AUTHOR: James Monahan

Nicole Comeau Appointed Executive Secretary of International Fire Marshals Association

NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley has named Nicole Comeau executive secretary of the International Fire Marshals Association (IFMA). IFMA members are fire officials, who have been lawfully appointed and authorized by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). Fire marshals are charged with fire prevention efforts including the enforcement of fire laws and regulations, property inspections, public fire safety education, or investigation of fire origins or causes. Since her arrival at NFPA in 2015, Comeau has cultivated a strong working relationship with the enforcement community, showing a deep understanding of the particular issues facing fire marshals and AHJs, as well as their unique, important role in the Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem. The IFMA leadership appointment follows Comeau's promotion to stakeholder development director for NFPA earlier this year. “Fire marshals and code officials play a critical and influential role in the entire Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem; they face many unique challenges so it's critical to keep their needs at the forefront of what we're doing at NFPA,” Comeau said. “I am looking forward to working with this important and influential network, developing it globally, and ensuring that we stay focused on the ultimate goal of keeping communities safer. We have a unique opportunity to develop and implement creative solutions to ongoing public safety problems, to anticipate and plan for the challenges of tomorrow, and to engage the public at large to ultimately reduce loss around the world. This is a very exciting opportunity for all of us.” Originally known as the Fire Marshals Association of North America at its founding in 1906, the IFMA gained its new name in 1927. The mission of IFMA is to aid in the preservation of life and property by advocating, promoting, and providing leadership in the prevention or mitigation of fire, explosions, and other related hazardous conditions.

Mythblaster Monday 4: Fire Sprinklers are Green

Welcome back to our Mythblaster Monday series, where we explore the myths and misconceptions that surround home fire sprinklers, clear the air and provide resources that refute the myths and tout their many benefits. Last week we discussed the dangerous belief that because the fire department is on the way, there is no need for home fire sprinklers, when sprinklers provide vital help suppressing the fire before it grows too large.  With a busy wildfire and hurricane season, thoughts of the natural environment and how we fit into it might be on many people's minds, leading us to today's topic. Myth: Sprinklers don't benefit the environment Fact: Fire hoses, on average, use eight-and-a-half times more water than sprinklers do to contain a fire. Last Monday we reviewed how the quick response of home fire sprinklers helps control a fire, limiting the amount of danger to life and property. But by suppressing the fire as soon as its heat is detected, sprinklers also can either extinguish fires or keep them small enough that they require less water to put out once first responders arrive. According to research conducted, home fire sprinklers can reduce the water usage for fighting a home fire by as much as 91 percent. Meanwhile, once firefighters arrive, the high-pressure hoses they use produce water at 125 gallons per minute, and they must use more water to deal with flames that have spread beyond the room of origin. The Environmental Impact of Automatic Fire Sprinklers report also shows that home fire sprinklers can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 98 percent, partly because of the impact on building sustainability when accounting for the difference in fire damage and necessary reconstruction between sprinklered and non-sprinklered homes. Wastewater from fires where sprinklers are present also have fewer persistent pollutants, showing decreased water pollution. In short, in addition to being a no-brainer for safety, home fire sprinklers are green. This brochure for water purveyors, local officials, and the fire service gives a detailed look into home fire sprinklers and water supply. To find more resources on home fire sprinklers and how to get them into your community, check out the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative.

