Fire and Life Safety Educator Amanda Jones Jones and local fire department officials present Fifth Grader Sarah Graves with the first-place award for her fire safety calendar drawing about smoke alarms.

Fire Safety Education in Schools

Georgia Fire Sprinkler Association Reaches K-12 Students

Members of the Georgia Fire Sprinkler Association (GFSA) have long been involved in educating the public about fire safety. Past American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA) Chair of the Board Bob McCullough believed in education for those in and outside of the fire sprinkler industry. During his tenure at AFSA and GFSA, he created AFSA’s National Apprentice Competition, started a GFSA Essay Contest program for students to learn about the life- and property-saving benefits of automatic fire sprinkler systems, and encouraged members to partner with the state to sponsor a Fire Safety Calendar Contest. All three of these programs continue to this day.

 Fire Safety Calendar

Each year, the Office of Commissioner of Insurance and Safety Fire for the State of Georgia promotes an essay and fire safety calendar art contest for elementary grades based on the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Fire Prevention Week theme. Each month of the calendar has a fire safety theme, including one month dedicated to automatic fire sprinklers. Students in Kindergarten through third grade across the state are eligible to compete in the art contest, while students in sixth through twelfth grades can compete in an essay contest about fire safety.

“The artwork which best fits the overall topic is combined with a monthly fire safety theme and incorporated into our ‘Fire Safety Tips’ calendar, which is then distributed to every third-grade classroom in the state,” comments Fire and Life Safety Educator Amanda Jones. “Through research, we’ve learned that third grade is the optimal time to share the message of fire safety and get these children interested in a home escape plan and learning about staying safe from fire.”

Each August, Jones’ office sends out contest details to elementary schools so that the finished calendar and awards can be presented during Fire Prevention Week in October.

 “We give one calendar to each third-grade teacher in the state, and it becomes the classroom’s calendar for the year,” states Jones. “When teachers turn to each month, they teach their students that month’s fire safety tip.”

The winning fire sprinkler entry for the 2021 fire safety calendar contest was submitted by a fourth grader from Jefferson Academy.

Fire-safety education materials are also included in the center of each calendar that teachers can copy for each student in the classroom. First-place calendar and essay winners receive a $50 gift card and a gift bag full of goodies donated from insurance companies.  All other winners win a gift bag as well. This year, GFSA also included a burn demonstration at the elementary school that had the most winners for the calendar. 

“Awards are usually presented at a banquet, but because of the pandemic in 2020, we teamed up with local fire departments and GFSA to visit schools to present the awards. The fire officials who visited the school also gave a fire safety talk to students and showed off their equipment and fire truck,” says Jones. “We were pleased to learn that the students preferred this to a banquet, so we hope to continue with this format.”

In 2020, submissions were down due to the pandemic, but Jones’ office was pleased to have 24 schools submit entries. In years past, up to 80 schools have participated.

Jones is ramping up for the 2021 contest with NFPA’s Fire Prevention Week theme of “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety™.” Winning submissions from this fall’s contest will be published as the 2022 calendar.

“We’re so excited for this year’s contest!” states Jones. “We already handed out our materials and promoted the contest at the Georgia Fire Safety Symposium in June, so we are ready for a great year of fire safety education and reaching as many students as we can.”

These calendars are paid for through the support of GFSA, the Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation, the State Fire Marshal’s Office, and many others.

“We are very honored to support this project and the efforts of the State Fire Marshal,” comments GFSA Executive Director Bonnie Pinson. “We appreciate everyone who supports GFSA in our efforts to educate the public about fire sprinklers.”

One event that helps fund the contest is the 22nd Annual Bob McCullough Memorial Golf Tournament. This year’s event will be held on October 28 at the Chateau Elan Winery & Resort in Braselton. For more details and to register for this year’s event, visit georgiafiresprinkler.org.

GFSA Essay Contest

GFSA members have long sponsored an annual essay contest to educate high school seniors about fire sprinklers. The contest is open to seniors in Georgia who plan to further their education at a college/university or certified trade school in the United States. Home-schooled students may apply as long as their course of study is equivalent to that of a senior in high school. The essays are judged in the spring, with scholarships awarded in time for the fall semester.

