Fire Sprinkler Initiative

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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.

'What are we getting ourselves into?' Firefighters now facing more harmful home fires

​ Last year, New York's state fire administrator initiated meetings with the state's major fire service organizations to identify and address issues plaguing this industry. The nature of today's home fires bubbled to the top of this list. A recent article highlighting this dilemma underscores a few key points: today's average home size is larger than homes built 50 years ago the fire load inside homes have increased lightweight assemblies (popularly called "lightweight construction") fails faster under fire than traditional lumber "The combination of these changes...leads to faster fire propagation, shorter time to flashover, shorter escape times, and shorter time to structural collapse," writes Douglas Gordner, a fire protection specialist, and State Fire Administrator Bryant Stevens in an article that appeared in a newsletter for the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs. This group is a member of the New York Fire Sprinkler Initiative, aimed at increasing the use of home fire sprinklers in hew homes. "This illustrates the game has changed...and we, as firefighters and fire officers need to adjust the game plan to accommodate these facts." While the authors offer tips the fire service can take to protect itself, they also note the "expanded use of fire sprinklers and other direct protection systems will definitely impact fire spread and fire growth." ​Are you a member of the fire service? Want to use your voice to exact change in your community and help save the lives of your comrades and citizens? Become an advocate for home fire sprinklers. Learn how by visiting NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative website. We could always use another advocate for the cause.

LifeLock commercial makes humorous analogy between smoke alarms and home fire sprinklers

While deeply passionate about a serious cause, our fire sprinkler advocates also have a hearty sense of humor. Get a chuckle from this 15-second commercial from LifeLock, an identity theft protection company: "Why monitor a problem if you don't fix it?" states the voiceover in the commercial. The point LifeLock is humorously trying to make is that the company does more than "monitor" activity involving your personal information--it offers a solution if your information is compromised. "I saw this commercial and couldn't stop laughing," says Azarang "Ozzie" Mirkhah, a fire protection engineer who recently shared his thoughts with NFPA. "This commercial hits the spot, and as an analogy could explain the difference between mere notification and actual, lifesaving suppression." He compares the "security monitor" in the commercial to smoke alarms, and the actions by LifeLock to home fire sprinklers. Smoke alarms merely alert you to a problem, while fire sprinklers act quickly to extinguish the problem. "I am not saying smoke alarms aren't important," Mirkhah tells NFPA. "They are. There is an absolute need for them, and we should continue our national efforts. But...we need fire sprinklers in all new homes. When I'm 85 and living at home, and I can't get out quickly on my own to preserve myself in a home fire, all that the smoke alarms could do would be to only notify me of the fire condition, like the security monitor in the commercial. To survive, I would need to have fire sprinklers in my home to put out the fire and save my life." ​Make sure you are logged into NFPA's Xchange and let us know your thoughts on Mirkhah's comparison. Once logged in, also use the social media buttons below to help share this post far and wide.
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Four decades since release of landmark "America Burning" report, has the country addressed its home fire problem?

​ With the 1973 release of the "America Burning" report, the nation got an exhaustive look at its fire problem. Forty three years later, is the country--more specifically, the country's attempts to eliminate the burdens of home fires--progressing in the right direction? One of the report's key recommendations by the National Commission on Fire Prevention and Control was to support “improved automatic extinguishing systems that would find ready acceptance by Americans in all kinds of dwelling units.” Since 2009, all U.S. model building codes have included the provision to sprinkler new, one- and two-family dwellings. Despite the fact that more homes are sprinklered now than in the past--the percentage of reported fires in homes with sprinklers increased from one percent in 1980–1984 to six percent in 2006–2010, reports NFPA Journal​--a major problem still lingers. "One of the most poignant of the changes [outlined in "America Burning"] that has not only been ignored, but regulated away, deals with automatic sprinklers," Jeff Dorhauer, chief of the Osage Beach Fire Protection District in Missouri, wrote in a commentary published in 2015. "While code changes at both the national and local level have addressed automatic suppression...the State of Missouri falls short in one- and two-family dwellings." Similar to laws passed in other states, Missouri's towns can't adopt a code requiring fire sprinklers in these settings. Builders, however, must inform home buyers they can opt to sprinkler their home. That's not enough, states Dorhauer, adding that his legislators have removed a community's ability to make the call on whether or not to sprinkler its new homes. "President Richard Nixon...[said] that Government could not completely regulate this country into safety. While I agree ... we must also realize that if we are to achieve a safer community that the same government cannot regulate away safety either." ​Follow Dorhauer's lead and take a stance in support of home fire sprinkler requirements. Use these free resources from NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative to state your case.
Live burn demo 2016 East Long Meadow
Cindy Rutter

