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346 Posts authored by: freddurso Employee

smokealarm.pngGripping my Red Cross vest and a large cup of java, I sluggishly entered the Beech Street Senior Center in Belmont, Massachusetts. My friend's please-get-rid-of-all-my-vodka party the night prior had apparently impacted my slumber. However, this Saturday morning meeting was well worth the 6 a.m. wake-up call.


Filling the center's lounge area were another two Red Cross volunteers, a half-dozen members of the Belmont Fire Department, and members of the town's Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Our mission was twofold: install a series of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in more than 30 homes while also leaving them with key fire safety tips. The event was part of a larger, national endeavor--the American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign--aimed at reducing death and injury caused by home fires in the U.S. by 25 percent in five years. (NFPA is a partner for this campaign.) Giving residents free smoke alarms and useful tools is how the Red Cross aims to hit the goal.


"The Red Cross responds to home fires?" is the question I get asked most frequently when I tell folks about my volunteer work with the organization. "Aren't they strictly for big disasters?" Actually, the Red Cross responds to a disaster every eight minutes, and nearly all of them are home fires. As a member of the Boston metro Disaster Action Team, I've seen firsthand how fire can crumble lives and shatter dreams. My worst day on the "job" was when I responded to a home fire that killed a Boston University student on the verge of graduation.


This is why I was elated to volunteer for something a bit more proactive. Separating into four teams, a Red Cross and CERT member joined a firefighter placed in charge of proper placement and installation of the alarms inside each home. Knocking on our first door, my team got an eyeful when an elderly man answered the door--pantsless. Even scarier was the fact that the man--who had a wife in a nursing home and now lived alone--had a series of nonworking smoke alarms. The devices that were working were outdated.


As Ross, the firefighter in my group, hoisted up a ladder and installed the new devices, I sat down with the resident. He learned about proper testing and maintenance of his new gifts, preparing a home-escape plan, and seeking safety if a fire should occur. Knowing his legs don't work the way they used to, he shook his head when I told him he only has as little as two minutes to safely escape a home fire.


"What's the number you call during an emergency?" said another homeowner in his 90s. Since the man still had his wits about him, I was shocked that he was unaware of 9-1-1. I made a point to write the number on one of my handouts in black marker. He's a nice guy--cordial and funny, with a nice family, based on his photos scattered throughout the home. My heart aches when he tells me he's afraid of dying, then elates when we leave his home safer than before. (There were no smoke alarms at all in his house.)

We enter another home of an elderly woman. Built in the 1800s, the home is beautiful, but stuffed with stuff on every level. Luckily, most of the smoke alarms were working, though outdated. (NFPA recommends replacing smoke alarms after 10 years.)

"Absolutely scary" were the words I remember Ross used to sum up what he saw in these homes. For a firefighter who has seen a thing or two in his lifetime to use that phrase meant the job we were doing was critical. The teams that day installed a total of 122 devices in 33 homes.


I slept soundly that night, and I hope the homewowners we had encountered, now safer in their homes, had done the same.


This post was written by Fred Durso, Jr., communications manager for NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative.

An live burn/sprinkler demonstration in Connecticut was made possible by NFPA's 2015 Bringing Safety Home Grant.


NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative recently announced the winners of its Bringing Safety Home Grant, given to 15 recipients across North America. The funding assists and other safety advocates with up to $10,000 apiece to support activities that showcase the importance of home fire sprinklers.


Following a successful launch in 2015, the Bringing Safety Home Grant is once again assisting sprinkler advocates with their grassroots efforts this year. Recipients will use the grant to initiate an extensive campaign promoting home fire sprinklers to residents and the state’s decision makers.


See a complete list of this year's recipients.

Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletterIn the latest edition of the Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter, read how safety advocates in Maryland defeated a bill that would have weakened the state sprinkler requirement. You’ll also read about:

  • an Arizona town that has sprinklered more than half of its homes
  • why we need to be asking the presidential candidates their stance on fire safety
  • a new report that cites a lack of sprinklers in a high-profile fire that killed two firefighters

Don't miss an issue--subscribe to this free newsletter today! Since its a monthly publication, we promise it won't clutter your inbox. 


