Topic: Home Fire Sprinkler Initiative

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Two Major Home Fire Sprinkler Advances in Colorado

I’d like to send a loud shout-out to the town leaders of Avon and Erie, Colorado, for scoring huge wins by voting to include home fire sprinklers in their building codes. On December 13, both the Avon Town Council and the Erie Board of Trustees adopted building codes that require all new one- and two-family homes to be protected with installed home fire sprinklers. During the code process in both towns, there was a discussion about passing the code without the fire sprinkler requirement. In response, Erie’s Mayor Pro Tem Sarah Loflin pointed out that sprinkler systems might save multiple homes in an area that’s densely populated. Mayor Justin Brooks added that not having sprinklers would potentially have catastrophic consequences. They and others who spoke in favor prevailed and Erie’s requirement goes into effect beginning April 1, 2023. During a public hearing in Avon, Mick Woodworth, fire marshal from the Eagle River Fire Protection District, which serves the Town of Avon, was also an outspoken advocate. According to Vail Daily News, he said, “We’re community risk management, and if we want to manage the risk in our community, the No. 1 thing is fires — the way we manage that in a home is fire sprinklers.” Avon’s new code will be effective 30 days after approval. We all can learn from the victories in Avon and Erie. They were hard won because of the strong preparation and presentations by their local fire service representatives. Cost inevitably comes up in every hearing. A concern about fire sprinklers affecting affordable housing was raised in Erie. Jeff Webb, fire marshal for Mountain View Fire Rescue, which serves the town of Erie, said that when discussion centered on limiting the requirement to larger homes as a remedy, one trustee provided a very effective counterargument. It would be inequitable to provide safety measures to only those that could afford it. The town should act to make sure all residents purchasing new homes had the same safety features. Just because they were packed tighter to make them more affordable didn’t mean they had to give up safety, when in fact they were at higher risk because they were packed so tightly together. Another excellent strategy in Avon was addressing the role of sprinklers and firefighter health. This is an important point for any sprinkler code hearing and it is essential to have the fire service point of view represented. Besides occupant injury prevention, sprinklered homes protect responding firefighters by controlling fires automatically and keeping them small. These fires are not only less hazardous to fight structurally, but they also produce less toxic smoke. That directly mitigates the problem of responder exposure-caused cancer and other diseases. For more on this, read the FM Global report, which documented that fires in sprinklered homes produce 90 percent fewer carcinogens than in non-sprinkled homes. Discussions in both towns’ hearings drove home the need for better education of all decision makers. If your community does not yet have a building code requiring sprinklers in new homes, strengthen and widen your fire sprinkler outreach now, before future hearings. Reaching your local officials, planners, developers and builders in your community is essential. Above all, they need to know these facts: Today’s unprotected home fires can become deadly in as little as 2 minutes. Homes are where most fire deaths occur. Installed home fire sprinklers prevent injuries, save lives, protect the health and safety of responding firefighters and preserve property. And, most importantly, any home built to today’s codes that lacks installed fire sprinklers is substandard. You’ll be better armed if decision makers have these facts when they are making code decisions. You’ll have less opposition, and they can show their concern for their communities by keeping—or amending in—a new-construction sprinkler requirement. Be aware of your own power. In jurisdictions where home fire sprinklers aren’t in the current code and no update is forthcoming, the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) and fire marshal should make themselves a regular and vocal presence in the new development pre-planning process to ensure home fire sprinklers are on the table and to include current data and educational content in planning discussions. Tap into our free resources. For helpful safety tip sheets, visit our tip sheet webpage. And for home fire sprinkler content, use HFSC’s free turnkey tools that make it easy for you to educate your target audiences. You can create a space on your website about the value of building new homes with fire sprinklers. Upload videos and other content. Post cards to your social media accounts. Or simply link to HomeFireSprinkler.org – HFSC’s website is free of advertising and all content is free to you.  Bottom line? Home fire sprinklers won’t sell themselves. A vocal, persuasive, tireless leader and activist like you, who exercises your power to influence community decision makers to do the right thing, will protect your jurisdiction for generations to come.