Injured as a tot, burn survivor details immediate and lifelong realities of home fires

​ Introducing Cindy Rutter, a burn survivor and home fire sprinkler advocate now blogging for NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative. Her story is a lesson in home fires--the lives altered, injuries endured, and endless hope from those impacted that these tragedies finally come to an end: There is something horrific about home fires resulting in death or burn injury. It certainly is something that I never brush off when I hear about one, as it brings back memories. This is my story, which was featured in a 1959 newspaper article: Tot Burned In Accident Tragedy whistled a warning early yesterday and a Coolidge disc-jockey's six-year-old daughter was burned critically when it went unheeded. Cindy Ellen Holliday was brought to St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix with burns on 85 percent of her body, suffered in a water heater explosion and fire so intense it disintegrated concrete slabs in the home. Her Father, Lee Holliday, who has a music program twice daily on Radio Station KCKY, was burned on both hands tearing flaming clothing from his daughter while fire raged through their house near Coolidge. Holliday said he was awakened at 5:30 a.m. by a whistling noise. Just then Cindy appeared in his bedroom. “Daddy, she asked, “What is that whistling noise?” Holliday thought it might be coming from a nearby farm. He told the child: “I don't know. Go back to bed.” The tot passed the heater in an alcove in the hallway, and had just stepped into her bedroom when the heater blew up. All the windows in the house were shattered. Holliday scrabbled out of bed and raced for his daughter. “She was on the bed in flames,” he said. He smothered the fire and carried her from the house. His wife Loretta also fled the flames saving nothing. Holliday said he believed the heater's thermostat failed and the pressure built up. The fire had a devastating impact on me, the tot in this story. Six years old at the time, I would have little recollection of the initial trauma my small body endured. I soon learned that the flames that had also destroyed my home had ravaged my body. I sustained burns on 85 percent of my body, the majority of which were third-degree and required skin grafting. From April to October 1959, St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, was my home. Initially, I was in a pediatric isolation room, as they did not have a burn unit in Arizona in 1959. Soon after the fire, I had surgery every couple of days just to keep me alive and to try and cover my skin that had been destroyed. I was in and out of hospitals every Christmas and summer until I turned 18. The number of surgeries reached 100. I was the first burn case for Dr. Rex Peterson, my physician. Receiving a great deal of criticism for his actions, Dr. Peterson tried saving my life while others questioned whether I was a life worth saving. Needless to say, my family was grateful for his actions. However, they had their own emotional impact from my injuries. Since the fire demolished our home, they lost everything they owned. Gone forever were not only all of their worldly possessions but also any memories that they had garnished over their lifetimes. The impact of all that had happened led to my biological father leaving our family four months after the house fire. For many years, I couldn't grasp his departure. I could not understand, as a young child, why he made this decision. But the saying “when one door closes another opens” rang true. The man my mom married two years after my injury would become instrumental in helping me find a “normal life” (if there is such a thing). He and my mom were determined to make me realize that although I looked different, my life had endless possibilities. That's not to say I didn't have a difficult road ahead. I was out shopping with my grandmother one day and two ladies said to her, “Why would you bring a child that looks like that out in public?” I thought my grandmother was going to punch them. When I returned to school, I still had some dressing on my legs and my face had some large, keloid scars. Several of the kids gathered around me, called me ugly, and said I should go back to the hospital and “get fixed.” The support from my immediate family got me through those dark days. My one aunt would always say to me, “When life throws you a curve ball, what do you do?” My response? “Hit a home run.” I firmly believe I have hit a lot of home runs in my life—and plan to hit a few more. Cindy Rutter is a burn survivor who has spent most of her life advocating for the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. She spent her professional career ascending the nursing ladder, becoming a burn nurse and eventually the nurse manager of the University of California, San Diego Regional Burn Center. She's also a member of the Phoenix Society's Aftercare Committee, a joint project with the American Burn Association that aims to establish standards for aftercare in the areas of rehabilitation and reintegration for those impacted by burn trauma. Cindy will tell you the best thing in her life is being a mom and grandmother. Do you have a story about a home fire you'd like to share? Login or register to Xchange to submit your story directly to this post.
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