AUTHOR: Lorraine Carli

Family in living room

Home Fire Sprinklers, Working Smoke Alarms, and Family Escape Plan Prove Vital in Protecting Homes and Lives in Maryland and Massachusetts Fires

For fire safety advocates, home fire protection success stories are big news for us. Home fire sprinklers are vital to protecting the people who live in the homes as well as our first responders. Recent successful saves in both Maryland and Massachusetts help illustrate this message. In July, a family in Fallston, Maryland experienced the unthinkable when a home fire broke out while an infant was in an upstairs bedroom. What could have gone so tragically wrong that day went perfectly in this case, thanks to fire sprinklers and signaling smoke alarms. The infant was saved. In fact, no injuries occurred in this fire and property damage was limited to the kitchen, where an unattended candle was determined to be the fire’s cause. The Fallston Volunteer Fire Company arrived at the scene at 10:15 a.m., discovering a fire in the kitchen with a single activated fire sprinkler. According to the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office, the homeowner had been outside the home at the time of the fire. She heard the smoke alarm, and because the activating sprinkler had controlled the candle fire, she was able to safely evacuate her infant from the second floor.  Why was this family so fortunate when every day we read the tragic news stories about other home fires? Maryland requires fire sprinklers in all new-construction homes. In a press release, State Fire Marshal Brain S. Geraci pointed out that fire sprinklers are proven to save lives, prevent injuries and protect property. The best home fire safety practice is a combination of working smoke alarms, fire sprinklers and an escape plan. This story’s happy ending proves these are a winning combination. Naturally, we celebrate each home fire sprinkler save as if it is the first. Happily, these saves are reported more frequently as more homes are being protected with fire sprinklers. Sometimes, the reports provide bittersweet real-life, side-by-side education examples. That was the case this spring, when the Hopkinton (Massachusetts) Fire Department responded to two similar home fires. Both homes were under construction and both fires were caused by the careless disposal of oily rags. Fortunately, no occupants were in either home at the time. One home was protected with fire sprinklers while the other was not.   When firefighters arrived at the sprinklered home, they found a single sprinkler had activated, confining the fire and damage to a small area in the dining room. The home had just received its certificate of occupancy and workers had been preparing for the homeowner to move in. According to Hopkinton Fire Chief William Miller, the sprinkler save was the third in that development in the past three years. Each one has involved a single sprinkler containing the fire and limiting its damage. Unfortunately, it was a very different outcome for the unsprinklered home. Upon arrival, Hopkinton firefighters found smoke and flames coming from the house, which was built in an area outside the water district and therefore had no fire hydrants. The need to bring in tankers resulted in delays in extinguishing the fire, even with mutual aid coming from multiple nearby departments. Ultimately, the house was a complete loss. The moral of these stories is that when it comes to new construction, home fire sprinklers are vital to protecting the people who live in the homes as well as our first responders. Fire sprinklers, smoke alarms and escape plans are a win-win for every community, large or small. And as the Hopkinton fire loss showed, homes built in areas without fire hydrants are a particularly strong argument for the installation of home fire sprinklers. Learn more about home fire sprinklers by visiting

NFPA featured in Global Business Leaders Magazine

NFPA is featured as one of Global Business Leaders Magazine’s “20 Companies Everyone Should Know in 2022”. The issue’s cover story on our organization and CEO Jim Pauley is centered around the transformative ways that NFPA is revolutionizing the safety and standards industries, by building on a rich 125-year history to chart its future. It begins with our past, detailing the events that lead to the creation of our first standard, NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems and then chronicles more than a century and a quarter of our continued work to advance fire, life, and electrical safety by pioneering new practices to support those who work to protect people and property from fire and other hazards. The piece highlights the ever-evolving nature of NFPA, and our efforts to continually adjust to meet the most urgent needs and expectations of the time. More specifically, the article calls out NFPA LiNK®, our one-stop digital platform which offers not only complete access to all NFPA codes and standards, including legacy editions for the most referenced publications, but a comprehensive array of contextual and situational information. On the heels of our 125th anniversary and another successful annual conference, it’s thought-provoking to read such a concise history of NFPA, connecting our past, present and future. If you’re interested in reading more about how we are working to transform the industry, check out the full article.

Virtual reality makes home fire sprinklers a local reality

It’s not always practical to conduct a live burn to showcase the true value and impact of home fire sprinklers, but as we all know, seeing is believing. At the NFPA Conference & Expo®, HFSC Communications Manager Peg Paul and I led an education session about a powerful way to conduct a side-by-side sprinkler demo that doesn’t involve actual flames: virtual reality (VR). HFSC’s new VR home fire and sprinkler activation video is changing the way we fire and life safety educators reach our audiences, especially the ones that are hard to reach. That’s because this side-by-side is truly portable; it requires no construction, no permitting and no live fire. And because the attendees at our session had such a positive reaction to the new VR resources, I wanted to share them with you. State-of-the-art virtual reality The VR video was produced using state-of-the-art cinematic technology to capture actual house fires in two identical living rooms. In one room, viewers experience the fire in real time until flashover occurs. In the other room, they see how the high heat from the fire activates the sprinkler, controlling the fire and smoke. The comparison video showing the difference with sprinklers is especially memorable. The attendees in our session agreed that one of the strongest features is that what viewers see is real. Unlike VR animation, this resource offers a realistic educational opportunity to understand what a home fire is like, and how vital fire sprinklers are to escape, survival and property protection. Intended for adults, the dramatic video is available at no cost on HFSC’s YouTube channel for anyone to view in 2D. This gives them the ability to experience the video by using a smart device to “move around” in the fire rooms. We encouraged attendees to consider using the VR video to reach and educate future homebuyers in their communities. Through digital advertising, HFSC is targeting people planning to build new homes, primarily millennials – the demographic making up the largest share of homebuyers of any generation. In a survey of homeowners, 80% of millennials who were educated about how sprinklers worked said they would prefer a to buy a home with home fire sprinklers. With a strong new-home construction market, that finding underscores the importance of widespread education in most communities. Advertising the facts about home fires and fire sprinkler technology, and the new, free virtual reality video online, is proving effective. Since the video was posted five months ago, it has been viewed more than 350,000 times with the average view time of three minutes. We invited attendees to link to HFSC’s YouTube channel, website and post the VR video on their department websites directly and I encourage you to do the same. Social media is another smart method to reach consumers. HFSC offers a variety of downloadable social media cards to simplify posts to any social account. Virtual reality in 3D To explore the value of an enhanced 3D experience, HFSC has been evaluating cost-effective 3D glasses that are used with a smart phone. With the smart phone open to the YouTube video, the user clips their phone onto the reusable glasses and experiences the VR video in dramatic 360-degrees. Our session attendees loved them! In addition to offering the glasses through fire and life safety conferences, including C&E, HFSC recently shared the glasses with 50 Built for Life Fire Departments that are using and evaluating them as part of their community risk reduction outreach. HFSC Immersive Virtual Reality Kit for fire educators The most immersive experience with this virtual home fire and flashover video is achieved by wearing VR headsets. HFSC has produced a small number of full-scale VR kits complete with 15 headsets, a presenter laptop and a self-contained rolling case.  Using the kit, the presenter can show the new VR video to a group or use the headsets with individuals. The kit can be transported and used indefinitely. HFSC is currently evaluating the effectiveness of the immersive kit in five regions throughout the country. Using funding from a 2021 FEMA FP&S grant, this evaluation is targeting varied stakeholders who play a role in determining if new-construction homes will be protected with fire sprinklers. In addition to the fire service and AHJs, these stakeholders include developers, builders, planners, building officials and other local decision-makers and water purveyors. By bringing the immersive VR experience to them, fire and life safety educators are finding it much easier to reach and educate these stakeholders. Based on 400 evaluations to date, local results are promising. More than 90% of users said it was a realistic experience and gave it high marks for the ability to “move around” in the rooms. When asked to rank the educational benefit of the experience, 85% gave it the highest rank. A few members of the fire service said the immersive experience was so realistic they could almost smell the smoke. Incentives can seal the deal Peg and I devoted a lot of our session to talking about how this new virtual educational tool can enhance local AHJ outreach to builders and developers. We shared HFSC’s developer incentive program, which provides free information and case studies on AHJs who have used it successfully to increase sprinklered new-home construction in their jurisdictions. We had an active discussion with attendees about the challenges fire departments face dealing with sprinkler myths, code update challenges and other negativity that impacts even voluntary sprinkler installations. As a result, in communities without new- construction home fire sprinkler requirements, local developer incentives are an essential strategy for AHJs to achieve protection of entire developments. Fortunately, the incentive approach is effective. Regardless of code restrictions, AHJs have the authority to offer valuable incentives (aka trade ups) and they are using this power with increasing success. Developer incentives, best negotiated at the pre-approval stage, are offered in exchange for full sprinkler protection to facilitate profitable infrastructure flexibility. By taking advantage of these, developers can utilize land better for higher revenue and reduce infrastructure and other construction costs. The upshot? A local AHJ-led developer incentive program is a mutually beneficial strategy that helps achieve Community Risk Reduction goals, protecting residents, firefighters and the entire community. See for yourself why this new virtual reality home fire and sprinkler activation video is a better side-by-side! And please, share your experiences with us so we can keep improving this resource.
Jim at General Sessions