If you haven't read the first installment of Rob Feeney's experience during The Station Nightclub fire in 2003, please do. It's a well-written, albeit horrific, account of the night that turned Feeney into an advocate for fire sprinklers. In this latest installment, Feeney recalls what he experienced--or thought he experienced--immediately afterwards as the truth about his fiancé, also at The Station the night of the fire, unfolds:


I don’t remember if I lost consciousness on the way to the hospital or if I was given something to knock me out. I do know I was intubated and placed in a medically induced coma for about 10 days. During that time, I had what I called morphine dreams. It took me years to figure out what were dreams and what was reality.

These dreams were a combination of people and events from my past and events in my hospital room. There were friends from elementary school. My brother made frequent appearances, which was strange since I had only seen him once or twice over the past decade before the fire. There were other relatives, celebrities I had never met. There was also a lot of fire. A lot of chaos. A lot of violence and a lot of pain. I was always trying to get somewhere to get help, but would always be trapped.

I didn’t dream about The Station Nightclub, but places like Boardwalk and Baseball, an amusement park in Orlando I visited when I was 16. In my dreams, it burned down as I was on a roller coaster alone. I also dreamt of the Burger King at the Route 6 rest area in Hyannis, Massachusetts, but this time it was a movie set. I was auditioning for a part. It also burned down. No matter who I was with or where I was, everything turned into a war zone around me. Houses and buildings I was in would burn down. Roads I drove and walked down wound up being surrounded by fire.


In my dreams, I would eventually make it to the hospital. There was one dream where a part of the hospital where animals were treated was on fire. My relatives were in the hospital dreams. There were fights and violence in the hospital segments. At one point, a fight in an overcrowded ER escalated into it being set on fire. Many people were trapped. I was rushed down a hallway into another room. Then the dreams changed. They became more reflective of the reality going on around me as I was awakening from the induced coma.


Read more of Rob's story by visiting NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative blog.

Anyone doubting the long-term benefits of a fire sprinkler ordinance need only look to Scottsdale, Arizona. 

Since it went into effect in 1986, the ordinance has had a hand in saving lives and property; the city's fire losses, for example, are a third less than the national average. As for the myth that "fire sprinkler requirements will place the fire service out of business," the number of Scottsdale's fire stations and firefighters has increased since the ordinance took effect 30 years ago.


In this new video by NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative, Jim Ford, fire marshal for the Scottsdale Fire Department, discusses how his town's ordinance has significantly decreased the city's fire losses without diminishing the necessity of the fire service. (Read this report from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition showcasing other benefits of this ordinance.) He also gives advice to other safety advocates looking to mirror Scottsdale's success.

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!|src=|alt=|style=padding: 0; margin: 0; border: 0; display: block; width: 80px; max-width: 100%;!Another U.S. state takes a big step in support of home fire sprinklers
!|src=|alt=|style=padding: 0; margin: 0; border: 0; display: block; width: 80px; max-width: 100%;!Do you know your favorite presidential candidate's position on fire safety?
!|src=|alt=|style=padding: 0; margin: 0; border: 0; display: block; width: 80px; max-width: 100%;!Texas Fire Marshal honored for working with the media to promote sprinkler saves
!|src=|alt=|style=padding: 0; margin: 0; border: 0; display: block; width: 80px; max-width: 100%;!Sprinklers 101: School program teaches future homebuilders the value of home fire sprinklers
!|src=|alt=|style=padding: 0; margin: 0; border: 0; display: block; width: 80px; max-width: 100%;!"Homes are burning so darn fast:" Fire chiefs make convincing argument for home fire sprinklers


A few recent home fires in the news got my attention. The most recent occurred on January 31 in Novi, Michigan, that killed five people ranging in age from 16 to 23. My research indicates the home was built between 1995 and 1999. On December 17, 2015, a fire killed a father and son in Lower Macungie Township, Pennsylvania, in a home built in 1998. Three days earlier, a woman perished in a home fire in Logan-Rogersville, Missouri, in a home built in 1994. (These are just the headlines I've noticed.) In all incidents, fire departments responded within minutes of being dispatched.

We often hear from homebuilders, Realtors, politicians, and others that fire sprinklers should not be required in new homes since new homes are safer than old homes. They claim that fire deaths and injuries most often occur in older homes. They imply that simply living in a new home reduces your chances of being killed or injured in a home fire over living in an old home. If this is true, my first question is as follows: When does a new home become an old home?

