Fire Sprinkler Initiative

Keith Flood

Fire service leaders, NFPA address fatal fire in new home and lack of home fire sprinklers in these settings

During a recent news conference, Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition Chair Keith Flood, NFPA, and the state's top fire service leaders address a recent fire that killed a six-year-old girl in a new home Connecticut's top fire service organizations joined NFPA at the South Fire District in Middletown, Connecticut, this week to address a home fire in September that killed a six-year-old girl in a new home and inaction by state decision makers to provide a key safety feature in new homes. “I find it appalling that in 2016 we continue to witness the devastation from home fires when the solution to this problem has existed for years,” Keith Flood, fire marshal for the West Haven Fire Department and chair of the Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition, said at today's event. “Inaction by our state's decision makers has led to another tragedy. We need them to finally start embracing home fire sprinklers and stop listening to the rhetoric by local fire sprinkler opponents. Now is the time to bolster laws that will lead to safer homes for future generations.” Earlier this year, the six-year-old girl and her family moved into their Plainfield home. Had the home followed requirements found in all U.S. model building codes when it was built earlier this year, it should have included fire sprinklers. This technology can reduce the risk of dying in home fires by 80 percent, according to NFPA. However, Connecticut's code-making body has decided not to adopt this requirement each time it has updated the state building code since 2010. Similarly, legislative bills that would have required fire sprinklers in new homes have been defeated with help from local fire sprinkler opponents. These opponents, mainly the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Connecticut, claim this technology is burdensome, not necessary, and expensive—all myths countered by solid research.  At today's event, which was covered by a local news station and a Fox affiliate, a side-by-side fire demonstration using two identical structures underscored how quickly fire spreads in homes and how rapidly home fire sprinklers can extinguish fires. Moreover, the local fire service once again urged state decision makers to pass a requirement to fire sprinkler all new homes following the recent tragedy. Backing this requirement is the Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition, which was formed in 2014 to educate the public and state's decision makers on how this technology can successfully combat the state's home fire problem. Connecticut law requires homebuilders to offer fire sprinklers as an option to homebuyers, but state fire officials say this option doesn't go far enough to protect lives. NFPA's Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy, underscores the necessity of home fire sprinklers at the Connecticut event The Connecticut Coalition is part of a grassroots movement aimed at eliminating home fire deaths and injuries. There are now 30 state sprinkler coalitions addressing America's home fire problem. “Fire sprinklers are virtually commonplace in every other setting except the place where fire causes the most injury and death,” Lorraine Carli, NFPA's vice president of Outreach and Advocacy, said at the Connecticut event. “States and communities across the country have seen the successes of creating requirements for fire sprinklering new homes. Connecticut, too, can make a significant improvement in its home fire problem by requiring fire sprinklers, which research proves can be a cost-effective addition to new homes."
Home structure fires

Can you name the five top causes of home fires?

​ The following post was written by Marty Ahrens, NFPA's senior manager of data strategy and analytics: It may be hard to believe, but NFPA's latest report on home structure fires shows that in 2010-2014, five general fire causes accounted for 84 percent of reported home fires, 91 percent of home fire deaths, and 82 percent of home fire injuries. 1. Cooking equipment was the leading cause of home fires and fire injuries, causing 46 percent of home fires that resulted in 19 percent of the home fire deaths and 44 percent of the injuries. 2. Heating equipment caused 16 percent of home fires, 19 percent of the deaths, and 12 percent of the injuries. 3. Electrical distribution or lighting equipment caused eight percent of the fires, 16 percent of the deaths, and nine percent of the injuries. 4. Eight percent of home structure fires were intentionally set.  These fires caused 14 percent of the deaths and 7 percent of the injuries. 5. While only five percent of home fires were started by smoking materials, these fires caused 22 percent of the deaths and 10 percent of the injuries. We know what causes fires. We know how to prevent them. We have made progress. Reported home fires and home fire deaths have been cut in half since 1980.  Even so, home fires still kill roughly 2,500 people per year. That's an average of seven people dying in home fires every day! According to NFPA's recent report, "Fire Loss in the United States during 2015," the death rate per 1,000 reported home fires was 7.1 in 1980; in 2015, it was 7.0, only 1 percent lower.  This suggests that most of our progress has come from preventing fires completely or from the early warning from smoke alarms.  While almost all homes have at least one smoke alarm,  roughly three out of five home fire deaths in 2010-2014 resulted from fires in homes in which either no smoke alarm was present (39 percent) or at least one alarm was present but none operated (19 percent). Ensuring that every home has working smoke alarms is critical. NFPA's has educational materials on smoke alarms for local use. Fire sprinklers were present in only seven percent of reported home fires. The death rate per 1,000 reported home fires when wet-pipe sprinklers were present was 79 percent lower than it was in home fires with no automatic extinguishing systems. Home fire sprinklers can control a fire before the fire department gets there. The Fire Sprinkler Initiative has resource materials for sprinkler advocacy. As the author of NFPA's "Home Structure Fires" report, I want to personally thank the firefighters, life safety educators, and others who work so hard to prevent fires and to protect people from the fires that do occur. I hope that this report can be one weapon in the fight against fire. For more specific information about the fire causes mentioned in the beginning of the piece, check out the statistical reports under "fire causes" on our website.  And please--help us help you. What types of fire experience statistics would help you in your work?  Let us know by replying directly to this post.
Connecticut home

