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ICC Approves Residential Fire Sprinklers in the International Residential Code

September 21st, 2008 by Residential Fire Sprinklers .com

Voting members of the leading building code body in the nation, the International Code Council (ICC), overwhelmingly supported a residential fire sprinkler requirement for all new one- and two-family homes and townhouses.

Fire service and building code officials united to approve the requirement and countered opposition. The code proposal, RB64, easily overcame a procedural requirement that mandated a super-majority of two-thirds approval. This represents an unprecedented step forward in advancing home fire safety in the United States.

The vote, held today in Minneapolis, was supported by 73 percent of the voting members in attendance.

The IRC Fire Sprinkler Coalition, an association of more than 100 fire service, building code official, and safety organizations representing 45 states, assumed a leadership position and secured unified support for this issue over the past 18 months.

“Our team worked hard to rally support throughout the United States for a residential fire sprinkler requirement, but our supporters deserve the recognition for showing up en masse in Minneapolis,” said Ronny J. Coleman, president of the IRC Fire Sprinkler Coalition. “They know from experience that sprinklers are the answer to the nation’s fire problem.”

Fire deaths in the United States realized a dramatic decline over the past three decades as smoke alarms became common – today, more than 95 percent of homes have them. Still, more than 3,000 people die each year from fire, and a home burns every 80 seconds. Residential sprinklers are the only fire protection technology that works to rapidly contain fire, effectively giving families more time to escape the deadly heat and poisonous gases of an unchecked fire. Therefore, the proposal’s passage has also pleased home safety advocates across the country.

“We work with families every day that are directly affected by the ravages of fire,” said Meri-K Appy, president of the Home Safety Council. “We are thrilled not only because this moment has taken decades of demanding work to achieve, but because it provides protection for potential victims of future fires.”

Kaaren Mann, a fire safety advocate and the mother of a fire victim stated in her testimony, “the cost to put sprinklers into the home where my daughter died would have been less than what I had to pay for the flowers at her funeral.”

The sprinkler mandate will first appear in the 2009 International Residential Code® (IRC), which will be published by the end of the year. Forty-six states use the IRC as the basis of regulating new home construction.

“The vote was a historic moment in residential fire safety – and is a significant step in a long journey before sprinklers are installed in every new home,” noted Ronny J. Coleman, president of the IRC Fire Sprinkler Coalition. “We’re now going to move forward at the state and local level to ensure new code requirement is adopted.”

The potential impact of this code change is discussed at “Residential Fire Sprinklers Market Growth and Labor Demand Analysis

Category: Blog, Fire Prevention, Public Support | 66 Comments »

Residential Fire Sprinkler Requirements – An “ah-ha” Moment

September 10th, 2008 by George L. Church, Jr.

I’ve debated the difference between offering and requiring automated residential fire sprinklers in single family dwellings with a friend of mine who’s a home builder. And as a republican, I prefer less government in general. I thought having home builders OFFER residential fire sprinklers would be enough.

A couple of Saturdays ago one of our work trucks got sideswiped by a lady crossing over the line, just missing being a head-on collision by inches. She flipped her SUV, both vehicle’s airbags deployed, both vehicles were totaled, both drivers were wearing seat belts, and both drivers were relatively unhurt. After seeing the damage to the vehicles, it is amazing that no one was seriously hurt. Thanks go to the seat belts and airbags.

THAT IS WHEN IT STRUCK ME…this is why home fire sprinklers need to be required…to save us from ourselves. If people had a choice, many would not have airbags installed in their cars. Some folks know someone who died BECAUSE they had a seat belt on and therefore ignore all empirical data supporting the effectiveness of seat belts due to that one incident.

The parallel is obvious. Residential fire sprinklers can save lives…IF they are installed. And the longer it is optional, the more unsprinklered housing inventory is in place…likely forever to be unsprinklered…tick tick tick tick

George has been the President and Co-Owner of Rowe Sprinkler Systems Inc. since 1998 with corporate offices located in Selinsgrove, PA. George has worked in the fire protection industry for over three decades starting as a design trainee in 1974. George currently holds a NICET Level III Certification in Water-Based Fire Protection System Layout. He holds numerous safety certifications and has been a Certified Sprinkler Contractor in the City of Philadelphia since 1989. George is currently President of the Central PA Fire Protection Chapter of the American Society of Certified Engineering Technicians. George is a member of NFPA Technical Committees for NFPA #3 Commissioning of Fire Protection and Life Safety Systems and NFPA #22 Standard for Water Tanks for Private Fire Protection, and the Technical Advisory Board of the American Fire Sprinkler Association.

