AUTHOR: James Monahan


Tragic Columbus Fire Reinforces the Importance of Working Smoke Alarms

A Columbus, OH family of four lost their lives to an early morning fire this past weekend, caused by embers from their fireplace igniting nearby flammable materials. According to news report, while the home had smoke alarms, investigators found that the batteries were missing. This tragic incident reinforces the importance of working smoke alarms throughout the home while underscoring a potential fire hazard associated with fireplaces. Following are reminders to share with your community when using fireplaces. This unfortunate event leaves a painful hole in the community. Fire prevention works best when multiple levels of protection come together. Working smoke alarms, home fire sprinklers, and a home escape plan practiced at least twice a year, give residents a complete system that decrease the chance of a devastating fire while increasing the chances of safely escaping if a fire does indeed break out. Use these smoke alarm tips to help ensure that your community will know how to protect themselves with smoke alarms, summarized here: A closed door may slow the spread of smoke, heat and fire. Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room and outside each separate sleeping area. Install alarms on every level of the home, including the basement. Smoke alarms should be interconnected. When one sounds, they all sound. Large homes may need extra smoke alarms. Test all smoke alarms at least once a month by pressing the test button to be sure the alarm is working. Today's smoke alarms will be more technologically advanced to respond to a multitude of fire conditions, yet mitigate false alarms. A smoke alarm should be on the ceiling or high on a wall. Keep smoke alarms away from the kitchen to reduce false alarms. They should be at least 10 feet (3 meters) from the stove. People who are hard-of-hearing or deaf can use special alarms with strobe lights and bed shakers. Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old. Fire departments and other organizations have many resources at their disposal to assist people with accessing the fire protection measures they need. These tips make creating a home escape plan easy to understand, and these sharable downloads present useful information regarding home fire sprinklers.

As Halloween Activities Shift in Response to COVID-19, NFPA Emphasizes Caution around Home Decorating, including Candles and Electrical Lighting

The realities of COVID-19 are pushing households to find creative ways to celebrate Halloween this year. With trick-or-treating and Halloween parties being less of an option, it's likely that more home decorating, pumpkin carving and use of jack-o-lanterns will occur this year, which may include increased use of candles and electrical lighting. With these considerations in mind, NFPA is reminding everyone to make fire safety a priority when celebrating the holiday. Candles are among the leading causes of U.S. home fires. According to NFPA's latest U.S. Home Candle Fires report, an annual average of 7,610 home fires are started by candles, resulting in 81 deaths, 677 injuries and $278 million in direct property damage. In addition, an average of 770 home fires started when decorations ignited. These fires caused an average of two civilian deaths, 20 civilian injuries, and $11.1 million in direct property damage per year. NFPA shares these considerations to make sure that the only scary thing about Halloween this year is a horror movie marathon: Use a battery-operated candle or glow stick in jack-o-lanterns. Dried flowers, cornstalks, and crepe paper catch fire easily. Keep all decorations away from open flames and other heat sources like light bulbs and heaters. When using electrical lighting to decorate your home, make sure it is used in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. Some lights are only for indoor or outdoor use, but not both. Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords do not get damaged. Remember to keep exits clear of decorations so nothing blocks escape routes. Make sure all smoke alarms are working. For families still planning to attend Halloween parties or go trick-or-treating: When choosing costumes, stay away from long trailing fabric that could come in contact with open flames or other heat sources. Teach children to stay away from open flames, including jack-o-lanterns with candles in them. Provide children with flashlights to carry for lighting or glow sticks as part of their costumes. For more resources on how to keep the festivities from turning frightful, visit the NFPA Halloween safety page. Include kids in fire safety with age-appropriate activities that can be found on NFPA's Sparky the Fire Dog homepage.

