A Good Partner – And an Important Piece of the Fire Safety Puzzle

Nov. 1, 2004
The fire service has embraced automatic fire sprinklers as a key element in protecting the built environment from the ravages of fire. Installations have significantly increased in industrial occupancies, high-rise buildings, multi-unit housing, medical facilities, nursing homes, and other commercial and high-hazard occupancies. Some communities are adopting ordinances requiring automatic fire sprinklers in all new construction – except single-family dwellings.

This is interesting, because 80% of the people who die from fire each year in the United States die in homes – unsprinklered homes. I doubt that many would argue the importance of installing automatic fire sprinklers in the many types of occupancies I mentioned previously, but we also need to advocate for fire sprinklers in new homes. From this challenge emerges the mission of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC).

The coalition was formed in 1996 to inform consumers about the value of installing home fire sprinkler systems. It focuses on raising awareness and bringing together the builder community, the fire sprinkler community and the fire service to increase the number of fire sprinkler installations in homes.

The HFSC’s founding partners were the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA), the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA), and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The coalition has expanded to include other steering committee, associate and affiliate members. Together, the total HFSC membership includes more than 25 organizations. The coalition has developed a comprehensive public education kit with materials targeted to consumers, fire and life safety educators, and homebuilders. More information can be obtained at www.homefiresprinkler.org.

The HFSC’s mission is to provide accurate information to the public about the life-saving value of residential fire sprinkler protection, particularly in new construction of one- and two-family dwellings. A significant factor in the success of the coalition is its commitment to strategic planning. Past generations of its Strategic Plan have achieved important benchmarks and the 2003-2005 Strategic Plan identifies the following additional goals:

2. Develop and implement a campaign to build alliances with individual builders and with their membership associates.

3. Through the use of national media and other sources, increase the level of consumer awareness of the availability and effectiveness of home fire sprinklers.

4. Enhance the advocacy of the fire service and strengthen consistent fire service support for home fire sprinklers.

5. Participate in (or support) initiatives to overcome obstacles to home fire sprinkler installations.

The HFSC is committed to significantly increasing home fire sprinkler system installations. The question is, “Are we committed as a fire service?” There are several things that we could all do:

2. Tell others in the fire service about the HFSC.

3. If you are a publisher or write articles for fire service periodicals, reference the HFSC in your work or periodicals.

4. If you are a speaker at fire service conferences, mention the HFSC in your presentations and direct attendees to its website.

5. Join the HFSC.

6. Be an advocate for home fire sprinklers in every way you can.

7. Install an automatic fire sprinkler system in your own home so you can lead this effort “by example.”

It’s time to get on the home fire sprinkler band wagon if you haven’t done so. The U.S. Fire Administration has identified this issue as a priority for future years. This year’s Firefighter Life Safety Summit in Tampa, FL, identified increased installations of automatic fire sprinklers as a key initiative to reduce firefighter line-of-duty deaths.

By increasing our emphasis on combining working smoke alarms with home fire sprinkler systems, we can significantly improve fire and life safety over the long haul. We can someday protect people and property more effectively, and we can do so with fewer injuries and fatalities to firefighters. Let’s all do our part. Thank you for your commitment to this issue.

Dennis Compton, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a well-known speaker and the author of several books including the When In Doubt, Lead! series, Mental Aspects of Performance For Firefighters And Fire Officers, as well as many other articles and publications. He is also the co-editor of the current edition of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) reference book Managing Fire and Rescue Services. He serves as a national advocate and executive advisor for fire service and emergency management issues and organizations. Compton served as the fire chief in Mesa, AZ, for five years and as assistant fire chief in the Phoenix Fire Department, where he served for 27 years. He is past chair of the executive board of the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA), past chair of the Congressional Fire Services Institute’s National Advisory Committee, and serves on the board of directors for the Home Safety Council (HSC).

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