Following statement from sprinkler opponent that "nobody is dying in new homes," child dies from fire in home built just months ago

​ The new home where a September fire killed a six year old. Photo: The Hartford Courant A six-year-old girl from Connecticut recently died in a fire in a home built only months ago. Her mother is in serious condition. The incident negates persistent claims made by fire sprinkler opponents that smoke alarms and other safety features “offer adequate protection from fire” and home fire sprinklers are not necessary since “today's fire deaths and injuries are happening in older homes.” Built by a local Habitat for Humanity chapter this year using lightweight construction materials and occupied by the family in July, the Connecticut home had at least one working smoke alarm, according to news reports. Moreover, had this home's construction followed requirements found in all U.S. model building codes—specifically, a requirement to sprinkler new dwellings that has appeared in every edition of these codes since 2009—it should have been sprinklered. Mirroring action occurring across North America, sprinkler opponents in Connecticut have made a convincing—and oftentimes inaccurate—pitch to state and local decision makers that have kept fire sprinklers out of new homes. “Nobody is dying in new homes from fires,” stated Bill Ethier, CEO of Connecticut's Home Builders and Remodelers Association, in a 2015 essay penned in response to proposed legislation to sprinkler the state's new homes. (His full essay is attached to this blog post.) “Sprinklers in new homes will not save the lives proponents claim. “[This technology] is an astronomical cost to save a life.” “This type of logic is misguided and infuriating,” says Jim Pauley, NFPA's president and CEO. “Time and again, our data proves the majority of America's fire deaths are occurring at home, old and new alike. Research also confirms that fire sprinklers are a cost-effective component to new homes that can eliminate these tragedies. They are the solution to our home fire problem. To assume that fire sprinkler requirements are merely an unwanted burden to homebuilders with minimal benefits to society places little value on the little girl who sadly passed away, the more than 2,500 others who die each year from home fires, and the thousands of others injured annually by these incidents.” Pauley is not alone in promoting safer homes in Connecticut and elsewhere. “You have an 80 percent rate of getting out of a house fire with smoke alarms and sprinklers and only a 50 percent chance with smoke alarms alone, so there's a big difference there,” Keith Flood, chair of the Connecticut Fire Sprinkler Coalition, told a Connecticut news station following the recent fire. He is currently working with the coalition to secure home fire sprinkler requirements in his state. “Our opinion is that this may have been a different scenario if the house had sprinklers in it.” As a fire and life safety advocate, please make sure you're promoting home fire sprinklers at the scene of every home fire and at other events that attract the media's attention. It's easy to do—download NFPA's new document, “Tips on Communicating Home Fire Sprinklers to the Media.”​ (found under the heading "talking home fire sprinklers").

