AUTHOR: Mike Puzzanghera

Maryland Fire Marshal

Maryland, one of two states that require residential fire sprinklers, reports record-low fire deaths in 2020

The Office of the State Fire Marshal of Maryland released preliminary data from 2020 which showed 51 people died due to injuries sustained in fires last year, a record-low for the state. The previous low was 54 in 2012, and last year’s statistic represents a 22 percent decrease from the 65 deaths in 2019. “Residential sprinklers are in place here in Maryland; they aren’t going anywhere,” State Fire Marshal Brian S. Geraci said to The Garrett County Republican. “We’re saving lives, and they’re clearly making a difference.” Maryland requires a residential fire sprinkler in all new one- or two-family homes across the state. Despite the provision for sprinklers included in all building codes, Maryland and California are the only two states in the US that require residential fire sprinklers, along with Washington, DC and hundreds of local communities. The Maryland law was passed in 2012, and was recently strengthened by the passing of House Bill 823 and Senate Bill 746, which gave the Fire Marshal the ability to enforce the requirements. Maryland law also prohibits local governments from weakening the sprinkler requirement in their jurisdiction’s building codes. According to reports, another key factor in the decrease of the state’s fire deaths is a 2013 law that required replacing 10-year-old battery-only smoke alarms with alarms powered by a 10-year sealed battery. Most people are unaware that smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years. By using long life battery smoke alarms, you greatly reduce missing or dead battery issues. Over the last 25 years, the average annual fire death total in the state was 71. Over the last 10 years, it has dropped to 64. Out of the 51 total fire deaths, 33 occurred in residential properties, a significant decrease from the 52 residential deaths in 2019. This is very good news for the state and another reminder of the life-saving capabilities of residential fire sprinklers and the positive impact they have for citizens and first responders. To learn more about home fire sprinklers and how to get them in your community, visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative.
Home fire sprinkler side-by-side demo

Don’t get caught up in the heat of the moment: practice candle safety this Valentine’s Day

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, NFPA encourages everyone to use candles safely and avoid ruining a romantic evening. From 2014 to 2018, US fire departments responded to an average of 7,600 home fires started by candles per year. These fires cause an annual average of 81 civilian deaths and 677 civilian injuries, as well as $278 million in property damage. Candles were the third leading cause of bedroom fires and fourth leading cause of living room fires, as well as the sixth leading cause of home fire injuries. The rate of 89 injuries per 1,000 reported candle fires was three times the rate for all fire causes. Three out of every five candle fires started when a flammable piece of décor ­— such as furniture, mattresses, bedding, curtains, home decorations, paper, or clothing — was too close to the lit candle. In 16 percent of home candle fires, the candle was left unattended. Over one-third of candle fires (37%) started in the bedroom, while candles are only used in the bedroom by 13% of users. Sleep was a factor in 10 percent of home candle fires, 15 percent of candle fire deaths, and 22 percent of candle fire injuries. NFPA recommends using battery-operated candles, which eliminate the risk of candle fires,  but if you plan to use real candles on Valentine’s Day, following are tips from NFPA to do so safely : Keep candles at least 12 inches from anything that can burn. Use candle holders that are sturdy and won’t tip over easily. Put candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface. Blow out all candles before you leave a room or go to bed. Never leave children alone in a room with a burning candle. Light candles carefully. Keep your hair and any loose clothing away from the flame. Don’t burn a candle all the way down — put it out before it gets too close to the holder or container. Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep. NFPA also reminds the public to make sure they have working smoke alarms and to develop and practice an escape plan. For more information about candle safety, please visit our candle safety page.  

