Fire Sprinkler Initiative


Tragedies in the News Illustrate Importance of Home Fire Sprinklers

Recent, deadly fires like the ones in Philadelphia and Lansing show how quickly an uneventful day with the family can turn to tragedy. On a relaxed Saturday morning in Philadelphia, firefighters entered a row-house engulfed in flames and smoke to find a woman and three children dead inside. Just a week prior, first responders arrived at a small, burning Lansing residence shortly before midnight, extinguishing the fire and finding Melissa Weston and her two young grandchildren dead inside. These sad events, one early in the morning and one late at night, illuminate the need for taking action to be safer from fire. Both smoke alarms and home fire sprinklers provide the early warning of a potentially fast-moving fire and suppression while the fire department is enroute. We know few existing homes were built with sprinklers, but we can change outcomes by building new homes with a higher level of fire safety with home fire sprinklers. Regardless of the time of day, we know that in reported home structure fires with working smoke alarms, the risk of dying drops 54 percent compared to in homes with no alarms or none that worked, and that the presence of home fire sprinklers can increase the chances of surviving a home fire by 87 percent. People age 65 and older are at the highest risk of dying in a home fire, while children, pets, and those with disabilities are also at increased risk. While newer building techniques provided great benefits over the years, unprotected lightweight construction combined with synthetic materials and open floor plans can result in fires that burn faster and at higher temperatures. The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition reports that flashover—when everything ignites—can happen in as little three minutes, making every second in a fire count. By being alerted quickly with smoke alarms and controlling the fire as soon as it is detected with home fire sprinklers are an integral part of a home fire protection strategy, along with a practiced escape plan, helping to keep unfortunate tales like the above from happening at all.

Mythblaster Monday 6: Home Fire Sprinklers Really Beat the Heat

Everyday, we see countless, heartbreaking reminders of how fast a fire can destroy one's home and impact one's life. Advances in fire protection technology like smoke alarms have become widely used, but home fire sprinklers have yet to proliferate in the same way. Unfortunately, rumors and misinformation run rampant around home fire sprinklers, so in our Mythblaster Monday series we debunk a different myth each week and highlight resources that can be used to refute inaccurate information and better inform your communities about their many advantages. Today's myth is particularly misleading and adds to the misguided fear that home fire sprinklers damage property. Myth: Smoke alarms cause fire sprinklers to activate. Fact: Home fire sprinklers are only activated by the high temperature of a fire surrounding the sprinkler. The logical jump for this myth is clear. When fire sprinklers are often shown activating soon after a smoke alarm sounds, people understandably link the two together. But it is simply not true. A liquid-filled bulb sits at the center of each sprinkler, and only when the temperature reaches between 135°-165°F (57°-74°C) will that bulb burst.  Only the sprinkler closest to the fire will activate, and a survey found that 90 percent of the time, one sprinkler was enough to control the fire. Fire sprinklers and smoke alarms work very well together, and people benefit greatly from having both. Smoke alarms provide early detection while home fire sprinklers act as early suppression, both increasing valuable time needed to escape a home fire. The best time to install home fire sprinklers is during construction, but retrofitting is also an option. Either way, make sure to only choose contractors qualified as specialists in sprinkler installation. This brochure quickly breaks down the advantages of this life-saving technology; and legislators, community members, and AHJs can find more support for home fire sprinkler installation here. For even more resources, visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiative and Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

Denver Nest Cam Video Demonstrates Speed of Fire and Need for Fire Safety Plan

We talk often about the benefits of working smoke alarms, home escape plans, and home fire sprinklers.  But nothing helps drive the point home more than a real-life example that is captured in real time. This video by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition shows how swiftly a home fire can spread, underscoring the need to take fire safety seriously and account for the ability or inability of those in the home to quickly escape. The video gives a rare view into a home on fire before the fire department arrives. In under two minutes, flames and smoke begin to take over the room, while an elderly man watches television, unaware of the fire just a few feet away. Before a smoke alarm could alert everyone in the home of the fire early, a woman comes in and notices the flames. She is able to get them both out. Sadly, people aged 65 and older are at the highest risk of dying in a home fire, so increasing the amount of time available for escape is paramount. This is another strong case for the installation of home fire sprinklers. Home fire sprinklers begin controlling a fire before firefighters arrive, giving occupants time to escape. Thankfully, everyone escaped without injury, but so often, similar situations do not end this way. A complete fire safety strategy should include working smoke alarms, home fire sprinklers, and practicing an escape plan. For more resources on home fire sprinklers and their benefits, check out the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative.

