Author(s): Gary Keith. Published on September 1, 2009.

Local Action
Getting fire departments involved in community sprinkler outreach efforts.

NFPA Journal®, September/October 2009

This past January, NFPA introduced the Fire Sprinkler Initiative® to encourage public safety through the wider adoption of home fire sprinkler system requirements. This advocacy initiative is proving to be an innovative and effective way to support code adoption efforts that will eventually have a strong impact on fire and life safety.



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The Fire Sprinkler Initiative’s communications effort is an aggressive campaign that combines Internet, social marketing, and national grassroots strategies. Fortunately, some essential educational resources were already available when we began. NFPA has relied on the materials developed by the non-profit Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC), allowing the Fire Sprinkler Initiative to focus on the adoption of home fire sprinkler provisions.

Thanks to generous Fire Prevention & Safety Grant funding awarded through the Grants Program Directorate of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, HFSC has been able to develop and share these educational materials at no cost with fire departments and other safety advocates across the country. These high-quality teaching tools are helping fire departments inform and educate the homebuilding community, real estate and insurance agents, water purveyors, local decision-makers, and consumers about the lifesaving benefits of home fire sprinkler systems.

In 2008, HFSC boosted its efforts to get more fire departments involved by establishing the "Built for Life Fire Department Program" to increase the number of fire departments that undertake local home fire sprinkler education efforts. The program has already proven that, with the right blend of motivation, teaching tools, and guidance, fire departments will eagerly step up their community sprinkler education efforts.

A key component of the "Built for Life Fire Department Program" is a kit with materials designed to help departments use live fire demonstrations to bring the educational power of home fire sprinklers into local outreach. With ever-tightening municipal budgets, HFSC wanted to provide fire departments with an accessible alternative to costly sprinkler trailers. The kit contains all the information a department needs to build and present dramatic live side-by-side fire education demonstrations at a fraction of the cost of trailers. By all accounts, the "Built for Life Fire Department Program" is working according to plan. The growing program already numbers more than 1,200 departments.

HFSC recently recognized more than a dozen of the initial "Built for Life Fire Departments" for embracing this key life safety topic. Of those, the Plymouth, Massachusetts, Fire Department was selected to host a joint NFPA/HFSC/Massachusetts State Fire Marshal’s Office media event and to serve as the backdrop for HFSC’s national satellite media tour. A side-by-side fire and sprinkler burn demonstration was the centerpiece of both Plymouth events, which drew many members of the Boston media as well as curious onlookers. The media tour included mostly live interviews with 28 television stations nationwide.

To become a "Built for Life Fire Department" or to download the demonstration kit, visit HFSC’s website Learn more about NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative at

Gary Keith is NFPA’s vice-president for Field Operations & Education, and is chair of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.