The Village of Riverdale, Illinois, recently became one of nearly 100 fire-safe communities in Illinois where fire sprinklers are required in new, single-family homes. Along with Blue Island, which passed a home fire sprinkler requirement in 2012, Riverdale is among the first communities in Chicago’s inner ring of southern suburbs to recognize the importance of protecting residents in their homes.
Mayor Lawrence Jackson is dedicated to the safety of the people he serves and trusts the expertise of the code development process and fire officials. “Having updated codes protects the residents, and up-to-date code enforcement is one of the priorities of my administration in order to maintain a safe community,” states Jackson.
Upon Jackson taking office in 2013, he was approached by Fire Chief Robert Scharnhorst about adopting a home fire sprinkler requirement. Although he was not familiar with home fire sprinklers at the time, Jackson got educated on the subject by Scharnhorst during the village board’s building code renewal process. Scharnhorst also helped to educate the community at large with educational documents and presentations.
“We all have a responsibility to become educated about fire safety. Fortunately for Riverdale, our fire chief is very proactive in addressing any problems,” says Jackson. “My fire chief’s passion for community safety and his diligence in making sure we have effective building and fire codes led me to endorse his initiatives,” Jackson says.
The ordinance passed with a unanimous 6-0 affirmative vote.
“I think as more people become educated about home fire sprinklers, you will continue to see more municipalities adopt codes and ordinances,” adds Jackson.
The first family to benefit from the new sprinkler requirement recently lost their home in a house fire. The rebuild permit includes a sprinkler system designed in accordance with NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes. In order to assist the family and to help educate the village’s department leaders, inspection staff, elected officials, and residents, the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB) is coordinating a donation of the fire sprinkler system.
An educational open house will occur before the installation of the home’s drywall and will include a sprinkler show and tell, curbside fire sprinkler trailer demonstration, and presentation of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition’s “Living with Sprinklers” kit to the family.
Further recognizing Mayor Jackson and the village board, NIFSAB is placing an educational advertisement in the Illinois Municipal Review to promote the village’s achievement in adopting sprinkler requirements.
One by one, we hope to continue moving communities forward with code adoptions while also supporting elected officials like Mayor Jackson, who support their fire officials over anti-sprinkler misinformation and choose to provide safer communities for their residents.
This post was written by Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting legislation, raising public awareness, and educating code officials and government policymakers on home fire sprinklers. Lia regularly offers his perspective on sprinkler activities taking place in his state and elsewhere.