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IAFF Joins Coalition in Support of Residential Fire Sprinkler Requirement

September 7th, 2008 by Residential Fire Sprinklers .com

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) has adopted a resolution supporting a change to the International Residential Code (IRC) to require fire sprinklers in new single-family homes (IRC Proposal RB64-07/08). The IRC is the model code governing residential construction in 46 states plus the District of Columbia.

“IAFF’s support of this resolution emphasizes the importance of residential fire sprinklers to America’s firefighters, and we applaud their endorsement,” said Ronny J. Coleman, President of the IRC Fire Sprinkler Coalition and former California State Fire Marshal. “We hope that this will motivate even more firefighters to make the trip to ICC’s final action hearing to vote for residential sprinklers.”

The International Code Council’s (ICC) Final Action Hearing on changing the IRC to require fire sprinklers in new homes will take place from September 20-22 in Minneapolis, Minn. Firefighters who are properly registered prior to September 6th will be eligible to attend the hearing and vote on the proposed change. Information on registering can be found at www.IRCFireSprinkler.org.

Because of a procedural requirement in ICC’s rules, adoption of the change will require a two-thirds majority vote, so active participation by firefighters will be essential to winning the issue. Last year, a similar proposal nearly passed, falling less than 100 votes short of the required two-thirds majority. Supporters are determined to make up that difference in September.

The IAFF is an important addition to the IRC Fire Sprinkler Coalition. The list of supporters now includes more than 100 international, national and regional organizations, representing more than 200,000 firefighters, fire prevention officers and building safety professionals from 43 states and the District of Columbia. Other significant recent additions to the coalition include the International Association of Arson Investigators, Safe Kids USA, the Fire Marshals Association of Oklahoma and the West Virginia State Firemen’s Association.

About IRC Fire Sprinkler Coalition

Founded in 2007, the IRC Fire Sprinkler Coalition has grown to include more than 100 international, national and regional public safety organizations, including associations representing 43 states and the District of Columbia, all of whom support the mission of promoting residential fire sprinkler systems as a standard feature in new home construction. The Coalition was formed to educate public policymakers on the value of residential sprinkler systems and to support related legislation. More information can be found at www.IRCFireSprinkler.org.

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Advocating Home Fire Protection – A Fire Marshal’s Reasoning

August 11th, 2008 by Rick Ruh

This is the second time in my life that I have written a letter for news publication. In 1986 while working for the State Fire Marshal in Florida, I was compelled to write a letter about a tragic fire that occurred in the Panhandle area of Florida. In the local news a report of a family of four, a young father and mother and two young children, died as a result of a home fire. The fire occurred in the early morning hours, while the family was sleeping. The fire was determined to be accidentally caused. In my letter then and now, the comments about the fire, unfortunately, remain the same today.

The typical news report for fire victims is the family may be assisted by a local civic agency, if they survive. The assistance would be an outpouring of community concern for the family, and they may receive temporary living and food assistance until they could get back on their feet. However if the scenario was of an unknown intruder committing the crime of killing a family comprised of a young father and mother and their two infant children, the public response would be somewhat different. Local residents would have a sense of uneasiness and concern about their own family’s welfare and safety. They would, rightfully so, demand more police presence in their neighborhood. The citizen may establish a community crime watch in their neighborhood. My concern is why don’t we have the same sense of outrage and uneasiness when people are affected by fire?