New year brings renewed energy to help educate communities about the benefits of home fire sprinklers

We count on the ball dropping in Times Square to usher in each New Year. That’s tradition. But we fire and life safety advocates must not drop the ball when it comes to who we need to reach to increase awareness about the benefits of installed home fire sprinklers. I hope you’ll join me in resolving to focus on outcome-driven outreach in 2023. Residents of virtually any community need to be reminded that every home is improved by a complete system of home fire safety. That includes prevention, early warning with working smoke alarms, having an escape plan and practicing it, and installed home fire sprinklers. We often talk about the first three things. But encouraging home fire sprinkler installation in new homes needs more attention. With sprinklers only required statewide in California, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., we can’t rely on widespread new-home sprinkler requirements to achieve this goal but there is more that can be done. In many markets, new single-family home construction is still strong, so reaching individuals who plan to build a new home before they lock in is important. Consumers need to understand the facts about home fires as well as the unrivaled benefits of installed home fire sprinklers. I talk to folks all the time who say their public outreach directly led to consumers deciding either to build a home with fire sprinklers or buy one that had sprinklers installed. That’s a classic example of an outcome-driven educational program and a good model for all of us. You know that today’s home fires can become deadly in as little as two minutes and that homes are where most fire fatalities occur. But don’t count on your local officials knowing that. Educating local decision-makers and others involved in new home construction can – and does –result in sprinklered homes, impacting a large number of people. So, make sure you’re reaching planners, building officials, builders, developers and water purveyors, too. They need your help to understand the impact of structure fires not just on residents, but on firefighter health and safety and the well-being of your entire community. Another strategy that pays dividends is local code advocacy. When jurisdictions are reviewing its residential code, lend your voice and expertise to the arguments in favor of not reducing safety by not taking out the home fire sprinkler requirement. Your role is valuable and unique, because many of those in positions of power may not understand why the code as developed includes home fire sprinklers. You can speak sincerely and with experience to the very real dangers of omitting sprinklers from local codes. What they don't know can hurt them. A code updated without fire sprinklers results in substandard housing, something your community’s decision makers don’t want on their shoulders. If fire sprinklers are not in the current code and no update is on the horizon, the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) and fire marshal should make themselves a regular and vocal presence in the new development pre-planning process. This is an excellent opportunity to share data and educational content. Ahead of approvals, make a presentation about how home fire sprinklers can be used to offer local home developer incentives if the entire development is protected with installed fire sprinklers. I guarantee many sitting around that table with you simply don’t realize that these incentives lower developer costs and can actually increase their revenue. What developer is going to argue with that? Clearly, safer homes are a win-win for your community. But only when people understand the dangers and recognize the benefits. So, let’s not drop the ball on our local outreach. As always, NFPA is here to help. Tap into our free educational resources and get helpful safety tip sheets to share. And for home fire sprinkler content, use HFSC’s free turnkey tools that make it easy for you to educate your target audiences. You can also create a space on your website about the value of building new homes with fire sprinklers. Upload videos and other content. Post cards to your social media accounts. Or simply link to HomeFireSprinkler.org – HFSC’s website is free of advertising and all content is free to you.  Whatever action you decide to take in the new year to increase awareness about the importance of home fire safety and the benefits of installed home fire sprinklers, let NFPA and HFSC help guide your way. Keep us updated throughout the year on your progress; don’t forget to share your thoughts, lessons learned, and your successes with us! By working together, we can help ensure safer communities in 2023 and for many years to come.
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Fire Sprinklers: A Life-Saving Solution Remote Workers Can Feel Right at Home With

