AUTHOR: Lorraine Carli

Home Fire Sprinkler Messages are a Holiday Safety Gift

Who doesn’t want to read a story with a happy ending during the holiday season? I know I do. And the one I’m about to tell you about has it all: tension, anticipation, a plot twist, plus the happy ending we all want! At 1:43 a.m., on November 18, the Pleasant View, Tennessee Volunteer Fire Department responded to a fire call in a 1,200-square-foot modular home. A fire had started in a bathroom wastebasket. Fortunately, the home was protected with home fire sprinklers and the sprinkler nearest the fire activated automatically. It woke the 62-year-old resident and gave her enough time to leave the home without injury and call 911. When the fire department arrived, crews discovered the fire had been completely extinguished by the sprinkler. The happy ending gets even happier: because fire sprinklers work so fast, they limit the spread of smoke and heat beyond the fire’s origin. So that night, the resident was able to sleep in her own home. But even with this happy ending, there is a twist: no working smoke alarms were in the home. Had the home also been without sprinklers, the fire would have grown and spread – and with no smoke sensor to give warning, this story would have been tragically different. The holiday season is meant to be a wonderful, joyous time of sharing, gathering with family and friends, and celebrating the season. But remember, ‘tis also the season for an increase in home fires. In fact, according to NFPA research, home fires caused by cooking tend to peak at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Candles, decorative lights, electrical cords, space heaters, and smoking also contribute to an increased risk of fire during the holidays. The latest reports from NFPA show that between 2015 and 2019, US fire departments responded to an average of 790 home structure fires per year that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees. These fires caused an annual average of one civilian fire death, 26 civilian fire injuries, and $13 million in direct property damage. Additional research points out that electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in almost half of home Christmas tree fires during this same time period. So, as we spread cheer during the holidays, we also need to let folks know about the simple, common-sense things they can do to keep the season merry and fire-free. The story I shared above underscores critical messages that bear repeating: every home needs working smoke alarms and an escape plan that is practiced regularly. In every community, new construction homes should be built with installed fire sprinklers to protect generations of residents and responders. You’re used to educating people about fire prevention, smoke alarms, and escape planning. Fire sprinklers deserve to be a key part of your home fire safety communications, too, regardless of the season. Sprinklers make up for human error in a way that no other home fire safety technology can. Find free resources to use and share, including videos, tips sheets, and social media cards for winter holiday safety on the NFPA website. For home fire sprinkler content, use free, turnkey tools from the Home Fire Safety Coalition (HFSC) that make it easy for you to educate your target audiences. Create a space on your website about the value of building new homes with fire sprinklers, upload videos and other content, and post cards to your social media accounts. It’s easy. Simply link to HomeFireSprinkler.org to get started.  So, as we close out the new year and head into 2023, let’s continue to work together to give rise to more stories with happy endings like the one in Pleasant View.
Work from home

Fire Sprinklers: A Life-Saving Solution Remote Workers Can Feel Right at Home With

Covid changed everything. Will it leave a lasting impact on fire safety too? Before the pandemic, only about 5 percent of full-time employees with office jobs worked primarily from home. According to a recent Forbes article, that figure is likely to settle at 20 to 30 percent in our new normal, varying across occupations and industries. Many workplaces and offices are protected by fire sprinklers; NFPA included, I’m happy to say. And wise business travelers select sprinklered hotels when they’re on the road. Great. But what about all the people working at home now? The work-at-home trend has many positives for many people, but it also heralds a concern for remote workers – unsafe homes. And remote workers aren’t the only ones at risk. Home is where we want to feel safest, but that comfort is often misplaced. For example, smoke alarms were present in three-quarters of reported US home fires, but three out of five home fire deaths happened in homes without smoke alarms or with non-operational alarms (NFPA 2014-2018). And a recent NFPA survey showed that just one in three American homes had and practiced an escape plan. Making matters worse, just 7 percent of US homes have installed fire sprinklers. Today’s home fires can become deadly in less than two minutes. That’s justification for better home fire protection, especially home fire sprinklers. Having smoke alarms just isn’t enough. First, smoke alarms need to be working – all of them, all the time. Everyone in the home needs to recognize the alarm and know what to do. And everyone needs to be certain they know how and where to escape, from every room in the home. That requires a plan with an escape strategy for everyone in the household. Yes, smoke alarms are essential. But they can only alert us to the presence of smoke. Uniquely, home fire sprinklers go beyond that important task, controlling a fire when it’s still small and often extinguishing it. That curbs the growth and spread of deadly smoke, and gives families precious time to safely escape, regardless of age or ability or personal action in response to the alarm. As lifestyles keep evolving and more people of different ages are living together and working remotely, homes are being occupied for longer hours and used in new ways. Every new home built without fire sprinklers is substandard from day one. That impacts the entire community, including the fire service. What can you do? Make home fire sprinkler education a permanent part of your community risk reduction work. Focus outreach on local officials, builders and developers, and of course consumers, especially those folks planning to build or buy a new home. You are their trusted resource for information about home fire safety. As always, NFPA is here to help you. Tap into our free resources. And for home fire sprinkler content, use the free turnkey tools from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) that make it easy for you to educate all your local target audiences. Create a space on your website to offer facts about the value of building new homes with fire sprinklers and link to the HFSC website. Upload videos and other content, and post cards to your social media accounts. When it comes to home fire safety, these and other related activities are a great way to raise awareness of the life-saving technology of home fire sprinklers. Find this and other related information at HomeFireSprinkler.org where the site is free of advertising and all content is free to you. 

