Reducing the incidence and impact of fires is a fundamental element of our jobs. The best fires are the ones we don't respond to or that are held in an incipient stage by an engineered fire-protection system.
While some of the hazards we respond to are conventional and predictable, recent fires have shown that the products developed by the construction industry can have disastrous results when not properly installed, protected and understood.
As fire-service leaders, we must be involved with the experts who design codes to adapt to these changes in construction. Membership with the Fire and Life Safety Section, along with involvement in both the ICC and NFPA code-development processes, is a must for those members who make up our fire-prevention and community-risk reduction functions.
Regardless of construction methodology, the best way to positively affect life safety and property conservation continues to be properly designed fire-sprinkler systems. These same systems will also prevent firefighter injuries and fatalities by reducing the scale of any blaze that may occur.
A new report from NFPA says that in 2010-2014:
- Sprinklers were present in only 10% of reported structure fires.
- Most structure fires and fire deaths occurred in homes, but sprinklers were found in only 7% of all home fires.
- Sprinklers were most likely to be found in institutional occupancies, such as nursing homes, hospitals, prisons and jails.
- The death rate per 1,000 reported fires was 87% lower in properties with sprinklers than in properties with no automatic extinguishing systems (AES).
- The civilian injury rate was 27% lower and the firefighter fireground injury rate per 1,000 fires was 67% lower in sprinklered properties than in properties without AES.
We've come a long way with fire sprinklers and fire prevention, but we still have a long way to go. Fire is not an endangered species—more than 3,000 civilians still die each year in the U.S. alone. We must stay ahead of emerging construction technology to understand its impact on the communities we serve.
Fire Chief Thomas C. Jenkins V
President and Chairman of the Board