The NFPA report, "U.S. Experience With Fire Sprinklers,” notes that these systems “operated in 91 percent of all reported structure fires large enough to activate sprinklers.” However, if a fire sprinkler controls or puts out a fire, it’s often a story that does not make headlines. The general public and municipal officials never really hear about successful fire sprinkler activations. Unfortunately, that means that when it is time to review code considerations that require fire sprinklers, many times the initiative fails because the public and local decision makers typically do not know the value or impact that fire sprinklers have in saving property, lives, sales tax revenues, and jobs.
Countering that potential situation, the Pleasantview, Illinois, Fire Protection District’s Chief John Buckley and Fire Marshal Joe Lyons, along with Cybor Fire Protection, keep an active record of successful activations using a “tree” (see the photo above) that displays every fire sprinkler save within the fire district. With each fire that is controlled or extinguished by a fire sprinkler, the fire district installs a small branchline to the main riser (or “trunk”) and installs the used sprinkler head on it with a photo of the building and the estimated dollar amount of the saved contents. There are currently more than 50 successful activations on the "saves" tree. Several other departments in the area have also created their own trees. Visitors are able to see a visual representation of the benefits of home fire sprinkers. The impact on the community is a real one that affects everyone in some way or another.
Another important component to sprinkler education is garnering media attention about sprinkler saves. The Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board recently assisted the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) with a series of 26 burn demonstrations for a satellite media tour with HFSC spokesperson Ron Hazelton. He hosted 23 live and recorded segments for television stations across the U.S., discussing the dangers of lightweight construction and the need for home fire sprinklers. During the demonstrations, the systems worked as planned and put out the fires.
Help educate your municipal officials on how fire sprinklers positively impact your community — plant a successful activation tree today!
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.