The 2021 contest’s theme was “Fire Sprinklers & Fire Safety in HGTV Programming,” where students were asked to write a letter to HGTV in support of programming to promote residential fire sprinklers and fire safety. The contest was recently renamed the “Asa Tuten Memorial – GFSA Essay Contest” in honor of long-time member Asa Tuten of HRS Systems, Inc.

This year’s winners are First Place: Leah Grace Browning from Atkinson County High School ($1,500 scholarship); Second Place: Noah Jeffrey Fornuto from River Ridge High School ($1,000 scholarship); and Third Place: Hunter Alden Grout from North Oconee High School ($750 scholarship). Winning essays in their entirety will be posted online at SprinklerAge.com in the coming months.

“We greatly appreciate members of GFSA, the State Fire Marshal’s Office, and our industry who come together to read and judge these essays,” says Bobby McCullough, who administered the contest. “We couldn’t do it without their time and support.”

For 33 years, the contest has exposed thousands of high school seniors and their families to the life-safety and property-protection attributes of fire sprinklers. The success of the state essay contest prompted Bob McCullough, then AFSA Chair of the Board, to suggest a nationwide contest sponsored by AFSA national. With AFSA Board approval, the AFSA’s National Scholarship Essay Contest was created in February 1996. At that time, he wrote the following:

“…we plan to launch a National Sprinkler Essay Contest that will provide scholarship money to high school seniors as they prepare to enter college. We believe this essay contest will help boost public awareness of automatic sprinkler systems for the students, parents, teachers, and in many cases the fire officials they interview.”

He continued: “In Georgia, we have conducted this type of essay contest for the past eight years, and I know for a fact that the students who write sprinkler essays in high school will continue to write about sprinklers while in college. This is a massive public awareness project, and we will need the help of local chapters and other industry groups who are willing to help promote sprinkler education.”

McCullough was right. The GFSA and national contests have educated tens of thousands of people about fire sprinklers and helped students further their education goals. Both contests will be open for the 2021-2022 school year. Details on the national contest can be found at afsascholarship.org in September 2021, and the 2022 GFSA Essay Contest will be posted in January 2022. For more information about GFSA, visit georgiafiresprinkler.org.

First Place Essay

March 20, 2021

HGTV
500 W. Summit Hill Drive
Knoxville, Tennessee 37902

RE: Fire Sprinklers & Fire Safety in HGTV Programming

Dear Sir/Madam:

As one of the millions of longtime fans of your home renovation shows, I wanted to send a letter to voice my support of your programming. Being a fan and supporter, I also wanted to propose a possible new component or segment of your shows dealing with a very important topic.

I’m sure we all agree that fire safety in a home is a high priority in design and construction–even though the topic itself may not be very trendy or appealing on its own.

However, with a little creativity and programming work, I believe your wide platform and huge audience would be a great place to give fire safety a new “home of its own” to educate and inform millions of homeowners.

First, the numbers surrounding deaths in residential structures is staggering. The National Fire Protection Association found that 92% of all civilian structure fire deaths resulted from home structure fires. [1] In addition, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) determined that residence fires become deadly in as few as three minutes. [2] In addressing fire safety in the home, these types of numbers certainly would grab the attention of viewers and hold that attention to discuss solutions and preventive measures in a home.

This is where promoting the important and specific topic of home fire sprinklers can become an integral segment in home renovation and home improvement television programming.

The U.S. National Fire Protection Association says “sprinklers are so effective because they react so quickly. They reduce the risk of death or injury from a fire because they dramatically reduce heat, flames, and smoke, allowing people the time to evacuate a home.” [3] Furthermore, “fire sprinklers make up for human error, and they provide a lifesaving cushion for a time-consuming escape.” [4] The American Fire Sprinkler Association believes fire sprinklers could save thousands of lives and billions of dollars in fire losses each year. [5] With that powerful knowledge in hand, HGTV could become a major influence and source of fire safety education by including brief segments in its shows illustrating the importance and usefulness of home fire sprinkler systems. These brief segments could be included at the end of each show or interspersed after segments prior to commercial breaks. An important strategy would be dropping the information in the shows where people are focused on the overall finished product of the renovation or construction and actually absorb the fire safety components as an important part of that finished product.

