AUTHOR: Mike Puzzanghera

With Home Fire Sprinkler Week fast approaching, now’s the time to brush up on the facts of this lifesaving technology

Home Fire Sprinkler Week (HFSW) approaching quickly, it is a good time to review some residential sprinkler myths that NFPA has debunked in the past. Last July, NFPA released an episode of The NFPA Podcast that addressed some of these home fire sprinkler myths with a former fire chief who retrofitted his home with sprinklers. Check out the episode, “Debunking Home Fire Sprinkler Myths,” on The NFPA Podcast here In addition to the podcast, NFPA ran a blog series in 2020 called Mythblaster Monday. This series tackled the myths surrounding home fire sprinklers, such as total water damage from sprinklers (which is much less than fire damage) and the importance of sprinklers even with the presence of smoke alarms. The Mythblaster Monday series, as well as other NFPA Fire Sprinkler Initiative (FSI) blogs, can be viewed here. Home Fire Sprinkler Week runs from May 16-22 this year, and marks 25 years since the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition was founded. A collaboration between the Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative, each day of the campaign NFPA will share blogs, resources, and related information to raise awareness of the life-saving benefits of home fire sprinklers. Read more about HFSW here. So brush up on the facts and please join NFPA in sharing valuable, life-saving information during Home Fire Sprinkler Week. For additional information, visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative.
Gas range

NIOSH releases fact sheet on odorant fade

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, released a fact sheet on odorant fade in natural gas and propane, an important issue that requires firefighters to be aware of it so they can operate safely around natural gas and propane. Odorant is a liquid added to natural gas and propane that releases a smell in case of a leak. The smell alerts anyone nearby about a leak since natural gas and propane are naturally odorless. The odorant, mercaptan, can fade over time through absorption or oxidation as the leaking gas runs through soil or concrete. Drywall, plywood, and new piping can also strip the odorant from natural gas and propane. The NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program (FFFIPP) released recommendations for firefighters responding to natural gas and propane incidents. They recommend the following: The use of gas detection equipment in these events, and not relying on their sense of smell to determine if there is a leak of natural gas or propane Understanding that odorants from natural gas or propane can fade Being trained on the proper calibration, maintenance, and use of gas detection equipment to determine if a potentially explosive atmosphere is present Recognizing that a lack of odor can result from natural gas or propane contacting soil, concrete, and a wide variety of building materials such as drywall, wood, and new piping storage tanks The fact sheet noted an incident from September 2019 where a firefighter in Maine was killed and six others were injured when propane gas ignited at a newly renovated office building. NIOSH FFFIPP investigators identified odor fade as one of the key contributing factors in that tragedy. In 2020, an explosion in Baltimore killed two people and highlighted the need for fuel gas detection. NFPA 715 Standard for the Installation of Fuel Gases Detection and Warning Equipment is currently in the early development phase. The new standard will cover the selection, design, application, installation, location, performance, inspection, testing, and maintenance of fuel gas detection and warning equipment in buildings and structures. Additionally, the Fire Protection Research Foundation, the research affiliate of NFPA, recently released a report on combustible gas detection (CGD) placement. The research looks to use modeling work to justify requirements in NFPA 715 for the best location of CGD in order to ensure early and accurate detection of leaks. The Research Foundation hosted a webinar on the topic earlier this month too. For more information on odorant fade, check out the fact sheet here.  

Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition Expands Stipends to Canadian Fire Departments to Support Home Fire Sprinkler Outreach, Extends Application Deadline for US Fire Department Stipends

The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) announced they will award C$500 stipends to 20 qualifying Canadian fire departments that demonstrate a plan to share the importance of home fire sprinklers with their community during Home Fire Sprinkler Week (HFSW), which runs from May 16-22. Only departments that are part of HFSC’s BUILT FOR LIFE program are eligible to receive the stipend. The application link is available here, and the deadline is March 31. Additionally, the deadline for the $300 stipends to American fire departments has been extended to March 10. That application link is available here. Some options for outreach programs to qualify for the stipend include, but are not limited to, conducting a virtual Home Fire Sprinkler contest, producing a banner or canopy tent to display Home Fire Sprinkler graphics, setting up a monitor in the community to play HSFC educational videos, or building an NFPA 13D display to explain how a home fire sprinkler works. Additional ideas include boosting a Facebook post to reach a larger audience or conducting a virtual Home Fire Sprinkler contest and awarding prizes. Read the announcement here for more information. 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.
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.  

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