For more on this post written by Fire Chief Rick Ennis, visit NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative blog.

6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b7c81c6c90970b-320wi.jpgIn the latest edition of our Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter, read about a new push from some of Maryland’s biggest names in fire safety (and a few new ones) to fight anti-sprinkler legislation there. There are also stories on:

  • FEMA announcing that it will sprinkler its temporary housing for disaster survivors
  • NFPA once again offering sprinkler advocates the chance to secure up to $10,000
  • why the fire service should unify its support for home fire sprinklers

If you haven't done so already, pleasesubscribe to this newsletter to stay up to date on all sprinkler news. Feel free to share this post with your peers!


The following commentary was written by Joshua Carson, fire marshal for the Elko Fire Department in Nevada:

With progressive campaign slogans like “Make America Great Again," “Reigniting the Promise in America," “America Needs a Champion,” “A New American Century,” and “A Political Revolution is Coming”, one can expect an exciting presidential race.

The 2016 election brings ideas of hope and positive change within our individual lives, our country, and the world as a whole. It also brings hope that our new Commander in Chief will provide guidance and institute change on home fire sprinklers.

There are many topics that are debated on a national scale during a presidential campaign. Veteran support, military, immigration, terrorism, healthcare, economy--all of which are worthy and necessary topics of debate. Where do home fire sprinklers fit in?

According to statistics from NFPA and the Insurance Information Institute, property and lives lost from fire in the U.S. continue to be a major problem. NFPA tells us that fire departments responded to more than 367,000 home fires in 2014, resulting in:

  • more than 2,700 civilian fire deaths, or 84 percent of all fire deaths in the U.S.
  • close to 12,000 civilian fire injuries, or 75 percent of all civilian fire injuries
  • nearly $7 billion in direct property damage

Of the top 10 most catastrophic multiple fire deaths that occurred in 2014, three of the 10 occurred in single-family homes. To put these numbers into perspective, the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 was the most catastrophic multiple-death fire in U.S. history, accounting for close to 3,000 deaths.

Ron Siarnicki with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation stands with the Maryland fire service during a video supporting the state's home fire sprinkler requirement


A new video produced by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) highlights Maryland fire service and sprinkler advocates fighting a legislative bill aimed at weakening Maryland's sprinkler requirement.

The video features key players in this push, including Maryland State Fire Marshal Brian Geraci; Ron Siarnicki, NFFF's executive director and member of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition; and Sher Grogg, who lost her brother, sister-in-law, and three nieces and nephew in a catastrophic Maryland home fire in 2015. Fire officials also tackled the issue of installation costs, particularly in rural areas. Maryland legislators held a recent hearing on the new bill that was well-attended by the fire service.

Please watch and share this important video, titled "Sprinklers Save Lives: A Maryland Story," using the social media buttons below.



To further the life-saving impact of home fire sprinklers, the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) Fire Sprinkler Initiative is once again offering grant funding for sprinkler advocacy campaigns across North America.

Following a successful launch in 2015, the Bringing Safety Home Grant will once again assist as many as 10 selected fire sprinkler coalitions and other safety advocates throughout the U.S. and Canada with up to $10,000 apiece to support activities that showcase the importance of home fire sprinklers. Sprinkler advocacy is gaining momentum as more residents and policy-makers understand the value of the devices in new homes. Home fire sprinklers, for instance, can reduce home fire deaths by about 80 percent and direct property damage by about 70 percent, according to NFPA research.

Applicants can apply for up to $10,000 to fund an extensive sprinkler campaign in their state or region, or to develop an array of educational endeavors that underscore the necessity of sprinklers. For inspiration, applicants can review a report underscoring how 2015 grant recipients funded local campaigns in their regions. We're also asking advocates to get creative:


  • How can this grant help you spread the message in your state or region that sprinklers in new homes save lives?
  • Is there a new way to educate the public and decision makers about the value of home fire sprinklers?
  • How can you expand on a tried-and-true method of sprinkler advocacy?

Please don't miss out on this opportunity. Visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiative site for application details, and email us with any questions. The application deadline is March 16, 2016.


Disaster survivors displaced from their homes will now have one less thing to worry about if sheltering in temporary housing.