Here are just few examples that come to mind:

  • Showing how in-home sprinkler systems can be almost “hidden” from view to counter any cosmetic or aesthetic arguments against them. Many sprinklers can be concealed or merged into the décor of the home without even being noticed. [6]
  • Feature video of installation of fire sprinkler systems in older homes that are being renovated to stress the importance that sprinkler systems aren’t just for modern homes or new construction.
  • Explain that home insurance premiums are being lowered in homes that contain fire sprinkler systems. [7]
  • Feature video showing how fire sprinklers work in reality as opposed to how Hollywood has led people to believe over the years (limited area of water, no sudden flood from the ceiling, triggered by specific heat and not just smoke, etc.)
  • Explain the cost effectiveness of a working home sprinkler system versus having only smoke detectors which may not work due to age, battery, etc.
  • Provide testimonials from actual homeowners who have had positive experiences with residential sprinkler systems; allow the viewers to put a human face and story with the data and material being presented.

I believe HGTV has a tremendous opportunity and the perfect platform to introduce this particular segment of fire safety into its programming along lines such as those outlined above, among others. Showcasing home fire sprinklers in your shows would serve as a steady (but subtle) reminder to viewers and homeowners to learn about the topic and hopefully take measures to protect their homes and families from the very real dangers of residential fires.

Thank you for your time in reading and considering my proposal concerning the importance of home fire sprinklers. I hope HGTV finds this information and potential programming worthwhile.

Sincerely,

Leah Grace Browning
Atkinson County High School
Pearson, GA

Bibliography

[1] https://homefiresprinkler.org/media-fact-sheets/

[2] https://www.cheneyinsurance.com/2019/04/02/extinguishing-myths-about-homefire-

sprinklers/

[3] https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Staying-safe/Safety-equipment/Home-firesprinklers/

Fire-Sprinkler-Initiative/Take-action/Free-downloads/How-sprinklers-work

[4] https://www.americaneaglefire.com/interior_fire_sprinklers

[5] https://www.firesprinkler.org/WWW/About/About_AFSA/WWW/About_AFSA.aspx

[6] https://www.radfiresprinklers.com/concealed-firesprinkler-heads/

[7] https://flsamerica.com/blog/sprinklers-lower-insurance-rates/

Second Place Essay

HGTV
500 West Summit Hill Drive
Knoxville, TN 37902

Attn: HGTV Producers of All Home Improvement Shows

Dear HGTV Producers:

In December of 2005, my Aunt and Uncle lost their home and just about everything they own, in an electrical fire. The fire department determined that a mouse chewing through an electrical line started a fire which ignited a nearby propane line. The fire was so hot and spread so quickly, that mostly everything in the house was destroyed. Our family is so incredibly thankful that no lives were lost and no one was injured in the fire, but like anyone who has lived through a fire would probably tell you, they run it through their heads and wonder if it could have been avoided somehow.

Many of the home renovation shows on HGTV are amazing in the way they transform old homes into incredible, new living spaces. The fabulous new kitchens, cabinetry, furniture, and smallest design details are appealing to anyone who wants to update their own home. The focus of these shows is all about aesthetics, but what about homeowner safety?

Have any of your shows ever discussed the importance of fire safety and the ways in which homeowners can make their homes not only beautiful, but safer after the renovations are complete? To date, I have yet to see an episode of any home improvement show where a sprinkler system was an important feature of the home renovation, in order to provide an upgrade for the safety of homeowners. I’d like to provide you with some facts (and dispel a few myths) that will hopefully educate you and maybe change your mind about featuring sprinklers in an upcoming show.

The National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) has reported that “When they’re present, people are 81% less likely to die in a home fire and property damage is reduced by about 70%.” [1] This information is a great example of how people are safer and homes are better protected with the addition of residential sprinkler systems. In order to learn more about fire sprinklers, I set up a meeting to consult with a fire safety specialist and a fire inspector in Cherokee County, GA where my family lives. During our meeting, the fire safety educators highlighted the importance of fire sprinklers in residential homes as being very beneficial because they actually reduce water damage, decrease insurance rates, and reduce the risk of losing your home or your life in the event of a house fire.