Mythblaster Monday 11: Safety Resides in Each Home Fire Sprinkler

We often talk about the best way to improve fire safety outcomes is by having interconnected smoke alarms to alert people so that there may be a fire. Interconnected in the smoke alarm sense means that when one sounds, they all sound. But for home fire sprinklers, this idea of connection results in a persistent myth. Throughout our Mythblaster Monday series, we identify common misunderstandings surrounding home fire sprinklers, offering resources that share their many benefits and flush out the misinformation. Last week, we provided information on developer incentives for installing home fire sprinklers, and today we are clarifying a question that advocates commonly face. Myth: If one sprinkler goes off, they all go off Fact: Sprinklers activate independently; only the sprinkler closest to the fire will activate Hollywood has done us no favors when it comes to home fire sprinkler myths – they in fact perpetuate one of the most common misunderstandings about sprinklers. Often in movies or TV shows you see every sprinkler going off in a building when there is a fire or another mishap by some villain character. That is simply not true. Regardless of the type of system—combination or stand-alone, fire sprinklers are attached to pipes throughout the home or property. While they are connected, they don't all go off at once. Home fire sprinklers are there for early suppression, giving occupants more time to escape and giving firefighters a more controlled scene to face. The key to information to refute this common misconception is in this video that shows that only high temperatures activate a sprinkler, only the sprinkler closest to the fire will be affected. In 90 percent of fires, one sprinkler is enough to control the flame. The focused suppression of individual sprinkler activation also results in lower damages and water usage. Research shows that when sprinklers are present, the average dollar loss per fire is 63 percent lower than when there is no automatic extinguishing system, and that sprinklers discharge an average of 341 gallons of water per fire, compared to 2,935 gallons per fire discharged by firefighter hoses. More information on how home fire sprinklers work and what benefits they offer different stakeholders can be found on the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative websites.
Brian Geraci

Maryland State Fire Marshal Brian S. Geraci Honored as Sprinkler Advocate of the Year for 2020

According to research, fires become deadly in as little as two minutes. The more we can do to improve the chances that people and property can be saved, the better. One of the best ways to protect homes in the event of a fire is home fire sprinklers, and the growing number of installations in new homes has been largely driven by the work of AHJs, local officials, and many other community members who know their value. The American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) recognizes these individuals with their Sprinkler Advocate of the Year Award, which AFSA created to recognize great advocacy work by individuals not directly involved with the fire sprinkler industry. The 2020 honor has been awarded to Maryland State Fire Marshal Brian S. Geraci. Geraci is well-acquainted with the irreplaceable benefit of early suppression offered by home fire sprinklers. He began his career in 1973 with the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, eventually rising to the role of captain/commander of the Code Enforcement Section, before his retirement as a battalion commander for the Fire and Explosive Investigation Section/Bomb Squad. Throughout his career, Geraci has pushed for residential fire sprinkler legislation in Maryland and was integral to making Maryland one of only two states that requires residential fire sprinkler installation in new homes. Research has shown that home fire sprinklers can lower the risk of dying in a home fire by 80 percent and decrease average property loss per home by around 70 percent, making this a huge contribution to fire and life safety for the residents of Maryland. Congratulations to State Fire Marshal Geraci on this significant honor.  Learn more about how to share the benefits of home fire sprinklers in your community by visiting the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative online. More achievements in fire sprinkler advocacy can be found on The American Fire Sprinkler Association website.

Mythblaster Monday 10: Home Fire Sprinklers are a Win-Win for Jurisdictions and Developers

