Home Fire Sprinkler Messages are a Holiday Safety Gift

Who doesn’t want to read a story with a happy ending during the holiday season? I know I do. And the one I’m about to tell you about has it all: tension, anticipation, a plot twist, plus the happy ending we all want!

At 1:43 a.m., on November 18, the Pleasant View, Tennessee Volunteer Fire Department responded to a fire call in a 1,200-square-foot modular home. A fire had started in a bathroom wastebasket. Fortunately, the home was protected with home fire sprinklers and the sprinkler nearest the fire activated automatically. It woke the 62-year-old resident and gave her enough time to leave the home without injury and call 911. When the fire department arrived, crews discovered the fire had been completely extinguished by the sprinkler. The happy ending gets even happier: because fire sprinklers work so fast, they limit the spread of smoke and heat beyond the fire’s origin. So that night, the resident was able to sleep in her own home.

But even with this happy ending, there is a twist: no working smoke alarms were in the home. Had the home also been without sprinklers, the fire would have grown and spread – and with no smoke sensor to give warning, this story would have been tragically different.

The holiday season is meant to be a wonderful, joyous time of sharing, gathering with family and friends, and celebrating the season. But remember, ‘tis also the season for an increase in home fires. In fact, according to NFPA research, home fires caused by cooking tend to peak at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Candles, decorative lights, electrical cords, space heaters, and smoking also contribute to an increased risk of fire during the holidays.

The latest reports from NFPA show that between 2015 and 2019, US fire departments responded to an average of 790 home structure fires per year that began with decorations, excluding Christmas trees. These fires caused an annual average of one civilian fire death, 26 civilian fire injuries, and $13 million in direct property damage. Additional research points out that electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in almost half of home Christmas tree fires during this same time period.

So, as we spread cheer during the holidays, we also need to let folks know about the simple, common-sense things they can do to keep the season merry and fire-free. The story I shared above underscores critical messages that bear repeating: every home needs working smoke alarms and an escape plan that is practiced regularly. In every community, new construction homes should be built with installed fire sprinklers to protect generations of residents and responders.

You’re used to educating people about fire prevention, smoke alarms, and escape planning. Fire sprinklers deserve to be a key part of your home fire safety communications, too, regardless of the season. Sprinklers make up for human error in a way that no other home fire safety technology can. Find free resources to use and share, including videos, tips sheets, and social media cards for winter holiday safety on the NFPA website.

For home fire sprinkler content, use free, turnkey tools from the Home Fire Safety Coalition (HFSC) that make it easy for you to educate your target audiences. Create a space on your website about the value of building new homes with fire sprinklers, upload videos and other content, and post cards to your social media accounts. It’s easy. Simply link to HomeFireSprinkler.org to get started. 

So, as we close out the new year and head into 2023, let’s continue to work together to give rise to more stories with happy endings like the one in Pleasant View.

Sign up for the NFPA Network Newsletter
Lorraine Carli
VP, Outreach & Advocacy, Working to save lives and property through awareness, action and collaborations.