Home Fire Sprinklers Overcome Many Challenges, Improving Communities for Life

In Millersville, TN recently, growing concerns about fire department emergency response times and gaps in fire hydrant spacing led to an ordinance requiring fire sprinkler installation in new construction of single-family and townhome structures. This small, suburban city’s decision will improve public safety on many levels for decades to come. It deserves to be replicated. This latest ordinance also shines a light on just one of the fire service challenges home fire sprinklers can overcome. Emergency response can be a problem for departments of all sizes and types, rural and urban. In most communities today, fire service personnel are all-hazard public safety providers. On any given shift, they may be responding to false alarms, motor vehicle accidents, hazardous materials, and medical calls. Regardless of how many apparatus or personnel a department has, firefighters can’t be in two places at once. And however good a department’s typical response time is, that time can be dragged out by unforeseen circumstances ― think flooding, train derailments, even apparatus crashes. Home fires are a significant problem in every community. Three quarters of all civilian fire deaths occur there. Installed home fire sprinklers are game-changers for any fire department. In an unprotected house, flashover can occur in as little as two minutes or less. This kind of life-or-death emergency demands full-scale fire department response. And considering the damage after just two minutes, their response will include putting water on the fire with lines that spray 150-200 gallons per minute. A house fire with sprinklers is different. The sprinkler closest to the flames responds automatically, controlling the fire and smoke or even extinguishing it – with a fraction of the water required for an unsprinklered house fire. That fast and automatic action prevents flashover from occurring and limits the amount and spread of toxic smoke. If the home is occupied, fire sprinklers provide people and their pets extra time to escape safely. The fire department still responds to sprinklered home fires of course, but a controlled or extinguished fire can be properly managed with fewer personnel, freeing up others to address emergencies elsewhere. Ordinances like Millersville’s are occurring slowly, but steadily, and for good reason. Scottsdale, AZ’s home fire sprinkler requirement set the bar more than three decades ago. It proved then, and continues to prove today, that fire sprinklers save lives. It’s also shown there’s really no downside to requiring sprinklers, as more than half the homes in Scottsdale are now protected with fire sprinklers. The bottom line? Home fire sprinklers are one community risk reduction strategy that can help any fire department in any community. Sprinklered homes protect against emergency response time challenges as well as common residential challenges today, like greater density and closer proximity, lightweight new-construction material, limited rural water supply, steep grades, narrow roads and limited fire service personnel, to name a handful. And while we’re at it, look beyond public safety to the ways home fire sprinklers help protect the environment. When sprinklers are present in a home fire, they cut greenhouse gases, reduce water usage and minimize pollution. In fact, since 2010, FM Global calculated that home fire sprinklers would have reduced gas emissions by 97 percent. So kudos to the City of Millersville. And kudos to you if you’re working on an ordinance in your own community. Free educational resources on a range of home fire sprinkler topics are available to you on demand from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.   
People working around a table

NFPA Experts Discuss the Digitalization of Skilled Trades in September Live Event

In September, the NFPA hosted a panel discussion exploring the role of digital tools in modernizing the skilled trades industry. Moderated by Katie Twist, NFPA Senior Marketing Manager, panelists Kyle Spencer, Director of NFPA LiNK®, Erik Hohengasser, Electrical Technical Lead, and Jonathan Hart, Fire Protection Technical Lead, sat down to discuss industry trends, challenges, and the technologies that are moving the needle for tradespeople in various lines of work. In the midst of a skilled worker shortage, paired with what is being called The Great Retirement, the ever-looming challenge for organizations to find unique technological solutions is imminent. The expert panelists communicated the critical need for tools like NFPA LiNK. Not only is it crucial for solving industry challenges like preserving generational knowledge, streamlining and simplifying communications, as well as spearheading collaboration, NFPA LiNK provides a competitive edge for organizations who are embracing digitalization. Key focuses of the panel conversation included: Traditional Industries Becoming Increasingly Tech-Savvy COVID spurred further investments in software, data, and digital transformation to provide industries with new digital tools to combat challenges How Young Professionals Entering the Industry Can Hit the Ground Running NFPA LiNK includes NFPA DiRECT®, which provides a series of features to help users visually navigate real-life, on-the-job situations and educate themselves on the key code content they need to be aware of Physical Code Books Alone Aren’t Going to Cut It Anymore Organizations can greatly benefit from getting in on the new digital wave, the new features digital tools provide (ease of access, comments, note taking, bookmarking, etc.) have drastically improved the efficiency of the workplace If you missed the live event, visit NFPA’s LinkedIn page to watch the recording. Join the conversation and share your thoughts with us. If you are interested in starting your digital transformation journey and seeing the benefits of NFPA LiNK, sign up for a free trial.