Looking for a compelling way to promote home fire sprinklers? Share this new whiteboard video

How do you get your home fire safety message out to the general public and makes sure it packs a punch?You can try carnival barker-type ads, screaming ads, or ads that mimic ones from car dealerships (no offense, Dad). Or you can try a fact-filled, technical ad that would only be appreciated by fire protection engineers (no offense, FPEs). One of my favorites is this video produced by the Fresno, California, Fire Department, which humorously compares fire sprinklers to an at-the ready firefighter:Missouri-based Virtual Media Group recently alerted us to a new way to spread the sprinkler message. They create “whiteboard” videos, which are hand-drawn illustrations with audio. We recently worked with them to create a residential high-rise public service announcements on fire sprinklers. Since we were pleased with the outcome, we asked them to create one for home fire sprinklers.The idea was to let the company use their creative talents to highlight the fire sprinkler message without tainting their creative process. That was the hard part —allowing them to look at the problem in their own way. At the beginning of the project, we filled out forms listing our objectives and provided facts on today's home fires. I feel that we came pretty close to allowing them free reign while at the same time making slight changes that underscore the reality of fires and the fire service culture.Though we initially created a version of the video for the Illinois Fire Sprinkler Coalition, we decided to also create something more generic for use by all safety advocates and state sprinkler coalitions. (If you'd like a version of this video with your state coalition logo, contact NFPA.)We want to help you with your efforts to educate the general public! Please help promote the following video--place on social media (if you're logged into Xchange, use the social media buttons below) and share with all of your contacts and anyone that could use some sprinkler education.This post was written by Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting legislation, raising public awareness, and educating code officials and government policymakers on home fire sprinklers. Lia regularly offers his perspective on sprinkler activities taking place in his state and elsewhere.  
home fires

Nine people--including five children--die in Tennessee home fire

​ "In my 27 years with the Memphis Fire Department, I have never seen this amount of victims in one incident," Lieutenant Wayne Cooke with the Memphis, Tennessee, Fire Department, told local media outlets following a fire that killed nine people, including five children, in a home fire on September 12. Another child was in critical condition at the time of this blog's posting.  "We sincerely pray for this family and for the loved ones of this family." The fire's cause is still under investigation, but Department Director Gina Sweat said the incident is the deadliest single fire in the city since the 1920s. "Nothing in our training can truly prep us for this heartbreaking event." Sweat told a local NBC affiliate that the fire had started in the living room and contained only 20 percent of the home, but heavy smoke had spread rapidly and contributed to the deadly outcome. Once firefighters extinguished the flames in 15 minutes, many become emotional by the enormity of the loss. UPDATE: Since this post was published, the child in critical condition has died, according to a the Associated Press. The Tennessee State Fire Marshal's Office determined that an air conditioner's malfunctioning power chord caused the fire. The office is now urging the public to "take a stand against fire" by ensuring homes have working smoke alarms, developing an escape plan, and considering fire sprinklers when building or purchasing a home. According to a recent news story highlighting the office's suggestions, "home fire sprinklers provide the best fire protection currently available." “NFPA sends its heartfelt condolences to the family of the 10 victims," says Jim Pauley, NFPA's president and CEO. "While mourning the loss of lives taken too soon, we're reminded of how home fires still plague our society. We fully support the State Fire Marshal's Office in taking a stand against fire. Make sure you have working smoke alarms, practice home escape planning, and consider fire sprinklers when building or buying a new home.” Did you know there have already been more than 1,500 media-reported home fire deaths this year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration? See how your state fares, and do whatever's in your power to promote home fire sprinklers, which can end these horrors.
Act now

Action needed to protect crucial requirement for home fire sprinklers

​ Earlier this year, International Code Council (ICC) members voted down a proposal to place the requirement to sprinkler new, one- and two-family homes into the annex of the 2018 edition of ICC's International Residential Code (IRC). However, public comments on this proposal have been submitted and will be heard at ICC public comment hearings in October. ICC's governmental voting members will get the chance to vote on keeping this requirement intact. What's at Stake? The future of home fire safety in America hinges on winning this vote. Home fire sprinklers represent our best chance of striking at the heart of America's fire problem, since they reduce the risk of dying in home fires by an astounding 80 percent. Sprinkler requirements have made it into the 2009, 2012, and 2015 editions of the IRC. Placing this requirement into the code's annex—thereby making it an option for states and local municipalities—would be a huge setback for home fire safety. Take Action Today ICC primary representatives must validate their governmental member voting representatives by Sept. 19 to vote at the 2016 Annual Business Meeting public comment hearings, or the online governmental consensus vote that follows the hearings. The electronic voter validation site will remain open through Sept. 19. Please make sure your state's governmental voting representatives are validated by this crucial date and vote in support of safer homes. Please contact NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative team with any questions.
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