the homebuilding industry and soon after established Canada's first fire sprinkler coalition in British Columbia. 

 

Adding to these successes was British Columbia's first sprinkler summit in February. The event was hosted by the Fire Chiefs' Association of British Columbia, which is a member of the British Columbia Fire Sprinkler Initiative (the province's coalition). Approximately 150 attendees--fire service members, building officers, politicians, insurers, and others--were educated on home fire sprinklers.

 

At the event, attendees learned about a new study that underscores Canada's home fire problem and the impact of fire sprinklers. For instance, one important finding from study was the death rate per 1000 reported residential fires was more than three times as high in fires with no sprinklers as in fires with sprinklers present. 

 

Organizers also distributed a new, hands-on tool by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition that includes an actual fire sprinkler head and information on this technology. The prop is meant as a show-and-tell for the media and the public.  

 

See what the British Columbia Fire Sprinkler Coalition has been up to by visiting its webpage.  

Via a series of emotional episodes, NBC's hit series, "This Is Us," placed home fires--a crucial focus for NFPA--into the national spotlight. Some episodes accurately portrayed safety concerns sadly seen all too often (nonworking smoke alarms) while others took creative license in dramatizing appliances that are less of a fire concern (e.g., slow cookers). 

 

Taking the home safety message a step further, advocates in New York were able to weave in a plug for home fire sprinklers. The New York State Association of Fire Chiefs (NYSAFC) launched a public service announcement the night of the Super Bowl on how the home fire featured in the episode happens across North America "all too often."

 

"Sprinklers are the big three: safe, reliable, and a wise investment," says NYSAFC Executive Director and CEO Jerry DeLuca in the PSA. NYSAFC is also a member of the New York Fire Sprinkler Initiative. Watch the full video, and let us know what you think in the comments section:

 

 

If you haven't heard, NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition are initiating Home Fire Sprinkler Day on Saturday, May 19. The intent is to simultaneously host at least one sprinkler-related event in all 50 states and raise awareness of home fire sprinklers in Canada. 

 

The event webpage now includes a map that shows where these events will take place. Visit our site and please add your event to our map. If you haven't started planning your event--a live burn sprinkler demonstration or fire department open house featuring fire sprinklers, for instance--please start now. Use the resources on the event page for support. New resources will be available soon. 

 

Once you have mapped out your event, please add it to our map for our advocates to see.

A study released this year by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, concluded that city council members should enact an ordinance to fire sprinkler the city's new, one- and two-family homes. Last week, the council made this recommendation a reality. 

 

In a victory praised by safety advocates nationwide, the city council via a 4-0 vote passed a bill requiring home fire sprinklers. According to a local NBC news station, the bill has been a hot-button issue since it was introduced nine months ago. "I’m happy that we were able to put aside differences and concentrate on those things we have in common, which was, we all want to see people living safely in their home," Las Vegas Deputy Fire Chief and Fire Marshal Robert Nolan told the news station. 

 

The UNLV study concluded that sprinklering new homes could be cost-effective, which refuted claims and installation estimates by the Southern Nevada Homebuilders Association. As for inspecting newly sprinklered homes, a local representative from the International Association of Fire Fighters told the station that "we can take on the workload. We can do that without any increased financial impact to the city."

 

Check this blog often for updates to this story. 

It's a wonder fire sprinklers in homes can be such a contentious point when they have the power to save lives, as you're about to read: 

 

South Carolina

For the second time in a matter of weeks, fire sprinklers here extinguished a residential fire before the fire department had arrived. In this incident in Port Royal, a kitchen fire activated two fire sprinklers, limiting damage to the stove and cabinets. The Burton Fire District's fire chief, Harry Rountree, stated in a news story that "we can dry your house out, but we can't unburn it."

 

Texas
We received a report from the Farmers Branch Fire Department about another kitchen fire. The resident was cooking breakfast in a skillet as her husband showered. When she left the kitchen, the skillet caught fire. Fire sprinklers immediately activated. Damage was estimated at only $1,050. According to the report received by NFPA, "lives were saved by a single sprinkler head activation."

