Fire Fighting in Canada

Immersive experience

VR program helps educate developers about the benefits of home fire sprinklers

October 31, 2022 
By Laura King

Members of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition Canada train on the new VR headsets.. Left to right, Daniel Beck, Canadian Automatic Sprinkler Association; Sean Tracey, chair, Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition Canada; Laura King, NFPA regional director, Canada; and Marny McNitt, Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition. Photo credits: Peg Paul, laura king

It’s not always practical to conduct a live side-by-side burn to increase awareness of home fire sprinklers – personnel, cost, weather, and environmental impact are just a some of the considerations.

With those factors in mind, and a desire to increase outreach to builders and developers, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition developed a virtual reality video that immerses viewers in sprinklered and non-sprinklered rooms.

The virtual reality home fire and sprinkler activation video changes the way sprinkler advocates reach audiences, said Lorraine Carli, HFSC president and senior vice president of outreach and advocacy with the National Fire Protection Association.

“That’s because this side-by-side is truly portable; it requires no construction, no permitting and no live fire,” Carli said.


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, users see how the high heat from the fire activates the sprinkler, controlling the fire and smoke. 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 and on the HFSC Canada website for anyone to view in 2D ( The 2D version allows users to move around the fire rooms by clicking and dragging the video.

The accompanying soundtrack encourages viewers to consider using the VR video to reach and educate future home builders and buyers in their communities. At the same time, through targeted digital advertising, HFSC Canada is connecting with Canadians who plan to build new homes, primarily millennials. In a survey of homeowners, 80 per cent of millennials who were educated about how sprinklers work said they would prefer a to buy a home that has home fire sprinklers. 

For HFSC, advertising the facts about home fires and fire sprinkler technology, and the new, free virtual reality online video, are proving effective. Since the video was posted in January, it has been viewed more than 33,000 times. 

To explore the value of an enhanced 3D experience, HFSC has also acquired cost-effective 3D glasses that are used with a smart phone. With the smart phone open to the YouTube video, users clip the phone onto the reusable glasses and experience the VR video in dramatic 360-degrees. (This option is available to Built for Life fire departments in Canada. To become a Built for Life department, visit and click on fire service in the left menu.)

The most immersive experience with the virtual reality home fire and flashover video is achieved by wearing VR headsets. In Canada, with funding from FM Global, HFSC has produced a full-scale VR kit with 10 headsets, a presenter laptop and a self-contained rolling case. Using the kit, the presenter can show the VR video to a group or use the headsets with individuals. The kit can be transported and used indefinitely. 

HFSC is evaluating the effectiveness of the immersive kit, asking for feedback from 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, more than 90 per cent of users said the VR video 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 per cent 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. 

This new virtual educational tool can enhance local AHJ outreach to builders and developers. HFSC’s developer incentive program provides free information and case studies about AHJs that have successfully increased sprinklered new-home construction in their jurisdictions. 

HFSC is aware that fire departments experience challenges dealing with sprinkler myths, code updates, 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 (or trade-ups). 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 trade ups, developers can better utilize land 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. 

HFSC Canada comprises NFPA, the Canadian Automatic Sprinkler Association, Co-operators, and the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs. For more information, and to view the virtual reality video in 2D, visit, or email

Laura King is NFPA’s regional director for Canada. Contact her at, and follow her on Twitter at LauraKingNFPA. 

Print this page


Stories continue below