NFPA Impact: August 2015
You’re the fire chief – what can you tell me about residential fire sprinklers? Did you know the NFPA can help?
By Shayne Mintz
I’ve been travelling across Canada speaking at conferences; I generally talk about NFPA standards and codes, the benefits they provide to fire and life safety, and code enforcement and how to access our materials.
Questions about residential fire sprinklers invariably pop up at almost every event. In response, I’ve been telling more and more people about the NFPA home fire sprinkler initiative (firesprinklerinitiative.org). The program was originally launched at the request of fire-service members who were seeking more information about how to promote fire sprinklers in new one- and two-family homes.
Under the Bringing Safety Home campaign, the home fire sprinkler initiative has an abundance of free educational, advocacy, research and resource materials. Home fire-sprinkler coalitions were created as part of the campaign to increase awareness of the lethal power of fire and the home fire-death problem. The campaign emphasizes the role of home fire sprinklers in saving lives and preventing injuries.
Using the coalition model, my goal is to enlist as many fire services and fire chiefs’ associations as possible to engage with their communities and develop similar regional or provincial coalitions in Canada. There is currently one in Ontario and one starting in British Columbia, and, in recognition of their efforts, the NFPA has granted funds to both.
I will continue to support the growing coalitions in Ontario and British Columbia and I’m also concentrating on reaching out to other provincial fire chiefs associations. At this time, the focus is on Alberta and the Maritimes, and I’m hoping to reach other provinces with the help of our continuing partnerships with the Canadian Automatic Sprinkler Association and The Co-operators insurance group.
There are many fire chiefs and provincial associations with which I have yet to make contact, but if anyone is interested in exploring how to start a coalition please feel free to email or call. The NFPA has resources, experience and background and it’s free for the asking!
Fire-service leaders know that eight out of 10 fire deaths occur in the home and they usually happen at night when families are asleep. It’s also well known that sprinklers give occupants precious time to escape and are vital in protecting firefighters from structural failure of modern, lightweight-frame constructed homes and the toxic carcinogenic environment that exists at every fire.
With that in mind, there is more that can be done by fire services at the local level. The home fire-sprinkler initiative website (firesprinklerinitiative.org) has fact sheets, videos, case studies and coverage of our popular sprinkler summits. To date we’ve had 12 delegates from across Canada attend the summits in the United States. I hope to see a few sprinkler summits in Canada over the next year.
The website also has educational materials with tailored messages to identify why sprinklers are needed and how they work. There is an array of resources and tips on how to work with builders, local officials and the public. Additionally there are sections focusing on consumers, homebuilders and other professionals such as real-estate and insurance agents, building officials and water purveyors.
The website offers free print materials, display banners and interactive videos to help with your local campaigns. These tools and packages have proven to be excellent support for outlining how to promote sprinklers and conduct a side-by-side burn demonstration as part of your local public-education activities.
There is also something each fire service can do right now: become a Built for Life fire department – it’s simple and straightforward to register online (go to homefiresprinkler.org and click on fire service, then Built for Life) – and commit to adding sprinkler messages and materials to your existing public-education programs.
The Built for Life program provides information and tools to help your department members teach others about the benefits of sprinklers. You may wish to engage your local planning and building departments to establish an outreach program for local builders and developers. By signing up for the program you’ll be joining more than 2,500 departments in Canada (including Charlottetown, P.E.I. and Huntsville/Lake of Bays in Ontario) and the United States.
If you’d like more information, please visit firesprinklerinitiative.org or feel free to contact me for assistance.
Shayne Mintz is the Canadian regional director for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Contact Shayne at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter at @ShayneMintz