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The Evolving Role of Associations: Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition

Where’s the fire? With HFSC, not anywhere near you or your customers.

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Headquarters: Quincy, Mass.
Website: https://homefiresprinkler.org
Number of active sites: 1
Key Services offered: Educational material about installed home fire sprinkler systems, how they work and why they provide affordable protection; free resources to support the installation of home fire sprinklers in single-family home new construction.
Mission statement: To inform the public about the life-saving value of home fire sprinkler protection.ext here

The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) was formed in 1996 in response to the tremendous need to inform the public about the life-saving value of home fire sprinkler protection. HFSC is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and the leading resource for independent, noncommercial information about home fire sprinklers. HFSC offers educational material with details about installed home fire sprinkler systems, how they work and why they provide affordable protection.

The Coalition also provides answers to common myths and misconceptions about fire sprinkler operation such as:

  • Smoke alarms prevent the need for fire sprinklers. (Nope. Smoke alarms can only detect smoke, not heat.)
  • If one goes off, they all go off. (Don’t believe what you see in the movies. They all act independently, with only the one closest to the fire going off intitially.)
  • Sprinklers will leak. (Wrong again. Home plumbing systems are more likely to act up.)
  • Water damage is worse than fire damage. (No. Property loss from a sprinklered home is a fraction of that from a fire.)
  • Sprinklers will freeze in winter. (Wrong. The national fire installation standard ensures proper installation in cold areas.)

HFSC also provides free resources to support the installation of home fire sprinklers in single-family home new construction. Home fire sprinklers protect occupants, firefighters, the community and the environment.

The Coalition’s Board of Directors includes members of elite fire protection groups nationwide, such as the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA), Canadian Automatic Sprinkler Association (CASA), FM Global, International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM), National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA), National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, State Farm Insurance, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and the U.S. Fire Administration/FEMA.

Trade-ups: better building, safety and sales

Developers and builders in Marietta, Ga., are benefiting from trade-ups by installing automatic fire sprinklers in entire developments. During the planning process, city managers and the fire marshal agreed that because all the homes in the developments would be protected with fire sprinklers, they could be built closer together and closer to the property lines, increasing the number of homes in each development.
Alden Spencer of Georgia-based Affordable Fire Protection says he has worked on these types of projects over the last few years with Torey Homes and Williamscraft Builders, and is preparing to start a new development working with McKenzie-Perry Homes. “It really has been a good experience for builders and homebuyers, because they get the benefits of the trade-up and can build safer homes for their customers,” Spencer says.

HFSC X-SideXSide-unprotected-burn 300Homebuyers seem to like the option, according to Janie Head, director of operations at Williamscraft Builders, which builds between 300 and 350 homes a year in the Atlanta area. Although the company has had a lot of success, sales professionals at her firm had some qualms at first, she admits. “We thought what would be detrimental would be the cost, but actual marketing experience proved otherwise,” Head says. “People feel real secure and it helps their insurance.”

Some builders are impressed by the safety factor as well, says Dennis Cressman of Home-Safe Fire Protection of Windsor, Ontario. One of Home-Safe’s earliest customers was a builder who decided on his own to install sprinklers in 168 homes “because he wanted to protect his customers.”

Protection can be a selling point, according to Brian Drake of Victaulic, a Canadian manufacturer. “It protects what they build,” he says. “It’s a unique life-safety feature not unlike upgrading with a security system.”

According to Gary Keith, former HFSC Chair, the logic of fire sprinkler trade-ups is simple. Each fire sprinkler is activated by heat, and each one can be very effective. Ninety percent of all home fires are contained by one sprinkler. Often, sprinklers extinguish the fire before the fire department arrives on the scene. As a result, there is less likelihood of a major fire requiring heavy firefighting equipment, which can affect the rules for street design.

“Fire sprinkler protection in all new construction is a win-win decision,” Keith says. “The community has additional fire protection without higher taxes or increased insurance rates. The developer can reduce land development costs. The builder can reduce construction costs. Most important, communities with fully sprinklered developments should see a decrease in fire death rates and property loss.”

Sprinklers make a huge difference in what can happen during a fire—as shown in these shots of what a home looks like before (left), after when sprinklers are used (center) and after when one is not (right). 

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Reprinted courtesy of HFSC.