When Chief Mike Figolah signed on with the Mount Prospect Fire Department, he became a strong supporter of their NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes, ordinance passed in 2003, as well as the village’s requirements for sprinklers in all townhomes and low-level multifamily structures. A tear-down-and-rebuild community, Mount Prospect now has over 150 single-family homes protected with sprinklers.
As fire chief, Figolah regularly hosted Fire Prevention Week open house events. Each year, the "grand finale" included a live burn and sprinkler demonstration for large audiences that demonstrated the difference between sprinklered and unsprinklered fires in similarly furnished rooms. Figolah took the demonstration a step further by presenting the response timeline of firefighters, which allowed audiences to witness the time needed for firefighters to don fire gear and set up hose lines. As the fire in the unsprinklered structure raged on, sprinklers in the protected structure doused the flames. He is the model example of a sprinkler advocate effectively using educational materials produced by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.
As sprinkler advocates developed the Illinois Fire Sprinkler Coalition (IFSC), it became readily apparent that a spokesperson was needed to willingly speak as the IFSC voice without fear of retribution. Figolah became that voice. He was the spokesperson at IFSC press conferences that also featured live burn demonstrations. He assisted the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board by narrating a live burn demonstration for WGN’s “Morning News” show, which resulted in airtime throughout Chicagoland and the U.S.
Moreover, Figolah, the former president of the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance (IFSA), has weighed in on various pieces of state legislation, since he has the respect of elected officials and a keen ability to present the facts through research and reports.
Now the assistant chief at the Bartlett Fire Protection District, Chief Figolah continues to promote fire prevention. He believes in firefighter education and strongly supports the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives, especially #15: “Advocacy must be strengthened for the enforcement of codes and the installation of home fire sprinklers."
Figolah cares for the well-being and safety of both firefighters and citizens, and he believes advocacy starts at home, where his family is protected by a fire sprinkler system. For his efforts, IFSA recently awarded Figolah with its 2014 Life Safety Award for achieving a pattern of excellence in bringing life safety into the lives of others.
Figolah is a prime example of a sprinkler spokesperson who truly believes in the cause.
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.