As fire professionals, we continually strive to improve the level of safety for our customers and fellow fire professionals. Fire professionals who have the task of suppression look for ways to improve the level of safety when they are called to fight a fire. This may range from improving firefighter safety through the use of the latest personal protection equipment, conducting pre-incident surveys of the occupancies in their districts and risking their lives for another. Those professionals assigned to fire prevention, look to improve safety to citizens and fire fighters through fire and life safety education, fire protection engineering, fire inspections, and code enforcement.
But we must ask, are we really making an impact? What can be done to actually improve firefighter safety, decrease fire deaths and improve the overall level of fire protection in the community which we serve?
Let us look at the big picture and link it to our community. Where are most of the people dying from fire? The answer is the same year after year. They are dying in their homes. According to the National Fire Protection Association, over 80% of fire deaths in this country continue to occur in residential occupancies. I think most would find this to be true in their community as well. Ok, so how does preventing fire deaths and injury in the home equate to improving fire fighter safety?
The solution has been available for over 20 years and is taking hold in many communities. The fact is it's now addressed in model building codes. The answer is residential sprinklers. Installing residential sprinklers greatly improve the chance of an occupant's surviving a fire in their home and increases firefighter safety. According to the Firefighter Life Safety Summit Initial Repot produced by FEMA in April of 2004, "Strengthen the advocacy for the enforcement of codes and the installation of home automatic sprinklers" is one of the sixteen recommended initiatives to reduce firefighter injuries and fatalities by 50% in ten years.
Unfortunately it generally takes local ordinances to mandate the installation of residential sprinklers. It was not until the 2006 edition of NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code