The most recent NFPA fire loss statistics report titled "Fire Loss in the United States During 2006" published in September 2007, stated "with home fire deaths still accounting for 2,580 fire deaths or 80% of all civilian deaths, fire safety initiatives targeted at the home remain the key to any reductions in the overall fire death toll." Similarly, the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) claims that "installing both smoke alarms and a fire sprinkler system reduces the risk of death in a fire home by 82 percent relative to having neither."
Eureka! We do indeed know what and where we should be focusing on, and how to reduce 80 percent of our fire fatalities and decrease our fire loss! As the saying goes, this should be just as easy as "shooting fish in a barrel" then, right? We see the target, we have the know how, and simple affordable life saving technologies, such as the smoke alarms and the residential fire sprinkler systems have been available for decades. But, while smoke alarms are now quite common in our households, and 96 percent of our homes have smoke detectors installed in them; residential fire sprinkler systems have been installed in only two percent of homes in our country.
Then the question is why? What are we waiting for? What is holding us back? Why don't we have residential fire sprinkler systems in all newly constructed homes? Really, why don't we put all our support behind installing such life saving technology in all our new houses nationwide?
Installation of the residential fire sprinkler systems in all of the new homes may not have an impact on the fire losses in the more than 100 million existing homes throughout the country. But, then it would definitely have a long-term positive impact on the more than one million new homes constructed around the country every single year. And if we don't address this problem now, these new homes of today will be where we will be fighting the fires of tomorrow, and where we will be collecting our future fire fatalities and loss statistics.
It is precisely from this angle, that we in the fire service must participate in full force and with all our might in the code development process established by the International Code Council (ICC), and take the long overdue historical measure to revise their 2009 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC), to require installation of residential fire sprinkler systems in all new homes.
Earlier this year, major national fire service leadership organizations put their full support behind the residential fire sprinkler efforts. In their resolution dated February 14, 2008, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) declared their support for requiring residential fire sprinklers in new one-two family dwellings and townhomes. The IAFC's Resolution stated:
Under the proactive leadership of the U.S. Fire Administrator Greg Cade, on March 28, 2008, USFA clearly stated their stance on this issue in their "USFA Position Paper - Residential Fire Sprinklers", and officially declared that: