AUTHOR: Lorraine Carli

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CFSI Approves Home Fire Sprinkler Resolution

In its latest resolution action, the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) National Advisory Council unanimously approved one in support of Home Fire Sprinklers. The resolution was offered by the American Fire Sprinkler Association, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (FLSS), National Association of State Fire Marshals, National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, National Fire Protection Association, National Fire Sprinkler Association, and National Volunteer Fire Council, and is officially named, A Resolution Encouraging Stronger Federal Support for Home Fire Sprinkler Education and Advocacy, Including within Fire Service Community Risk Reduction Efforts.   The resolution touted the consistent facts used by national advocates on why home fire sprinklers are a key to reducing today's home fire problem. The stark reality is that home fires are deadlier today as a result of unprotected lightweight construction material, open floor plans, and abundant synthetic furnishings, which make homes burn faster, becoming deadly in two minutes or less. Over 90 percent of all civilian structure fire deaths are in homes, and home fires cause $6.7 billion in direct property damage each year. Residential structure fires accounted for nearly 70 percent of firefighter injuries (70 percent of firefighter deaths were operating at structure fires - nearly 60 percent at one- and two- family homes).   Leveraging this information, the resolution calls for more federal support and policies to counter the negativity and misinformation associated with home fire sprinklers used by opponents who have spent more than $500 million to thwart efforts to increase the number of new homes that include fire sprinklers, which would dramatically reduce loss from home fires. In particular, the resolution supports funding and policies aimed at: supporting fire service strategies to enhance community risk reduction with home fire sprinkler education and advocacy; raising public awareness of the dangers of home fires to both civilians and responders; underscoring the unique protective benefits of installed fire sprinklers for homes and entire communities; building awareness of the role of home fire sprinklers in further protecting responders from home-fire exposure hazards, such as cancer and other diseases; and supporting proven, outcome-driven strategies to educate about home fire sprinklers.   More information on sprinklers can be found at the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the NFPA Fire Sprinkler Initiative.
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MA Chiefs of Police Association Weighs in on Pending Sprinkler Bill

The Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association (MCOPA) urged release from committee and passage of HB 2027 – An Act relative to enhanced fire protection in new one and two family dwellings citing its ability to save the lives of the public, firefighters, and police officers.   HB 2027 is a local option bill and would allow communities the ability to adopt home fire sprinklers for new one- and two-family homes. The Massachusetts Building Code does not include a provision for fire sprinklers in new one- and two-family homes. “It is our professional opinion that home fire sprinklers can change the outcome of future fires and protect not only the resident and firefighters but our members in Police Services.” Chief Jeff Farnsworth The MCOPA Executive Board and the leadership of the MA Fire Sprinkler Coalition had recently met and MCOPA President Chief Jeff Farnsworth felt the coalition had done an excellent job of dispelling myths and educating the board of the life-saving benefits of sprinklers. Chief Farnsworth wrote to Senator Michael Moore and Representative Harold Naughton on behalf of members of the police service. He wrote, “Many times, our Police Officers arrive on the scene of active structure fire situations. Our members do not receive the advanced training that Firefighters receive but they are the indeed the first responders to many of these incidents. The responding Officers are forced into action based on the oath that they take to protect the public and place themselves in harm's way to save lives.”   Chief Farnsworth offered a strong view of the bill and the value of sprinklers by adding, “It is our professional opinion that home fire sprinklers can change the outcome of future fires and protect not only the resident and firefighters but our members in Police Services.”   The bill has been filed numerous times in Massachusetts but has been stalled in committee. There are at least 18 states across the country that allow local adoption of sprinkler requirement. Both California and Maryland require all new homes to have sprinklers.   Action is pending before the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.
New Paltz, New York
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Maryland County uses baseless information to consider opting out of sprinkler requirements

One of the arguments being used by Worcester County Commissioners in Maryland to try and opt out of the statewide requirement for home fire sprinklers in new homes is that sprinklers thwart building, a notion that has been proven erroneous in other areas. According to an article in The Dispatch, county commissioners voted to draft a document allowing single family homes to opt out of requirement which has been on the books since 2015. Quoted in The Dispatch article, Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said, “I believe that this is hindering building in the county.” This is an example of unsupported reasoning being used to allow substandard homes to be built and deny new homeowners the protection home fire sprinklers afford.   A research reportdone several years ago concluded that the presence of sprinkler ordinances had no negative impact on the number of homes being built. The study compared residential construction in the Washington D.C. suburban counties of Anne Arundel and Prince George's, Maryland and Montgomery, Maryland and Fairfax, Virginia. Prince George's County and Montgomery County have sprinkler requirements; Fairfax County and Anne Arundel County did not at the time. The counties were selected for comparison based on their demographic matches to each other. A similar study was done in Californiamore recently and concluded there was no indication the presence of sprinkler requirements negatively impacted housing starts.  Fire Marshal Jeff McMahon was also quoted in the article letting the commissioners know that there had been about 3,000 structure fires in the county in the past five years and the average response time is 17 minutes. This too is valuable information to support the importance of sprinklers. With a response time of 17 minutes, you need all the help you can get in keeping fires small or even extinguishing them before the fire department arrives and significantly reducing loss from fire.   While there is a lot of misinformation out there about home fire sprinklers, there are a number of resources available to refute them. To arm yourself with the facts, visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiativeand the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition. 
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800 reasons why fire prevention is important

Phoenix  Society Executive Director speaks following the Walk of Remembrance at World Burn Congress I spent the last couple of days at one of the most inspirational events, not just for those devoted to fire and life safety, but for anyone. The Phoenix Society's 24th Annual World Burn Congress continues through tomorrow in Milwaukee, WI. The event brings together more than 800 burn survivors, family members, friends, caregivers and advocates to support and learn from each other and to learn about and promote programs, policies and legislative action that can prevent fires and provide resources to those who have been effected by fire. The stories are many and varied from a child burned at a campfire and a young lady now in her 20's who was burned at the age of two in a fire at her home to a woman who was severely burned trying to rescue her child from a fire many years ago to older adults who have devoted their entire lives to being positive role models for other burn survivors. But they share the same reason for attending – to be amongst those with similar struggles and give and or take away lessons to make them stronger. Amy Acton, executive director of the Phoenix Society, herself a burn survivor, opened the conference with the story of how she was injured in an accident 30 years ago. She recounted the journey that brought her to the Phoenix Society and how she benefited from the organizations core activities – peer support, education and advocacy. I met Amy when NFPA began the Fire Safe Cigarette Coalitionin 2006. The Phoenix Society signed on to help bring the personal stories of the impact of fire to the debate to require cigarette manufacturers to produce and sell only cigarettes that are less likely to cause fires. In just a few years, every state passed such legislation and according to recent NFPA data, we are already seeing a significant decrease in the leading cause of home fire deaths. Those voices made a difference. Faces of Fire advocate Princella Lee Bridges joins a fellow attendee, Jessica Platt at World Burn Congress When NFPA launched the Fire Sprinkler Initiative, a project to increase home fire sprinkler requirements, we again joined with the Phoenix Society to help tell the stories of the devastating consequences of home fires and how such tragedies can be avoided with the inclusion of home fire sprinklers in new construction. NFPA facts and figures were complimented with the Faces of Fire Campaign, which profiles individuals whose lives have been changed by fire. Some are burn survivors. Others are firefighters, building officials and builders. Many of those “faces” came to us with the assistance of the Phoenix Society. Those voices continue to make a difference.  The World Burn Congress is a poignant reminder that fire prevention should be top of mind and top of action every day of the year. But with Fire Prevention Week just around the corner there is an opportunity to make sure we are doing everything we can to reduce the number of people who need the services of the Phoenix Society and all the other groups working so hard to help those whose lives have been altered by fire.    
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