Mythblaster Monday: Home Fire Sprinklers Help the Fire Service Help You

Today we continue our Mythblaster Monday series, where we explore the myths and misconceptions that surround home fire sprinklers, setting the record straight and providing resources that share their many benefits. Last week we exposed the superstition that home fire sprinkler installation is expensive, finding the costs to be much lower than imagined. This week, we turn to a myth that leads to complacency around safety. Myth: The fire department will be able to put out the fire and save my things. Fact: Fire departments may not be able to get to your home for 9-12 minutes—plenty of time for a fire to grow to be deadly and cause massive damages. Firefighters are highly trained, dedicated professionals that possess the skills and equipment necessary for our first line defense against the ravages of fire. However, arriving at the scene of an emergency and completing the necessary preparations takes time. This fact sheet shows that with unprotected lightweight construction common in new homes and modern, often synthetic furnishings, a home fire today can burn more quickly and create a highly toxic environment very fast. Without fire sprinklers, flames can grow unhindered, heat and gasses can spread, and flashover can occur—igniting everything. It can take less than two minutes for a fire to become deadly, as shown in this video. In the 9-12 minutes fire departments may need to respond, depending on the presence of home fire sprinklers, they would face a very different scene. Home fire sprinklers, once activated by the high temperature, begin suppressing the fire immediately. This early response proves vital in saving lives and property, but also creates a safer environment for first responders. In deciding to protect his own home with fire sprinklers, Chief Brower highlighted the increased health and suppression risks associated with exposure that responders face. A fateful fire in 2008 went to flashover, trapping four firefighters and burning one severely enough to force retirement. By suppressing fires before they can reach that point, home fire sprinklers help firefighters contain a fire and keep them safer. Of the 1,318,500 fires that US fire departments responded to in 2018, 73 percent of the 3,655 fires resulting in civilian deaths happened in the home. In 2019, an NFPA report found that of the ten firefighter deaths at structure fires, three involved one- and two-family homes. Instead of placing resident and property safety on the back-burner for those 9-12 minutes, installing home fire sprinklers actively increases the chance that lives and possessions can be saved. For a quick rundown of the facts surrounding home fire sprinklers in an easy-to-share format, check out these fact sheets. More information on the home fire threat and how home fire sprinklers are a vital part of alleviating that threat can be found at the Fire Sprinkler Initiative and Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

Matt Klaus Recognized as Person of the Year

Protecting people and property in the rapidly evolving world of fire and life safety requires leadership, collaboration, vision, and drive. Few embody these virtues more than NFPA's Matt Klaus, who has been recognized by Fire Protection Contractor (FPC) magazine as their 2020 “Person of the Year”. FPC magazine has been a go-to resource for fire protection contractors, designers, and engineers since 1978. Every year, they shine a spotlight on one industry innovator—and this year it was Matt Klaus. The honor acknowledges the work ethic and expertise that NFPA has come to expect and appreciate from Klaus over the last 20 years. What is striking about Matt is his sincerity. Colleagues and stakeholders find his ability to establish strong relationships and openly communicate to be both refreshing and relevant. James Golinveaux, CEO of The Viking Group, said of Klaus, “His integrity is what keeps him real and his knowledge and passion is what makes him successful.” Passion has been a cornerstone of Klaus' career. After completing his Master of Science in Fire Protection Engineering from WPI in 2002, he took a role as a fire protection engineer with Schirmer Engineering. At Schirmer, he honed his skills in everything from sprinkler design to code consulting. His diligence led to him working both domestically and in the Middle East. It was around this time that he was elected to the Salamander Honorary Society, the oldest national honor society for fire protection engineering dating back to 1922. In 2010, NFPA brought Klaus on as a staff liaison, allowing him the opportunity to reach a broader, larger audience and have more of an impact on fire protection. He used his reach to hold 15-20 in-person seminars a year. Today, he shares his expertise as the NFPA Director of Technical Services. Matt places a high value on motivating and educating the next generation, believing that communication and understanding the ‘why' of things is critical to the growth and advancement of the individual, and overall life safety. For these reasons, and many more, NFPA is proud to congratulate Matt Klaus on this special recognition.

