NFPA Impact: May 2018
By Shayne Mintz
Most fire deaths occur in homes.
By Shayne Mintz
It is the view of the NFPA that the time has come to bring broader attention to the North American fire-death problem, and how sprinklers can be a key solution. That’s why this year the NFPA is initiating Home Fire Sprinkler Day, on various dates over the spring and summer in Canada, and on May 19 in the United States.
This initiative tasks North American fire-sprinkler advocates with hosting as many events as possible to promote home fire sprinklers. The goal is to have fire-safety advocates host sprinkler-related events in as many Canadian provinces and territories as possible, and in all 50 states. As of mid-March, more than 20 Canadian fire departments in four provinces had committed to participating.
Sprinklers are but one aspect of the fire problem, but they are a key part of the solution that holds a fire in check until people can get out of harm’s way.
A study completed by Surrey, B.C., Fire Chief Len Garis and a team of researchers at the University of the Fraser Valley using the Canadian National Fire Information Database figures between 2005 and 2015 shows there were a total of 1,440 fire deaths in residential occupancies; this is roughly equivalent to the number of people on 20 full-sized school buses, or more than 10 Boeing 737 aircraft full of passengers. If that many lives were lost over the same period in Canada involving school buses or aircraft, I’m sure there would be a number of coroners’ inquests and public inquiries. But in Canada, and the majority of other developed countries, the public doesn’t seem to think the fire-death problem is that bad.
Many opponents to the sprinkler movement say modern codes and practices requiring smoke alarms are all that are needed to protect occupants. However, regional statistics in Canada, and NFPA research in the United States, show that notwithstanding the prevalence of smoke alarms, their presence has pretty much reached optimal effectiveness. Despite the inclusion of interconnected smoke alarms in every newly built home, and many communities offering free smoke alarms and installation as retrofits, the residential fire-death problem still exists.
This is not to say that working smoke alarms aren’t an important and integral life-saving device and a key part of the solution to the fire-death problem. But, regardless of their presence – and that’s if they’re even working and properly maintained – smoke alarms only alert occupants that a problem exists and do nothing to assist in controlling the fire, not to mention the hazardous and toxic conditions created for firefighters by the time they arrive.
The NFPA Fire Sprinkler Initiative and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition – Canada is calling on the 50-plus Built For Life Fire Departments and others in Canada to help out and take action. Events are aimed at raising awareness of sprinklers as being key life-saving technology, and breaking down the myths and fallacies about their use.
Taking part is easy. The NFPA has outlined ideas on its website, nfpa.org/firesprinklerday, and has provided resources to make these events successful. If any assistance is needed or you have questions, please contact me, or Laura King, NFPA’s Canadian public education representative (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The list of potential activities for Home Fire Sprinkler Day includes creating a local, regional or provincial Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition or initiative (there is a coalition in British Columbia through the Fire Chiefs Association of BC, and the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs has started some preliminary work on formalizing a coalition). If you are interested in forming a coalition, please get in touch and the NFPA can walk you through the process.
Other suggested activities include hosting a side-by-side live burn fire sprinkler demonstration (with support from NFPA, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition – Canada, the Co-operators Insurance Group, and the Canadian Automatic Sprinkler Association); hosting an open house featuring home fire sprinkler information; hosting or conducting dedicated training sessions for fire department staff and other public stakeholders on the myths and facts of home fire sprinklers; or advocating for a Home Fire Sprinkler Day proclamation in your town.
The NFPA has created resources and templates for your department to make your Home Fire Sprinkler Day initiative a success. For details visit nfpa.org/firesprinklerday.
Shayne Mintz has more than 35 years of experience in the fire service, having completed his career as chief of the Burlington Fire Department in Ontario. He is now the Canadian regional director for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Contact Shayne at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter at @ShayneMintz