Covid changed everything. Will it leave a lasting impact on fire safety too? Before the pandemic, only about 5 percent of full-time employees with office jobs worked primarily from home. According to a recent Forbes article, that figure is likely to settle at 20 to 30 percent in our new normal, varying across occupations and industries. Many workplaces and offices are protected by fire sprinklers; NFPA included, I’m happy to say. And wise business travelers select sprinklered hotels when they’re on the road. Great. But what about all the people working at home now? The work-at-home trend has many positives for many people, but it also heralds a concern for remote workers – unsafe homes. And remote workers aren’t the only ones at risk. Home is where we want to feel safest, but that comfort is often misplaced. For example, smoke alarms were present in three-quarters of reported US home fires, but three out of five home fire deaths happened in homes without smoke alarms or with non-operational alarms (NFPA 2014-2018). And a recent NFPA survey showed that just one in three American homes had and practiced an escape plan. Making matters worse, just 7 percent of US homes have installed fire sprinklers. Today’s home fires can become deadly in less than two minutes. That’s justification for better home fire protection, especially home fire sprinklers. Having smoke alarms just isn’t enough. First, smoke alarms need to be working – all of them, all the time. Everyone in the home needs to recognize the alarm and know what to do. And everyone needs to be certain they know how and where to escape, from every room in the home. That requires a plan with an escape strategy for everyone in the household. Yes, smoke alarms are essential. But they can only alert us to the presence of smoke. Uniquely, home fire sprinklers go beyond that important task, controlling a fire when it’s still small and often extinguishing it. That curbs the growth and spread of deadly smoke, and gives families precious time to safely escape, regardless of age or ability or personal action in response to the alarm. As lifestyles keep evolving and more people of different ages are living together and working remotely, homes are being occupied for longer hours and used in new ways. Every new home built without fire sprinklers is substandard from day one. That impacts the entire community, including the fire service. What can you do? Make home fire sprinkler education a permanent part of your community risk reduction work. Focus outreach on local officials, builders and developers, and of course consumers, especially those folks planning to build or buy a new home. You are their trusted resource for information about home fire safety. As always, NFPA is here to help you. Tap into our free resources. And for home fire sprinkler content, use the free turnkey tools from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) that make it easy for you to educate all your local target audiences. Create a space on your website to offer facts about the value of building new homes with fire sprinklers and link to the HFSC website. Upload videos and other content, and post cards to your social media accounts. When it comes to home fire safety, these and other related activities are a great way to raise awareness of the life-saving technology of home fire sprinklers. Find this and other related information at HomeFireSprinkler.org where the site is free of advertising and all content is free to you. 

Home Fire Sprinklers Overcome Many Challenges, Improving Communities for Life

In Millersville, TN recently, growing concerns about fire department emergency response times and gaps in fire hydrant spacing led to an ordinance requiring fire sprinkler installation in new construction of single-family and townhome structures. This small, suburban city’s decision will improve public safety on many levels for decades to come. It deserves to be replicated. This latest ordinance also shines a light on just one of the fire service challenges home fire sprinklers can overcome. Emergency response can be a problem for departments of all sizes and types, rural and urban. In most communities today, fire service personnel are all-hazard public safety providers. On any given shift, they may be responding to false alarms, motor vehicle accidents, hazardous materials, and medical calls. Regardless of how many apparatus or personnel a department has, firefighters can’t be in two places at once. And however good a department’s typical response time is, that time can be dragged out by unforeseen circumstances ― think flooding, train derailments, even apparatus crashes. Home fires are a significant problem in every community. Three quarters of all civilian fire deaths occur there. Installed home fire sprinklers are game-changers for any fire department. In an unprotected house, flashover can occur in as little as two minutes or less. This kind of life-or-death emergency demands full-scale fire department response. And considering the damage after just two minutes, their response will include putting water on the fire with lines that spray 150-200 gallons per minute. A house fire with sprinklers is different. The sprinkler closest to the flames responds automatically, controlling the fire and smoke or even extinguishing it – with a fraction of the water required for an unsprinklered house fire. That fast and automatic action prevents flashover from occurring and limits the amount and spread of toxic smoke. If the home is occupied, fire sprinklers provide people and their pets extra time to escape safely. The fire department still responds to sprinklered home fires of course, but a controlled or extinguished fire can be properly managed with fewer personnel, freeing up others to address emergencies elsewhere. Ordinances like Millersville’s are occurring slowly, but steadily, and for good reason. Scottsdale, AZ’s home fire sprinkler requirement set the bar more than three decades ago. It proved then, and continues to prove today, that fire sprinklers save lives. It’s also shown there’s really no downside to requiring sprinklers, as more than half the homes in Scottsdale are now protected with fire sprinklers. The bottom line? Home fire sprinklers are one community risk reduction strategy that can help any fire department in any community. Sprinklered homes protect against emergency response time challenges as well as common residential challenges today, like greater density and closer proximity, lightweight new-construction material, limited rural water supply, steep grades, narrow roads and limited fire service personnel, to name a handful. And while we’re at it, look beyond public safety to the ways home fire sprinklers help protect the environment. When sprinklers are present in a home fire, they cut greenhouse gases, reduce water usage and minimize pollution. In fact, since 2010, FM Global calculated that home fire sprinklers would have reduced gas emissions by 97 percent. So kudos to the City of Millersville. And kudos to you if you’re working on an ordinance in your own community. Free educational resources on a range of home fire sprinkler topics are available to you on demand from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.   