NFPA General Session Focuses on Leadership, Innovation and Reaching Beyond Historical Success

NFPA President Jim Pauley gave a rousing keynote to thousands of attendees who were excited to be part of the 2022 NFPA Conference & Expo, which was back in person for the first time since 2019. He said, “While we had to delay our celebration of NFPA’s 125th anniversary, it is fitting that we are here in Boston to recognize this special milestone.” Noting that the conference was held only a short distance from the birthplace of NFPA in 1896, Pauley chronicled the 125-year past of the organization and stressed how it is driving the work NFPA does to further reduce loss and tackle the fire, life, and electrical safety issues of the times. “It is important to honor our past. But we don’t see our rich history as an easy chair to rest in, but a catapult to propel us forward - aimed at greater challenges than our predecessors experienced,” said Pauley.  He talked about the digital transformation impacting so many aspects of life. In particular, he spoke of the relevancy of NFPA LiNK™, which is dramatically changing the way professionals interact with codes and standards and related information. The digital platform provides better access to more robust information by delivering intuitive, seamless, information on demand when and where practitioners need it. This digital transformation is also a key factor in NFPA certification and training programs.  Online learning solutions feature interactive modeling, simulated training scenarios, and 3D virtual experiences. NFPA recently launched a new platform to make applying for and renewing certifications easier than ever and introduced remote proctoring for certification exams. Pauley also talked about one of the most prevalent fire threats today – wildfire – and a new NFPA initiative to reverse the disastrous trend. Outthink Wildfire™ is rooted in two facts – one is that wildfires are going to happen, whether they are caused by nature, by people, or the built environment.  And two, that fire departments will never be able to save all the property in the path of a wildfire. Outthink Wildfire is about how we build, where we build, and how we bring policymakers, first responders, and the public together to take action. Pivoting from the enormous success of NFPA and its critical role in providing resources that protect people and property from hazards, Pauley addressed a direct threat to NFPA. “NFPA is challenged by a vocal minority who have the erroneous view that standards, once incorporated by reference, should lose their copyright protection. They argue that if a governmental body decides to incorporate a standard into law or regulation to help with public safety, then the standard immediately is open for anyone to take, copy and distribute – even start a commercial business by offering them to the public – without any compensation to NFPA. This is a very misguided view,” he said. “The continued assault by special interests on copyright protection threatens the ability of NFPA and organizations like us to fund this important work… Without copyright protection, we would not be able to support the codes and standards development process, nor would be able to continue providing the research, public education programs, wildfire mitigation efforts, and other resources that are inherent to our mission and available for free.” Pauley emphasized that NFPA is continuing to fight this battle on all fronts to unequivocally confirm what is known: That standards are protected by copyright, even when they are incorporated by reference, allowing for a system that benefits government, businesses, and the public.  He concluded by looking forward. “What began 125 years ago to solve the fire problem in a young, industrialized nation is now a global force advancing safety worldwide. We are leading with innovative approaches to new and lingering threats. Through our work together, more people and property are saved in more places.”
Shooting in a Texas school

Recent Active Shooter Incidents Highlight the Tragic Reality that Communities Must Remain Vigilant in Preparing for, Responding to, and Recovering from these Horrific Threats to Public Safety

Buffalo, New York. Uvalde, Texas. In the span of just 12 days, the U.S. has witnessed two horrific active shooter events that, according to recent news reports, have claimed the lives of 31 people, wounded 18, and has left the country deep in mourning. For the last couple of years, the national attention has focused much on the pandemic. But as the events of the last week and a half have illustrated, the safety of our communities remains in a fragile state. With the number of active shooting/hostile event situations again making headlines in both large cities and small towns across the country, we are reminded of this horrific threat. In addition to extensive pre-planning, every incident demands split second, life or death decision-making and coordination from responders and then follow up activity to help the entire community recover. That type of coordinated response only comes with a full system of planning in place. NFPA provides the following resources to help in your efforts: NFPA 3000®, Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program. This standard addresses all aspects of the process, from identifying hazards and assessing vulnerability to planning, resource management, incident management at a command level, competencies for first responders, and recovery. Toolkits to help mitigate the impact of a crisis or disaster, and provide the information responders need to help keep communities safe and prepared for all types of emergencies. NFPA 3000, Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response Program Specialist Online Training (2021) A free fact sheet that highlights the four concepts of NFPA 3000: whole community, unified command, integrated response, and planned recovery. A free NFPA 3000 roadmap to implementation. These events are tragic and there are steps every community can take to prepare for, respond, and recover from an active shooter or other hostile event. By addressing these challenges together, we can turn our despair to forward-thinking action to better protect our communities. Find these and other related resources on the NFPA 3000 news webpage.  
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