This was my concern over twenty years ago and still is today. To a degree, I understand the differences between the two types of threats. However, the final results are the same. People die from both fire and crime needlessly. Yet the solution to protect the victims of fire, in my opinion, requires much less effort than for protecting victims of crime. We could provide continuous protection of victims of crime with a policeman or other type of skilled security personnel twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, however this is not a reasonable or even practical solution to the crime problem. However, to provide this type of twenty-four hour, seven days a week protection for the victims of fire is much more realistic. Today, as was the case over 25 years ago, there are easy and cost-effective ways to protect our loved ones from fire. In fact the type of protection available is just like having a firefighter on duty in our home twenty-four hours a day. The installation of smoke detectors reduces the risk from negative effects of fire significantly, while the installation of a residential fire sprinkler system and smoke detectors is 99.6% successful in saving the lives of people from fire. The installation of fire sprinklers will also significantly reduce property loss.

So the question is why don’t we do more to protect our loved ones? The answer is not as clear-cut as you may think. The technology of smoke detectors and residential fire sprinklers today is far more superior than it was 25 years ago when I wrote my first letter to the editor, but the obstacles for the acceptance of the fire protection systems remain the same: the lack of understanding about residential fire sprinkler systems and “money”. Simply put, residential sprinkler systems are nothing more than a regular household water system, very similar to the plumbing system already in the homes, with sprinkler heads. These fire sprinkler heads only activate when they are heated up by a fire, and typically only one sprinkler head activates in a fire, not all of heads as depicted in movies. The cost of the sprinkler systems in a new home is about the same as a new stainless steel refrigerator. Therein lies the problem. Given a choice by the home owner to have a new stainless steel refrigerator in their home or a residential fire sprinkler, the vast majority of homeowners will choose the new refrigerator.

I hope that in 25 years, if I am still around, that I would not have to write another letter about a family needlessly dying in a house fire. Rather I would prefer to read about a family who had escaped from a fire that was shortly extinguished by a residential fire sprinkler and was waiting for their carpets to dry so they can move back home again that day. This would allow me the great satisfaction of knowing that I will never have to write this letter again.

Rick Ruh has over 30 years experience in Fire and Building Codes. He is presently the Fire Marshal of Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services, a medium size department 25 miles north of Atlanta, GA. Prior to that he spent five years with TVA Fire and Life Safety as a Fire Protection Consultant serving some of the largest retailers in world. He has worked for the City of Raleigh, NC as both a Building and Fire Code Official providing plan review services to the design community. Rick retired from Broward County Fire Rescue (Ft. Lauderdale, Fl) as a Battalion Chief responsible for technical services in the plan review section.

Category: Blog, Fire Prevention, News, Public Support | 7 Comments »

NVFC Supports Residential Fire Sprinkler Requirements

August 1st, 2008 by Residential Fire Sprinklers .com

The National Volunteer Fire Council adopted a resolution supporting a change to the International Residential Code to require fire sprinklers in new single-family homes (IRC Proposal RB64-07/08). The IRC is the model code governing residential construction in 46 states plus the District of Columbia.

The International Code Council will be holding a final action hearing on the IRC from Sept. 20-22 in Minneapolis to decide the matter. Firefighters can attend the hearing and vote on whether or not the proposed changes should be adopted.

“The importance of automatic fire sprinkler systems in protecting lives is well known to firefighters, and the fire service is committed to seeing residential sprinklers as a standard feature in new home construction to protect the citizens who we serve” said Ronny J. Coleman, President of the IRC Fire Sprinkler Coalition and former California State Fire Marshal. “We’re excited to have NVFC on board as an organization who supports the residential sprinkler initiative.”

With eight out of 10 civilian fire deaths and most fire-related line-of-duty deaths occurring in homes, it is clear that the NVFC and other fire service organizations need to emphasize the need for residential sprinklers. Smoke alarms are important and have gone a long way to reducing residential fire losses, but only fire sprinklers have the ability to automatically control or extinguish a fire while it’s still small. This is particularly important given firefighter safety concerns associated with today’s residential construction techniques, which are known to collapse quickly in a fire.

