Built for Life Fire Departments Drive Home Fire Sprinkler Grassroots Success

In every community, increasing awareness and education about home fire sprinklers to reach key stakeholders is very challenging. Nevertheless, this work is essential, because these stakeholders - water purveyors, building officials, members of the home building community, planners, elected officials and others - play powerful roles in determining whether or not new homes are protected by installed fire sprinklers. With a million new houses being built this year, fire departments must try to address myths, misunderstandings about water supply, unnecessary fees, and anti-code activities so that new houses will be sprinklered in compliance with national codes. But to effectively reach all stakeholders with the right information, local fire department education programs must be multi-faceted, with consistent messaging delivered through the right channels, and disseminated repeatedly to ensure impact.

That’s a tall order. Fortunately, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) brings local fire departments powerful grassroots support through the Built for Life Fire Department (BFLFD) program. Currently, some 3,350 BFLFD fire departments have pledged to educate about home fire sprinklers to achieve community risk reduction goals. Their tactics are diverse, ranging from community outreach programs and participating in Home Fire Sprinkler Week (May 15-21 this year), to utilizing HFSC’s model developer sprinkler incentive program and educating decision makers to support local code upgrades and preventing fire sprinklers from being omitted from codes.

HFSC’s relationship with BFLFD departments is collaborative. HFSC offers exclusive opportunities, like valuable stipends to support grassroots programs and first dibs on new free resources. The BFLFD departments aid HFSC’s creative process by providing feedback, from stipend program evaluations to completing surveys that help HFSC refine its resources. We learn a lot from the BFLFDs who take the time to answer open-ended questions or leave comments about their challenges, success stories and suggestions about how we can improve our resources.

The BFLFD Program has established a strong core of home fire sprinkler advocates. In a recent survey of BFLFDs, it is no surprise that 100 percent said the fire service should play a lead role in home fire sprinkler education and advocacy. 85 percent said HFSC’s content was important to their department and 73 precent said fire officials should meet with builders and developers ahead of plan reviews to educate and offer incentives to achieve full sprinkler protection in all new homes. When asked about using social media to educate, 40 percent said they used Facebook, 3 percent used Twitter, and 2 percent used Instagram.

The NFPA Fire Sprinkler Initiative is working with HFSC to make the challenging goal of increased home fire sprinkler awareness a little easier to achieve. Together, the two groups support 22 active state fire sprinkler coalitions with their home fire sprinkler outreach. The coalitions meet regularly to address the obstacles to home fire sprinklers in their states. Now they are also meeting monthly as a group, sharing challenges, ideas, and experiences with each other. Many of these coalitions have BFLFD Program members on board, making this national support of grassroots education and advocacy stronger than ever. This united front is a great way to start the new year. We’d love to add your voice to the mix!

If you are not yet a member of the Built for Life Fire Department Program, but you are committed to increasing home fire sprinkler protection in your Community Risk Reduction programs, join this important group today, at no cost. Sign up on the HFSC website then check out the list of Built for Life Fire Departments.

For more information about the state coalitions, please email: info@HomeFireSprinkler.org.

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Lorraine Carli
VP, Outreach & Advocacy, Working to save lives and property through awareness, action and collaborations.

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