Mythblaster Monday 5: Water Damage Woes

This Tuesday we continue our Mythblaster Monday series, where we discuss and debunk the myths around home fire sprinklers, offering resources to highlight their advantages and tackle the misinformation. Last Monday we found that home fire sprinklers are green, and they lower water usage, pollution, and gas emissions. Today we broach the other half of the water-use concern; a myth that acknowledges how much is at stake in a home fire. Myth: Water damage from sprinklers is worse than fire damage Fact: Sprinkler flows are 10-26 gallons of water per minute. Sprinkler damage is a fraction of typical losses from an unsprinklered home fire.  We've all seen a movie where the fire sprinklers go off, drenching everyone and everything in sight for comedic effect. Fortunately, when it comes to how sprinklers suppress fires in the home, this image couldn't be further from the truth. Home fire sprinklers begin battling a fire as soon as the heat around the sensor reaches a high enough temperature, in many cases extinguishing the flames before first responders arrive. As a result, a home fire sprinkler uses about 1/10th the amount of water as a fire hose, and at lower pressure. Plus, in 90 percent of home fires, the fire is controlled by only one sprinkler, lowering damages. In addition to how much water is necessary to extinguish a fire that has had time to grow and spread, we also consider what the fire itself destroys—burning away beloved keepsakes, lives, furniture, and other elements that make a house into a home. This year's NFPA Fire Prevention Week is all about cooking, and a recent study found that cooking activities caused $1.2 billion in property damage in home fires, as well as being the leading cause of fires in one- and two-family homes. In some cases, like the fire at Food Network star Rachel Ray's home earlier this month, home fire sprinklers can be especially helpful for firefighting efforts in remote locations with limited access to water, helping to preserve the memories in our homes. As we can clearly see, home fire sprinklers are one of the best ways to protect life and property from the devastation of home fires. This brochure offers a quick breakdown of the benefits for homeowners, and homebuilders can find information tailored to their concerns here. For more resources on home fire sprinklers and how to dispel the myths surrounding them, check out the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and Fire Sprinkler Initiative.

Mythblaster Monday 4: Fire Sprinklers are Green

Welcome back to our Mythblaster Monday series, where we explore the myths and misconceptions that surround home fire sprinklers, clear the air and provide resources that refute the myths and tout their many benefits. Last week we discussed the dangerous belief that because the fire department is on the way, there is no need for home fire sprinklers, when sprinklers provide vital help suppressing the fire before it grows too large.  With a busy wildfire and hurricane season, thoughts of the natural environment and how we fit into it might be on many people's minds, leading us to today's topic. Myth: Sprinklers don't benefit the environment Fact: Fire hoses, on average, use eight-and-a-half times more water than sprinklers do to contain a fire. Last Monday we reviewed how the quick response of home fire sprinklers helps control a fire, limiting the amount of danger to life and property. But by suppressing the fire as soon as its heat is detected, sprinklers also can either extinguish fires or keep them small enough that they require less water to put out once first responders arrive. According to research conducted, home fire sprinklers can reduce the water usage for fighting a home fire by as much as 91 percent. Meanwhile, once firefighters arrive, the high-pressure hoses they use produce water at 125 gallons per minute, and they must use more water to deal with flames that have spread beyond the room of origin. The Environmental Impact of Automatic Fire Sprinklers report also shows that home fire sprinklers can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 98 percent, partly because of the impact on building sustainability when accounting for the difference in fire damage and necessary reconstruction between sprinklered and non-sprinklered homes. Wastewater from fires where sprinklers are present also have fewer persistent pollutants, showing decreased water pollution. In short, in addition to being a no-brainer for safety, home fire sprinklers are green. This brochure for water purveyors, local officials, and the fire service gives a detailed look into home fire sprinklers and water supply. To find more resources on home fire sprinklers and how to get them into your community, check out the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative.