 

View Royal, British Columbia

The residents involved in this fire can thank this city's fire sprinkler requirement for its home's sprinkler save. The residence was required to have fire sprinklers, which controlled a candle-and-incense fire. "If this hadn't been a sprinklered building, this would have been a significantly different event," View Royal Fire Chief Paul Hurst told the media. "Thankfully the sprinklers kicked in and controlled the fire. It's a good outcome today."

 

Vermont

An electrical fire inside a Brattleboro home's basement prompted yet another sprinkler activation. According to a news story, "a sprinkler system above the furnace helped to contain the fire before the department could arrive." Nobody was injured, and fire officials believe the house will remain livable, stated the story. 

 


Has there been a fire sprinkler save in your area? Send them to us!

In our latest edition of NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter, read about the upcoming Home Fire Sprinkler Day set for Saturday, May 19, 2018. Start planning your event today.

 

You'll also read about: 

 

  • our new report that gives examples of fire sprinklers saving lives
  • a city recently passing a requirement for home fire sprinklers and upsetting homebuilders in the process
  • volunteer firefighter who responds to a fire...at his own home

 

Our newsletter contains crucial news for any fire safety advocate. Want to start receiving the monthly newsletter in your inbox?Contact us and we'll make sure we get them to you. 

Burn survivor Rob Feeney addresses crowd during news conference marking the 15th anniversary of The Station Nightclub fire

 

Looking dapper in his firefighter dress blues, Rob Feeney recently addressed a crowd and media members gathered at West Warwick, Rhode Island. Fifteen years ago on this site, a casual night out with his fiancee, Donna Mitchell, and friends at The Station nightclub became a fight for survival. Pyrotechnics inside the unsprinklered building initiated a fast-moving fire, which killed Mitchell and significantly injured Feeney. Emotional and physical support over the years led him on his life's new path as a Massachusetts firefighter. "I renewed my want for life and return to living," Feeney said to the crowd. 

 

Feeney has also been a staunch advocate for fire sprinkler requirements since the fire, noting that had The Station been equipped with this technology, the outcome may have been different. Considered the fourth deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history, the fire claimed 100 lives and injured many others. 

 

Feeney joined NFPA and others at the event commemorating the 15th anniversary of the event while underscoring life safety achievements since the tragedy, particularly significant tax incentives for sprinkler installations and retrofits found in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. After The Station fire, NFPA enacted tough new code provisions for fire sprinklers and crowd management in nightclub-type venues. Those provisions marked sweeping changes to the codes and standards governing safety in assembly occupancies.

 

The new sprinkler tax incentive "allows building owners to bring existing buildings up to current code," said NFPA President Jim Pauley. "[The incentive] will save lives well into the future by increasing the number of buildings protected by one of the best fire protection devices we have: fire sprinklers." 

 

Accompanying Pauley at the former site of The Station (which now serves as a memorial) was the U.S. Fire Administration, the National Fire Sprinkler Association, the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, members of the Rhode Island Fire Sprinkler Coalition, and others. 

 

Hear more of Rob Feeney's story by watching our 2013 interview with him at the former site of The Station:

 

A 28-year-old father and two of his children, ages 5 and 6, died last month in a New Jersey home fire. Reports have indicated that the home did not have any smoke alarms or fire sprinklers--safety features that a local safety advocate says "could have prevented this horrific outcome." 

 

In a letter to The Daily Journal, David Kurasz, executive director of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, also stated that this home fire, like others, proves the randomness of these incidents. "Fire doesn't discriminate," states Kurasz, also a member of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Coalition. "It can start anytime, anywhere--and spread within minutes. Take a few minutes this week to learn about fire safety and prevention, and become proactive in helping protect yourself, your family, and your home."

 

Please follow Kurasz's advice and educate yourself on one of our favorite life-saving devices: home fire sprinklers. Understand the facts found in our new fire sprinkler research report.  

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