Live Fire and Sprinkler Demonstrations at the Big E Helped Underscore the Life-Saving Benefits of Home Fire Sprinklers

During September, more than 1.6 million people traveled to Massachusetts to attend The Big E, the nation’s only multistate fair, representing all six New England states. For the first time at the Big E, people attending the popular exposition had the opportunity to experience live home fire and sprinkler demonstrations side by side, witnessing firsthand the difference between destructive flashover in one room and automatic sprinkler protection in another. The states took turns hosting the flashover/sprinkler demonstration daily at a premium position behind the Avenue of the States area at the fair. Drawing impressive crowds, the collaborative effort was bolstered with support from the National Fire Sprinkler Association, which organized the side-by-side demonstration trailers. Representatives from fire departments around the region volunteered to extinguish the unsprinklered fires as part of each demo. State fire marshals, members of state fire sprinkler coalitions, and other New England fire service members were also on hand. These helpers were able to answer questions, and they noted they heard many comments indicating observers were surprised at how fast fire spreads and how well a fire sprinkler controls the fire. At each demonstration after the fires were extinguished and cooled off, people were invited to view the rooms up close so they could see the damage from the unsprinklered fire themselves and compare it to what little damage occurred in the room protected by the sprinkler. A special shout-out to all the members of the fire service who volunteered their time to ensure home fire sprinklers were front and center at this big exposition. Their support helped increase awareness about the speed of a home fire. And their role underscored the life-saving benefits when fire sprinklers are installed. There is no question that people had a fun day at the fair; they also learned important fire safety information and had some stubborn myths punctured right before their eyes. For more information about home fire sprinklers, visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition webpage. Top photo: Sprinkler demonstration at the Big E in Maine Bottom photo: Sprinkler demonstration at the Big E in Connecticut
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Fire Prevention Week Is the Perfect Time to Introduce, or Increase, Home Fire Sprinkler Messages

As fire departments across the United States and Canada recognize the 100th anniversary of Fire Prevention Week™ (FPW™) this month, let’s all reflect on the accomplishments of our work educating our communities on the importance of home fire safety. We have made important gains and have much to celebrate. But in virtually every jurisdiction, we also face critical challenges as we strive to prevent injury and deaths. Case in point: while the number of home fires has decreased in recent years, when home fires occur today, they are deadlier. And despite many advances that make our cities and towns safer, a person today is more likely to die in a home fire than they were in 1980. This year’s FPW theme, “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape™,” is intended to help address these challenges. The theme inspires us to educate about the simple but important actions residents can take to keep themselves and those around them safer from home fires. Preparation and planning are the heart of this year’s focus. It’s something we all can do. And no matter the kind, size or built-in protection, every household needs a home fire escape plan and practice using it. Because of that, Fire Prevention Week is the perfect opportunity to introduce or increase your messaging about the life-saving benefits of installed home fire sprinklers as part of your outreach. This is especially true if there are new housing starts and plans for new-home developments in your area. Today’s unsprinklered homes burn faster than ever, with residents having as little as 2 minutes to safely escape from the time the smoke alarm signals. In contrast, installed fire sprinklers are designed to allow 10 minutes for people to escape. That’s vital protection that prevents injuries and saves lives. Are you new to home fire sprinkler messaging? A good place to start is by informing your community that sprinklers are an option when building a new home —but in most communities, your audience will need to ask for them. Another good lead-in is myth busting. The most common myth has always been that all sprinklers go off at once (thanks, Hollywood). You can stop that myth by reinforcing the fact that only the sprinkler closest to the fire activates to control the fire. And that sprinkler’s fast activation provides time for a safe escape. It’s important to respond to damaging myths because they tend to get more oxygen than the facts. Also, we know from decades of experience that education really works. When the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) surveyed more than 2000 adults*, 80 percent of millennials who had learned how sprinklers actually work said they would prefer to buy a home protected with sprinklers. Understanding millennials’ reactions to sprinkler education is important information to have because they are the age group that makes up the largest share of today’s homebuyers. So, during your FPW activities, I hope you’ll remember to include home fire sprinkler messages. Especially when you have the opportunity to talk to millennials and others who plan to build new homes. HFSC has free turnkey resources that make it easy for you, whether you want to upload content to your department website, post ready-made cards to your social media accounts, or download other educational tools, such as videos, artwork, and reproducible safety sheets. Tap into these and much more at HomeFireSprinkler.org and encourage your community to explore the website themselves. Every new home should be built with a complete system of home fire safety: early warning with working smoke alarms, a well-planned and practiced escape plan, and installed home fire sprinklers. Fire won’t wait, plan your escape. *October 2020 Opinium survey of 2000 US adults
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