Live Fire and Sprinkler Demonstrations at the Big E Helped Underscore the Life-Saving Benefits of Home Fire Sprinklers

During September, more than 1.6 million people traveled to Massachusetts to attend The Big E, the nation’s only multistate fair, representing all six New England states. For the first time at the Big E, people attending the popular exposition had the opportunity to experience live home fire and sprinkler demonstrations side by side, witnessing firsthand the difference between destructive flashover in one room and automatic sprinkler protection in another. The states took turns hosting the flashover/sprinkler demonstration daily at a premium position behind the Avenue of the States area at the fair. Drawing impressive crowds, the collaborative effort was bolstered with support from the National Fire Sprinkler Association, which organized the side-by-side demonstration trailers. Representatives from fire departments around the region volunteered to extinguish the unsprinklered fires as part of each demo. State fire marshals, members of state fire sprinkler coalitions, and other New England fire service members were also on hand. These helpers were able to answer questions, and they noted they heard many comments indicating observers were surprised at how fast fire spreads and how well a fire sprinkler controls the fire. At each demonstration after the fires were extinguished and cooled off, people were invited to view the rooms up close so they could see the damage from the unsprinklered fire themselves and compare it to what little damage occurred in the room protected by the sprinkler. A special shout-out to all the members of the fire service who volunteered their time to ensure home fire sprinklers were front and center at this big exposition. Their support helped increase awareness about the speed of a home fire. And their role underscored the life-saving benefits when fire sprinklers are installed. There is no question that people had a fun day at the fair; they also learned important fire safety information and had some stubborn myths punctured right before their eyes. For more information about home fire sprinklers, visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition webpage. Top photo: Sprinkler demonstration at the Big E in Maine Bottom photo: Sprinkler demonstration at the Big E in Connecticut
A family

Fire Prevention Week Is the Perfect Time to Introduce, or Increase, Home Fire Sprinkler Messages

As fire departments across the United States and Canada recognize the 100th anniversary of Fire Prevention Week™ (FPW™) this month, let’s all reflect on the accomplishments of our work educating our communities on the importance of home fire safety. We have made important gains and have much to celebrate. But in virtually every jurisdiction, we also face critical challenges as we strive to prevent injury and deaths. Case in point: while the number of home fires has decreased in recent years, when home fires occur today, they are deadlier. And despite many advances that make our cities and towns safer, a person today is more likely to die in a home fire than they were in 1980. This year’s FPW theme, “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape™,” is intended to help address these challenges. The theme inspires us to educate about the simple but important actions residents can take to keep themselves and those around them safer from home fires. Preparation and planning are the heart of this year’s focus. It’s something we all can do. And no matter the kind, size or built-in protection, every household needs a home fire escape plan and practice using it. Because of that, Fire Prevention Week is the perfect opportunity to introduce or increase your messaging about the life-saving benefits of installed home fire sprinklers as part of your outreach. This is especially true if there are new housing starts and plans for new-home developments in your area. Today’s unsprinklered homes burn faster than ever, with residents having as little as 2 minutes to safely escape from the time the smoke alarm signals. In contrast, installed fire sprinklers are designed to allow 10 minutes for people to escape. That’s vital protection that prevents injuries and saves lives. Are you new to home fire sprinkler messaging? A good place to start is by informing your community that sprinklers are an option when building a new home —but in most communities, your audience will need to ask for them. Another good lead-in is myth busting. The most common myth has always been that all sprinklers go off at once (thanks, Hollywood). You can stop that myth by reinforcing the fact that only the sprinkler closest to the fire activates to control the fire. And that sprinkler’s fast activation provides time for a safe escape. It’s important to respond to damaging myths because they tend to get more oxygen than the facts. Also, we know from decades of experience that education really works. When the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) surveyed more than 2000 adults*, 80 percent of millennials who had learned how sprinklers actually work said they would prefer to buy a home protected with sprinklers. Understanding millennials’ reactions to sprinkler education is important information to have because they are the age group that makes up the largest share of today’s homebuyers. So, during your FPW activities, I hope you’ll remember to include home fire sprinkler messages. Especially when you have the opportunity to talk to millennials and others who plan to build new homes. HFSC has free turnkey resources that make it easy for you, whether you want to upload content to your department website, post ready-made cards to your social media accounts, or download other educational tools, such as videos, artwork, and reproducible safety sheets. Tap into these and much more at HomeFireSprinkler.org and encourage your community to explore the website themselves. Every new home should be built with a complete system of home fire safety: early warning with working smoke alarms, a well-planned and practiced escape plan, and installed home fire sprinklers. Fire won’t wait, plan your escape. *October 2020 Opinium survey of 2000 US adults
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