Author(s): James Pauley. Published on October 1, 2016.

Plain & Simple

NFPA supports home fire sprinklers because they save lives. Any questions?

BY JIM PAULEY

SPRINKLERS SAVE LIVES. It’s a simple, straightforward, and accurate statement, but it can be easily overshadowed by myth and misrepresentation.

Sprinklers have been around for over 100 years, and they have been added to the basic building requirements of almost every building type except one- and two-family homes. And yet, homes are where we have the most civilian fire deaths and where we see the majority of firefighter fireground injuries.

NFPA is a strong supporter of requirements for home fire sprinklers, and there is much speculation as to why we are such a strong supporter. Homebuilders claim it’s because NFPA is “funded” by the fire sprinkler industry—a claim that is simply false. NFPA funds all its fire sprinkler initiatives on its own. Others say it’s because we want to require people to “buy” our home sprinkler standard, NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes—another inaccurate claim, since anyone anywhere in the world can view the standard online for free.

The reality is that we support sprinklers because having home fire sprinklers can reduce your chance of dying in a fire by 80 percent and reduce property damage by 70 percent. Our stated vision at NFPA is the “elimination of death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards.” That is why we have our Fire Sprinkler Initiative and why we provide funding and support to the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, a non-profit organization dedicated to education about home fire sprinklers. NFPA has helped establish sprinkler coalitions in 29 states to help in the education effort and to dispel common sprinkler myths.

Because of our support for sprinkler requirements, NFPA has been accused of trying to kill the housing industry. Again, this is simply not true, especially when you consider the context and history. When ground-fault circuit-interrupters (GFCIs) were first introduced as a requirement in the National Electrical Code®, opponents claimed housing would stop because of the cost. It didn’t. When smoke alarms came into the building code as a requirement, the same groups again stated that housing would stop. It didn’t. The same was said about requirements for arc-fault circuit-interrupters (AFCIs), and housing continued at its normal pace. Now the same tired argument is being used against home fire sprinklers. But we have examples such as Scottsdale, Arizona, and Prince George’s County, Maryland, where sprinkler requirements have existed side by side with robust housing markets.

NFPA is in this for the long haul, because Sprinklers Save Lives—plain and simple.

JAMES PAULEY, NFPA President