Mythblaster Monday: Home Fire Sprinklers Help the Fire Service Help You

Today we continue our Mythblaster Monday series, where we explore the myths and misconceptions that surround home fire sprinklers, setting the record straight and providing resources that share their many benefits. Last week we exposed the superstition that home fire sprinkler installation is expensive, finding the costs to be much lower than imagined. This week, we turn to a myth that leads to complacency around safety. Myth: The fire department will be able to put out the fire and save my things. Fact: Fire departments may not be able to get to your home for 9-12 minutes—plenty of time for a fire to grow to be deadly and cause massive damages. Firefighters are highly trained, dedicated professionals that possess the skills and equipment necessary for our first line defense against the ravages of fire. However, arriving at the scene of an emergency and completing the necessary preparations takes time. This fact sheet shows that with unprotected lightweight construction common in new homes and modern, often synthetic furnishings, a home fire today can burn more quickly and create a highly toxic environment very fast. Without fire sprinklers, flames can grow unhindered, heat and gasses can spread, and flashover can occur—igniting everything. It can take less than two minutes for a fire to become deadly, as shown in this video. In the 9-12 minutes fire departments may need to respond, depending on the presence of home fire sprinklers, they would face a very different scene. Home fire sprinklers, once activated by the high temperature, begin suppressing the fire immediately. This early response proves vital in saving lives and property, but also creates a safer environment for first responders. In deciding to protect his own home with fire sprinklers, Chief Brower highlighted the increased health and suppression risks associated with exposure that responders face. A fateful fire in 2008 went to flashover, trapping four firefighters and burning one severely enough to force retirement. By suppressing fires before they can reach that point, home fire sprinklers help firefighters contain a fire and keep them safer. Of the 1,318,500 fires that US fire departments responded to in 2018, 73 percent of the 3,655 fires resulting in civilian deaths happened in the home. In 2019, an NFPA report found that of the ten firefighter deaths at structure fires, three involved one- and two-family homes. Instead of placing resident and property safety on the back-burner for those 9-12 minutes, installing home fire sprinklers actively increases the chance that lives and possessions can be saved. For a quick rundown of the facts surrounding home fire sprinklers in an easy-to-share format, check out these fact sheets. More information on the home fire threat and how home fire sprinklers are a vital part of alleviating that threat can be found at the Fire Sprinkler Initiative and Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

Mythblaster Monday 2: The True Cost of Home Fire Sprinklers

Last Monday, we introduced our Mythblaster Monday series that explores common myths that people have about home fire sprinklers, to illustrate their many benefits and provide resources to advocate for their use. We began by debunking the idea that smoke alarms alone are sufficient protection from a home fire. This week, we turn to a myth that has often floated to the top of the discussion and is used erroneously by opponents to the lifesaving technology. Home is where the heart is, where we feel safest, and these days, where many spend most of their time. But as will see, protecting it does not mean sinking the ship. Myth: Home Fire Sprinkler installation is too expensive. Truth: Average fire sprinklers cost $1.35 per square foot of sprinklered space in new construction The $1.35 per square foot average cost includes design, installation, permits, and more. Like plumbing or electrical systems, home fire sprinklers are paid over the life of a mortgage, adding to their affordability. Local ordinances can cause this figure to vary slightly, but that is a far cry from what a home structure fire might cause in property loss. In 2018, the NFPA reported $6.5 billion in property loss from fire in 1- and 2-family homes. In an Arizona study, over a 15-year period the average loss per sprinklered fire incident was $2,166, while unsprinklered homes had an average loss of over $45,000. One a wider scale, a recent study performed in California echoed results from an earlier Maryland report, which found no evidence that sprinkler requirements impacted housing supply or cost. The introduction of new materials has also had a positive effect on the cost of sprinkler installations, and once home fire sprinklers are installed they have been found to decrease water usage by 50 to 91 percent, resulting in savings on the water bill. In short, financial concerns should not deter people from pursuing the life and property protections that home fire sprinklers can provide. Matt Klaus, NFPA Director of Technical Services, briefly discusses these concerns in the video above, and home fire sprinkler advocates in Las Vegas provide a useful case study for how to achieve a sprinkler ordinance even when faced with vocal opponents. A detailed breakdown of home fire sprinkler costs can be found here. For more information, check out the Fire Sprinkler Initiative and Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition websites.
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