“By attending the IRC hearing, volunteer firefighters have the ability to support the residential sprinkler proposal and make a major contribution to saving lives,” said NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg. “The NVFC encourages volunteer firefighters to attend the hearing so that the voice of America’s volunteer firefighters will be heard when the votes are counted.” More information on how to participate in the ICC’s hearing and on a funding program that will offset travel expenses is currently available online at www.IRCFireSprinkler.org

Category: Fire Codes, News, Public Support | No Comments »

Residential Fire Sprinklers Good in Fire Protection

July 29th, 2008 by Residential Fire Sprinklers .com

By LORRAINE CARLI

The recent fire in Westminster reported to be caused by a flaming candle dramatically makes several key points that should be learning experiences for all of us concerned about the threat of fire to our homes.

First, as illustrated in this case, working smoke alarms save lives. The family was alerted to the fire and able safely to escape the blaze that severely damaged its home. Everyone should ensure that they have and maintain enough smoke alarms to provide an early warning to fires.

Second, you need water to put out fires. The 30,000-gallon cistern installed in this development provided firefighters with enough water to extinguish the fire when they arrived. However, there is another option that should be considered in new developments—– home residential sprinklers. Home residential sprinklers, growing in usage all across the country, can often extinguish a home fire before the firefighters arrive, significantly reducing the loss of life and property. In fact when sprinklers are present, the chances of dying in a fire are reduced by one-half to three-fourths and the average property loss per fire is cut by one-half to two-thirds, compared to fires where sprinklers are not present. Sprinklers typically reduce the chances of dying in a home fire by one-half to two-thirds in any kind of property where they are used.

Together with smoke alarms, sprinklers cut the risk of dying in a home fire 82 percent, relative to having neither.

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Fire Sprinklers Save Lives – Fire Loss Video

July 24th, 2008 by Residential Fire Sprinklers .com

The National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA), the longest-tenured fire sprinkler advocacy organization in the U.S., has released an emotional video, titled, “Empty Shoes, No Longer Filled with Dreams.” The 5-minute video, which premiered at NFSA’s recent Annual Seminar, highlights the tragic human toll of lives lost due to fire and the absence of fire sprinklers.

Created by Karen Alexander of the Tennessee Fire and Codes Academy with statistic additions by NFSA, “Empty Shoes” depicts the importance of fire sprinklers throughout the nation. The moving video shows empty shoes as a representation of the lives that were lost in fires where fire sprinklers were not in place.

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Fire Sprinklers Vital in Fire Safety

June 23rd, 2008 by Residential Fire Sprinklers .com

By Russell Sanders – Courier Journal

The No. 1 priority of government at all levels is public safety. Elected and appointed officials often talk about the importance of fire safety, but it’s nothing but rhetoric if they don’t participate in the development, adoption and enforcement of the model building and fire codes.
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These codes are written to provide a minimum level of safety. Too often, however, to appease special interest groups focused on saving money, fire and life-safety provisions are removed from these minimum codes. Last month, for example, there was an attempt to weaken the electrical code. Kentucky fire and electrical professionals showed up in Frankfort in mass to oppose the proposed changes, which would have made residents of our state more vulnerable to the risk of fire.

On Monday, state regulators are holding a hearing on the issue of whether local elected officials have the authority to adopt more stringent fire and life-safety provisions in their communities. Clearly the intent of the proposed new rules is to prevent communities from adopting life-saving ordinances, namely one- and two-family dwelling sprinkler ordinances like one recently adopted by the city of Indian Hills.

I first ran into this question of who has the authority in the early ’90s when I was Louisville’s fire chief. Back then, the issue was a local ordinance to require the retro-fitting of high-rise buildings with sprinklers. The ordinance was logical: Mayor Jerry Abramson and I had seen too many examples of tragedies that could have been either prevented or at least made less tragic — the MGM fire in Las Vegas, for instance, where 85 people died. It was just common sense that people who live and work in high rises here, along with the fire fighters who are called upon to respond to those fires, should have the protection sprinklers afford.

And yet state regulators objected. They claimed that the minimum building standards in Kentucky were also the maximum standards — a claim they now are making again. I saw no evidence in the law that this was true then, and I still see none. So we proceeded with our plan in Louisville, and all high-rise buildings are now fitted with sprinklers.

The focus of the current attempt to enforce what’s called “mini-maxi” regulations is the sprinkler requirement for new homes constructed in Indian Hills that was recently passed by the Indian Hills City Council. The idea is no more outrageous than sprinklers in high rises were in the early ’90s.