Mythblaster Monday 2: The True Cost of Home Fire Sprinklers

Last Monday, we introduced our Mythblaster Monday series that explores common myths that people have about home fire sprinklers, to illustrate their many benefits and provide resources to advocate for their use. We began by debunking the idea that smoke alarms alone are sufficient protection from a home fire. This week, we turn to a myth that has often floated to the top of the discussion and is used erroneously by opponents to the lifesaving technology. Home is where the heart is, where we feel safest, and these days, where many spend most of their time. But as will see, protecting it does not mean sinking the ship. Myth: Home Fire Sprinkler installation is too expensive. Truth: Average fire sprinklers cost $1.35 per square foot of sprinklered space in new construction The $1.35 per square foot average cost includes design, installation, permits, and more. Like plumbing or electrical systems, home fire sprinklers are paid over the life of a mortgage, adding to their affordability. Local ordinances can cause this figure to vary slightly, but that is a far cry from what a home structure fire might cause in property loss. In 2018, the NFPA reported $6.5 billion in property loss from fire in 1- and 2-family homes. In an Arizona study, over a 15-year period the average loss per sprinklered fire incident was $2,166, while unsprinklered homes had an average loss of over $45,000. One a wider scale, a recent study performed in California echoed results from an earlier Maryland report, which found no evidence that sprinkler requirements impacted housing supply or cost. The introduction of new materials has also had a positive effect on the cost of sprinkler installations, and once home fire sprinklers are installed they have been found to decrease water usage by 50 to 91 percent, resulting in savings on the water bill. In short, financial concerns should not deter people from pursuing the life and property protections that home fire sprinklers can provide. Matt Klaus, NFPA Director of Technical Services, briefly discusses these concerns in the video above, and home fire sprinkler advocates in Las Vegas provide a useful case study for how to achieve a sprinkler ordinance even when faced with vocal opponents. A detailed breakdown of home fire sprinkler costs can be found here. For more information, check out the Fire Sprinkler Initiative and Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition websites.
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Mythblaster Monday 3: Home Fire Sprinklers & Smoke Alarms

For many, fire sprinklers are like ocean buoys: people know of them, and that they do something important. But that is often where consideration stops, and the same can be said for home fire sprinklers. We continue to see misinformation from sprinkler opponents and with this weekly series we aim to set the record straight, tackle the myths head on, and prove they just “don't hold any water”. The first myth we're addressing can have particularly dangerous consequences: Myth: I have smoke alarms, so I don't need home fire sprinklers. Truth: Smoke alarms detect, sprinklers protect.  Smoke alarms are indispensable and decrease the risk of dying in a home fire. But they cannot fight the fire itself. A recent NFPA report found that in home structure fires from 2013-2017, the fires caused an estimated average of $6.9 billion dollars in direct property damage per year and an annual average of 2,620 civilian deaths. Sixty-nine percent of reported home fires from that five-year period occurred in one- or two-family homes. A fire can become deadly in as little as two minutes. So while a smoke alarm is vital for alerting people to escape, a home fire sprinkler can activate even when occupants are unable to act—maximizing the time they have to get out, limiting damage to the home, and giving emergency personnel a less-dangerous scene to walk into. In fact, the report found that in home fires where fire sprinklers were present, the death rate dropped by eighty-five percent when compared to fires without any automatic extinguishing systems (AES). Home fire sprinklers are a safety investment that actively prepares for and assists in emergency response—connecting two parts of what NFPA calls the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, a framework that helps guide all affected stakeholders though the process for identifying fire, life safety, electrical and related hazards, and creating solutions to manage such hazards. Plus, their benefits move beyond the individual home, as shown by a fire in San Jose last week, where the blaze from one home quickly spread and damaged another. Government officials, first responders, and homeowners all stand to benefit from increased home sprinkler installations. Find a fire sprinkler coalition in your area for opportunities and information on advocating for home fire sprinklers in your neighborhood. Each week, additional resources will be highlighted in this corner. To learn more about the case for home fire sprinklers, visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiative and Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition websites. For a deeper look into home fire sprinklers and the myths that plague them, check out the newest episode of the NFPA Podcast “Debunking Home Fire Sprinkler Myths”.
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