Fire Protection Research Foundation Board of Trustees Welcomes Two New Members

The Fire Protection Research Foundation, the research affiliate of NFPA, has appointed two new members to its Board of Trustees. Effective January 1, 2021, Lou Gritzo of FM Global and Peg Paul of Peg Paul Associates will serve three-year terms. The Research Foundation also announced that Rodger Reiswig from Johnson Controls and Thomas Gell from Brandforsk Sweden will serve a second round of three-year terms on the Board of Trustees. Dr. Lou Gritzo is currently the vice president and manager of research with FM Global and is charged with overseeing a division of scientists who specialize in fire, explosions, natural hazards (windstorms, floods, earthquakes), equipment, risk and reliability and cyber hazards. Given FM Global’s interest in understanding property hazards and identifying scientifically proven solutions to prevent property and business interruption loss, Gritzo is a strong fit for the Research Foundation leadership role. Gritzo has served on NFPA’s Research Advisory Committee, as well. A graduate of Texas Tech University with a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and a minor in applied mathematics, Gritzo has served as chair of both the Board of Directors of the Innovation Research Interchange (formerly the Industrial Research Institute) and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Heat Transfer Division Executive Committee. He has also served on the Governing Board of the Global Earthquake Model, the ABET Industrial Advisory Committee, and spent time on the Research Foundation’s Research Advisory Committee as well as committees for several universities. Peg Paul is currently the president of Peg Paul & Associates (PPA), a marketing communications agency founded in 2000 that specializes in developing and implementing multi-integrated information and education campaigns. PPA supports a wide range of client needs but has especially established a niche in public safety promotion and has been retained for this purpose by some of the leading national safety advocacy groups, trade associations and industries. Paul has been the communications manager for the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition since 1997, where she oversees the development and implementation of educational programs for consumers, members of the fire service, the home building industry, real estate and insurance agents, water purveyors and other targeted groups. She also serves on the International Association of Fire Chiefs, Fire and Life Safety Section, and was an invaluable member of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors Board of Directors for ten years. Paul was also recognized as the 2014 Fire Sprinkler Advocate of the Year by the American Fire Sprinkler Association. We welcome and thank Dr. Gritzo and Peg Paul.

Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and Fire Sprinkler Initiative announce dates for 2021 Home Fire Sprinkler Week

Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) announced that its annual Home Fire Sprinkler Week (HFSW) done in collaboration with the NFPA Fire Sprinkler Initiative will take place May 16-22. Recognizing its 25th anniversary, HSFC is expanding its reach with new ideas and tools that further the life-saving educational messages of home fire sprinklers. HFSW highlights include a digital campaign to educate younger homebuyers on the importance and need for home fire sprinklers, a video to emphasize the positive environmental impact of home fire sprinklers, and daily educational themes and graphics to be shared on social media. HFSC is also planning on releasing a new virtual reality resource to help people personally understand how fire and deadly smoke quickly spread and allow them to experience the power of home fire sprinklers up close. Another addition to Home Fire Sprinkler Week is a stipend program, which will award local fire departments dedicated to home fire sprinkler education with money to use on socially-distanced community outreach programs, including construction of a to-scale NFPA 13D riser. Read the announcement for more information and plan your local activities to support this week. To learn more about home fire sprinklers and how to increase the number of homes being built with sprinklers in your community, visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative.

USFA New Year message touts the importance of home fire sprinklers

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) rang in 2021 by reminding their audiences across America, including state and local departments, of the importance of home fire sprinklers. USFA issued a training bulletin about the positive effects of residential fire sprinklers back in 2018, but updated it with the new year to remind fire departments about why they should advocate for home fire sprinklers in local fire and building codes. The bulletin notes that residential fire sprinklers are required in one- and two-family homes under NFPA 1, Fire Code, and NFPA 101, Life Safety Code®, as well as the International Residential Code (IRC). In addition to making homes safer, sprinklers keep firefighters safe and reduce the number of civilian deaths and injuries sustained in fires, and by reducing the number of home fires, fewer firefighters are exposed to dangerous chemicals that cause cancer. Home fire sprinklers also decrease the burden on the city’s water supply, since the sprinklers help extinguish fires faster and prevent them from spreading to sizes where significantly more water is needed to put them out. The bulletin also pointed out how sprinklers help the environment through the reduction of negative effects caused by large house fires. Home sprinklers also reduce the amount of trash sent to landfills after a fire and cut down on the damage caused by home fires, leading to beneficial environmental effects. They lower the amount of carbon monoxide and smoke that enters the atmosphere, and  cut down on the number of contaminants that enter the ground and seep into the water supply as well. Home fire sprinklers can also benefit to local builders and developers. Local authorities can work with builders and developers on trade-offs such as allowing  houses to be set further from the street and further from fire hydrants if the homes are sprinklered or reducing. permit, impact, and standard water connection fees lower real estate taxes. Check out the bulletin here to read all about the benefits, and look here to see the USFA stance on residential fire sprinklers. To learn more about home fire sprinklers and how to  increase the number of homes being built with sprinklers in  your community, visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative.

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