For example, 46 cities in the Chicago metropolitan area have a similar requirement. So do many cities and counties in Arizona, California, Georgia and Maryland, to name only a few. But state regulators are claiming that because the state building and residential codes don’t require sprinklers in new dwellings, local jurisdictions can’t either. What’s the logic of that?

Here’s what we know: Fires kill more people in the U.S. every year than all natural disasters combined. Eighty percent of all fire deaths occur in the home. The single most effective way to prevent fire-related deaths is the installation of residential fire sprinklers.

If installed during new home construction — as the Indian Hills ordinance would require — home fire sprinklers generally cost between 1 and 1.5 percent of the total building cost, which is about what a homebuyer would pay for an upgrade in carpeting. Residential sprinklers are small, and can be recessed into ceilings or walls. Some models are completely concealed.

I have been in involved in the fire service for more than 40 years, 29 with the city of Louisville and 13 with the National Fire Protection Association. I’ve seen countless deaths and horrific burn injuries that could have and should have been prevented.

Any fire professional will tell you that the most effective way to prevent these tragedies is sprinkler protection. The state should not stand in the way of progressive political leaders who put the health and safety of their citizens first.

Russell E. Sanders is a retired chief of the Louisville Fire Department. He is now manager of the National Fire Protection Association.

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Fire Sprinklers Worth the Small Cost

June 18th, 2008 by Residential Fire Sprinklers .com

By Dan Clawson

Home fire sprinkler systems save billions of dollars while saving lives of countless occupants and firefighters. Sprinklers typically cost one-half percent to 1 percent of a new home’s price, but more than pay for themselves in reduced insurance premiums and other savings. A September 2007 study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology concluded that “failing to install sprinkler systems in residential dwellings is no longer supported on economic grounds, at least from a homeowner’s perspective.” Residential sprinklers are being added to building codes around the country.

Yet on May 19, the City Council approved fire code standards proposed by the administration that exempt newly constructed single-family homes from sprinkler requirements. The reason is simple. Preventing such requirements is a top legislative priority for the Master Builders Association, as shown on its Web site. Sprinklers can cut into builders’ profits. The MBA regularly lobbies Renton elected officials, publicly and privately. This time it worked.

When developers’ profits are weighed against the safety and financial interests of Renton citizens, the welfare of the citizens must come first. The mayor and council should take a second look at the fire code and do the right thing for the people they represent.

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Wrightsville Beach, NC Fire Chief Continues to Promote Residential Fire Sprinklers

June 15th, 2008 by Residential Fire Sprinklers .com

by Jules Norwood – Lumina News

In 2006, the most recent year for which data is available, fires claimed the lives of 3,245 civilians in the United States, more than all natural disasters combined. Wrightsville Beach Fire Chief Frank Smith said that number is way too high, and one of the best ways to prevent fire deaths and damage is the use of residential sprinkler systems.

While an ordinance mandating the installation of sprinklers in new homes would require a legislation change at the state level and isn’t a likely possibility, Smith, along with a variety of fire protection agencies, is promoting the increased use of the systems through public awareness and lobbying.

“Locally, where we are is we want to make sure that we get good information out to the public and dispel some of the myths,” he said. “We want to get the facts out there so people can make good decisions, and we want to encourage these voluntary installations, because we’re absolutely convinced in the fire service that these things do what they’re supposed to do and save lives. The number of fire fatalities that we see in the United States is still entirely too high, and this is a real, viable means to reduce that number.”

One of the most common misconceptions, he said, is that all of the sprinkler heads will go off at the same time, flooding the home. In reality, each head is activated individually by heat, and 90 percent of fires in sprinkled homes are contained by the first sprinkler head, so the rest never go off.

Another misconception involves the cost of the systems. “One of our volunteer firefighters over on Harbor Island installed a system in a portion of his home when he was doing a renovation, and (cost) really was a non-issue,” Smith said.

In addition, fire service agencies are working to create a proposal to create a license that would allow plumbers to install residential sprinkler systems, so that the same plumber could install the domestic plumbing and the sprinkler system, simplifying the process and cutting the cost of installation even further.

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