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

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.
Fire in Natick, MA

Home fire sprinkler myth goes up in flames in deadly MA fire

For years NFPA and fire and life safety advocates have refuted erroneous myths and battled pushback to increasing the use of home fire sprinklers in new one and two family homes despite the inclusion of this provision in all building codes for more than a decade. One of those myths - that new homes don’t burn - proved disastrously wrong when one person in a newly constructed home lost his life in January to a fast moving fire in Massachusetts. Based on the real estate listing, the home was built in 2019. According to news accounts, the fire service was unable to reach the man as the fire was well underway when they arrived. Unfortunately, this scenario matches the facts and research. Today’s homes burn hotter and faster because of unprotected lightweight construction and modern furnishings. While in decades past you may have had about seven to eight minutes to escape a home fire, now you may have as little as two minutes to get out. Smoke alarms are essential in providing early warning to occupants but should be combined with home fire sprinklers to keep fires small and give people time to escape. NFPA research shows that the risk of dying in a reported home fire is about 80 percent lower where sprinklers are present. The local fire chief was quoted in a press release following the event saying, “Despite the best efforts of our Public Safety Dispatch system and our fire department, the fire consumed the contents and spread throughout the structure within minutes,” explained Natick Fire Chief Michael Lentini. “These tragedies shouldn’t happen in new homes in our quaint community or anywhere in our Commonwealth. We know that fire sprinklers buy time for the occupants to escape and for fire departments to arrive. I hope this tragic event can bring decision-makers together to increase education and awareness of the danger of fire.” Massachusetts has omitted the home fire sprinkler provision from its building code and not acted on a bill that has been repeatedly filed that would allow local communities to enact requirements on sprinklers. Massachusetts Residential Fire Sprinkler Coalition Chair and Retired Fire Chief Paul Zbikowski was quoted in the same press release saying, “We constantly ask ourselves how we can reach the public so that they understand how quickly fires occur with today’s modern furnishings. Everyone says that new homes won’t burn. Well, this is an example that that is simply not true. We must re-evaluate our Massachusetts Code and not remove the provision that can address this threat straight on. We are essentially building sub-standard homes when we leave this life safety feature out.” It is heartbreaking to see this type of story when we have the knowledge and means to better protect citizens and first responders from fire. Massachusetts should join other states and jurisdictions that have required all new one and two family homes to be built with home fire sprinklers. Learn more at the NFPA Fire Sprinkler Initiative.  Photo: NBCBoston.com

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.

Increase in Home Fires Around the Holidays Reminds Us of the Importance of Safe Holiday Practices and Home Fire Sprinklers

Home fronts full of lights and cozying up on the couch are romantic images for the holidays, but it’s important to remind our communities of the dangers we see around this time. We know that fires caused by cooking and decorations increase during the latter half of the year, and in our Holiday Heads-Up series, we focus on a different topic related to fire safety, providing resources and reminders to keep your community safe. From heaters to holiday decorations, electrical and lighting equipment that we may take for granted presents a larger risk during this festive season. Each year, electrical and lighting equipment is one of the top causes for home fires and is involved in almost half (45 percent) of Christmas tree fires. This Winter Holiday Safety tip sheet is an easy way to review important safety practices with your community. In the event of an emergency, vital fire protection technology like smoke alarms and home fire sprinklers can help protect residents and first responders if a fire does break out. Research shows that home fires where home fire sprinklers were present had an 85 percent lower casualty rate than home fires without an automatic extinguishing system (AES). Use this safety sheet to share facts about home fire sprinklers that may be uninformed. In addition to their invaluable safety benefits, sprinklers can also open the door to insurance and economic perks, which Jason Benn, Assistant Chief of North Perth Fire Department, highlights while discussing his personal experience installing sprinklers in his own home. A fire can become deadly in two minutes. Home fire sprinklers begin suppressing the flames as soon as the temperature activates them, giving occupants more time to escape and making the scene safer for firefighters once they arrive. The NFPA Winter Holidays page has more resources that help you educate your community on how to approach the festivities with care. To find out more about the advantages of home fire sprinklers and how to get them in your community, visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative.
Sprinkler demostration

New Hampshire Holiday Demonstration Highlights Safety Concerns Around Artificial Christmas Trees

With Thanksgiving behind us, gifts and decorations for the December holidays are the next subject on people’s minds. We consistently see increases in home fires during this time of year, so in our Holiday Heads-Up series, we will focus on a different topic of seasonal fire safety each week. Today we turn to Christmas trees, a popular tradition in many households. Artificial Christmas trees appeal for their convenience, but they bring their own fire risk concerns. A demonstration in New Hampshire with the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) highlighted this risk in a side-by-side house fire demonstration, emphasizing the need for caution during the holidays. Flashover—when everything ignites and no one can survive—can happen in as little as two minutes. In the demonstration, two mock living rooms caught fire from a heating element, sending the identical fake tree, decorations, couch, and presents aflame. While Christmas tree fires are uncommon, they can be very serious. A natural tree is three times more likely to cause a fire than an artificial one, but as we can see in the demonstration, that risk is not to be underestimated. In the event of a fire, working smoke alarms and home fire sprinklers will increase occupants’ chances of escape and start controlling the flames before first responders arrive. It is best to install sprinklers during initial home construction, but retrofitting is also possible, with the cost of sprinklers in new homes adding around $1.35 per square foot. Use this safety sheet to inform members of your community about the benefits of home fire sprinklers. Remember these tips when decorating with trees for the holidays: Only use artificial trees certified by a testing organization Maintain a distance of at least three feet between heating elements and Christmas trees Keep electrical decorations and lights in good condition Make sure your tree doesn’t block any exits Never use candles to decorate a tree Review this Winter Holiday Safety tip sheet for more recommendations on how to decorate safely this holiday season. 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.
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