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has decided to include key fire safety features--particularly, fire sprinklers--in its new manufactured housing units. Following a major disaster, these units serve as a temporary home until formal repairs or permanent housing is acquired. FEMA wanted to make sure its next generation of temporary housing was as safe as the agency could provide, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate recently told an ABC affiliate. The concealed sprinklers accompany smoke alarms throughout the unit.


For more information on this story, visit NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative blog.

6a00d8351b9f3453ef01b7c811bf2b970b-320wi.jpgNow is the time when home fires are at their worst. February and its two preceding months are the leading months for U.S. home fires, according to NFPA.


These incidents are already responsible for more than 300 reported U.S. deaths since the start of the year, says the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). NFPA has partnered with USFA for its Put a Freeze on Winter Fires Campaign, which aims to prevent these tragedies.


February is also the month to get educated on home fire sprinklers, stated David Kurasz, a member of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Coalition, in a recent letter to the editor. In his state specifically,there were 143 fire deaths in 2014 and 2015. "Men, women, children, fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters," he stated. "Despite all of this, some people still argue that we do not have a fire problem."


6a00d8351b9f3453ef01bb08b686e0970d-120wi.jpgKurasz also pointed to an action by New Jersey Governor (and presidential hopeful) Chris Christie to conditionally veto legislation last year that would have required sprinklers in new, one- and two-family homes. "Here we sit, one month into 2016 and very little has been achieved, advanced, or acknowledged," stated Kurasz. "Please educate yourselves and your families on the dangers of fire, especially in the winter, and take some time to learn about [home] fire sprinklers."


NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative has a healthy array of research reports to expand your knowledge on the benefits of home fire sprinklers.


Images of firefighter Phil Tammaro's injuries flashed on screens filling one of NFPA's conference rooms. Photos showcased burns on his legs he sustained at two years old during a 1971 home fire. For four decades, doctors had to treat these burns.


NFPA staff had mixed reactions to the images; some turned away while others couldn't take their eyes off the screens. However, they collectively applauded Tammaro for sharing his story in the hopes of increasing safety at home.


Tammaro is one of NFPA's newest Faces of Fire, a component of the Fire Sprinkler Initiative that humanizes today's home fire problem and necessity for fire sprinklers in all new homes. Since NFPA released his video last year, Tammaro has been promoting these devices as a component to his work as a fire and life safety educator with the Billerica Fire Department in Massachusetts. He's also sharing his story via his involvement with the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors and the International Association of Fire Fighters.


Watch the following video underscoring how Tammaro didn't let his burn injuries stop him from fulfilling his dreams, and why he now champions for home fire sprinklers:

6a00d8351b9f3453ef01bb08b136c3970d-320wi.jpgIn the latest issue of our Fire Sprinkler Initiative newsletter, read how a New Jersey homeowner got a shocking response from his builder after requesting to have fire sprinklers installed in his new home. You’ll also find stories on:


  • NFPA’s response to a commentary filled with fire sprinkler inaccuracies and misstatements
  • why Kermit the Frog has it wrong: it’s easy being green (with fire sprinklers)
  • how air flow and a lack of home fire sprinklers impacted two deadly fires


Subscribing to our free, monthly newsletter is easy; simply fill out this simple form to make sure you're receiving top sprinkler news throughout North America directly to your inbox.


Fire demonstrations. Opinion editorials. TV appearances.

These have been some of the tactics used by Maryland's safety advocates to defend the life-saving capability of the state's sprinkler requirement. Threatened by recent legislation to weaken this requirement, advocates have ramped up their effort to promote sprinklers in new homes. Their efforts seem to be working.

An editorial that appeared in the Carroll County Times stated that it hopes the legislation goes "up in smoke."

"We understand the burden on developers, particularly in recent years as the real estate bubble burst with ever-increasing federal and state regulations on homebuilding have cut into their profits. But this is one regulation we can get behind," stated the editorial.

Addressing cost concerns about installing sprinklers in rural communities that are on well and septic systems, the editorial noted that sprinklers are inexpensive in the grand scheme of home construction. "Spread [the average installation cost of $1.35 per sprinklered square foot] over a 30-year mortgage, and it's likely something you'll barely notice. Having fire sprinklers can also reduce your homeowner's insurance."

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