From the latest smoke alarms to solar panels, there are many ways for homeowners to make their homes safer and smarter. Unfortunately, when it comes to home fire sprinklers, their many safety benefits can get lost in the noise of misinformation. In our Mythblaster Monday series, we clear up common misunderstandings and share resources that explain how much sprinklers contribute to the protection of lives and property. Last week we debunked the myth that home fire sprinklers increase insurance costs, but insurance incentives aren't the only advantages that come from sprinkler installation. Myth: If a community doesn't require home fire sprinklers, we can't ask builders to put them in. Fact: Even without a code requirement, local jurisdictions can work with developers and builders on many possible incentives for including home fire sprinklers in construction. An exciting and growing phenomenon is happening in communities throughout the country—more communities are working hand in hand with developers to include home fire sprinklers in new homes as part of a program that gives them trade-ups or incentives. These incentives are a win-win for communities, allowing safer homes to be built, providing financial gains for the developers and reducing the burden on first responders.  Yet many jurisdictions are not aware of incentives or think they can't offer them. In order to better protect communities from fire, it is important to learn more about how this works. The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) lists some of the most common incentives as: Street-Width Reduction—Traffic lanes may be narrowed, substantially reducing the amount of pavement in every linear foot of street in the development. Longer Dead-End Streets—Dead-end streets may be increased in length, allowing additional building lots to be accessed. Tee Turnarounds Permitted—The permitted use of tee turnarounds in sprinklered developments can create at least one additional lot per cul-de-sac. Increased Street Grades and Building Setbacks—Steeper street grades and building locations allowed further from where the homes access leaves the main road. Additional Units Permitted—Development plans that allow homes to be closer together. Expansion of Existing Water Supply May Not Be Needed—Required fire flows for fully sprinklered developments can be greatly reduced compared to non-sprinklered developments. Increased Hydrant Spacing—Supply mains may be reduced and hydrant spacing can be increased. Subdivision Single Access Point—A fully sprinklered subdivision allows for a single public access road. This decreases infrastructure costs and significantly increases the number of single-family dwellings allowed. Gated Communities—Gated communities can delay Fire Department Access. A fully sprinklered subdivision provides mitigation for this impact allowing developers to utilize this security option when desired. Reduced Basement Windows—Fire sprinklers reduce rescue openings in every basement sleeping room. HFSC has several resources to begin a program for incentives in your community. This fact sheet details the many incentives available for jurisdictions to present to developers. There are a number of case studies also available on the HFSC website. For example, in Camas, WA, a developer building a 60-home development on a hillside successfully achieved $1 million in infrastructure and material cost savings by agreeing to install home fire sprinklers that protected the entire subdivision. Material for developers interested in including this life-saving technology in their projects can explore more information here or with the free Built for Life Homebuilder Kit. For more resources on how to advocate for home fire sprinklers and combat misinformation, visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiative and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition online.
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Bowie Fire Reiterates Maryland Leadership with Fire Sprinklers

When advocating for positive change, a positive case study is invaluable. Late last week, Bowie, MD became such a case study when a fire broke out in a single-family home. Thanks to the home's sprinkler system, the fire did not spread beyond the second-floor where it originated, and damage was minimal. It comes as no surprise that Bowie, located in Prince George's county, would be the setting for such a great sprinkler save. In 1992, the county became one of the first areas to enact an ordinance calling for the installation of automatic fire sprinkler systems in new one- and two-family structures. The results are detailed in this 15 year report, providing a fantastic resource for other local officials looking to bring home fire sprinklers into their community. Over the period of study, the county experienced almost 14,000 (13,494) single-family or townhouse fires, where 245 of the homes had fire sprinklers installed. The 245 sprinklered homes resulted in no deaths and only six injuries, compared with the 101 resident deaths and 328 injuries reported in the non-sprinklered home fires. In addition to protecting your community, home fire sprinklers also have been shown to lower water pollution, contributing towards local climate goals. Home fires frequently happen during times when people are asleep, and residential sprinklers begin controlling the fire without any action from occupants, increasing the time they have to get out. As the Benefits of Residential Fire Sprinklers report illustrates, home fire sprinklers should be installed in all single-family homes along with smoke alarms, to provide early detection and suppression to protect lives and property before firefighters arrive. This two-part video series further details the advantages of home fire sprinklers specifically for local officials, and more resources on home fire sprinklers and how to bring them into your community can be found at The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative websites. Fire Prevention Week is October 4-10, 2020. Visit for the resources you need to help keep your community safe. Let's all Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!TM
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