Through studies done by fire experts across the country in controlled experiments called “side by side” burns, experts have shown that the installation of an in-home fire sprinkler system can decrease the chance of damage to the home during a fire. A common misconception is that when a sprinkler head goes off, all sprinklers in the building are triggered causing massive water damage on top of smoke and fire damage. This is not the case for any sprinkler system. Only when a room reaches 155 degrees Fahrenheit is a sprinkler triggered in that one room, which can be manually turned off by the homeowner. [2]

That one sprinkler may have gotten a room of your house wet, but it is nowhere near the damage a fire hose can cause during a house fire. Fire trucks can emit 150 pounds per square inch through hoses [3], nowhere near the pressure of a sprinkler. That kind of pressure can quite literally cut through the wall of a house. The volume of water emitted from a sprinkler head pales in comparison to what comes out of a fire hose.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has stated that “when sprinklers were present, fires were kept to the room of origin 97 percent of the time.” [4] Containing a fire is one of the most important things firefighters keep in mind when trying to put out fires to minimize the damage caused to the property and ensure the safety of the residents. Sprinklers make up for the time needed for firefighters to reach a fire by containing it where it starts, potentially even putting it out. Firefighters can take action against a house fire, but their reaction time isn’t nearly as immediate as a sprinkler system. Sprinklers would go a long way towards helping make the job of the firefighter and other first responders easier.

Homeowners with sprinkler systems installed also benefit from less costly homeowners’ insurance because insurance companies know that sprinkler systems go above and beyond when protecting houses from potential fires. The National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) can support that homeowners can save up to “16% for Class A systems, and 10% for Class B systems” on their homeowners insurance each year by having in home sprinkler systems.” [5] With the insurance discount, residential sprinkler systems will eventually pay for themselves, making them a worthwhile investment. More specifically, adding sprinkler systems can add value to your home when you go to sell.

After all the research I’ve quoted here, I can safely say that my Aunt and Uncle’s home could have been spared if they had a fire sprinkler system installed. I also strongly believe that promoting the installation of fire sprinklers on some of your home improvement shows would educate your viewers on how to protect their homes and families from the devastation of fires. Even though installing sprinklers in a home at any time can be beneficial for the homeowner, it is much less costly to install them during the construction of a new home. Adding a sprinkler system to an existing house can be costly but the benefits of safety and protection of property greatly outweigh the costs.

I truly hope that as producers of some the wonderful home improvement shows on HGTV that are viewed by millions of people every day, that you will see the power you have in promoting the use of fire sprinklers in people’s homes, and by doing so create goodwill by increasing fire safety at the same time you are improving the beauty of people’s homes.

Sincerely,

A Student Concerned about Residential Fire Safety
Noah Jeffrey Fornuto
River Ridge High School
Woodstock, GA

Bibliography

  1. “The True Cost to Install a Residential Sprinkler System.” National Fire Sprinkler Association, 15 June 2020, nfsa.org/2020/09/15/the-true-cost-to-install-a-residentialsprinkler-system/.
  1. “How a Fire Sprinkler Works: Thermal Sensitivity.” QRFS, 14 Feb. 2013, www.qrfs.com/blog/10-how-a-fire-sprinkler-works-thermal-sensitivity/.
  2. Koerner, Brendan. “How High Can a Fire Hose Shoot?” Slate Magazine, Slate, 7 Dec. 2004, slate.com/news-and-politics/2004/12/how-high-can-a-fire-hose-shoot.html.
  3. “Home Fire Sprinklers.” NFPA, www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Staying-safe/Safetyequipment/Home-fire-sprinklers.
  4. “Fire Sprinklers and Homeowner Insurance.” NAHB, nahbclassic.org/generic.aspx?genericContentID=82243.

Third Place Essay

Dear HGTV,

Fire is one of the most frightening and powerful forces of nature. It is especially frightening when it invades your home. According to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), local fire departments responded to an estimated 1,291,500 fires across the US in 2019, resulting in 3,700 deaths, 16,400 injuries and $14.8 billion in property damage. [1] The overwhelming number of fire deaths were in the home. In 2020, Georgia had 90 civilian home fire deaths. This includes 9 children under 14, 8 disabled, and 28 seniors over the age of 65. [4] The young, disabled, and elderly are at greatest risk.

How can we reduce these tragic losses? The best way to reduce fire deaths, injuries, and casualty loss is prevention and education. Television networks reach a huge audience of homeowners or those that want to be homeowners. These homeowners can benefit from real life home fire safety tips. Fire prevention is too often overlooked in favor of decor and design. I am asking you to consider airing a series on fire prevention during one of your makeover shows.

You can highlight that our most vulnerable are at greatest risk. You would provide a public service through awareness of fire prevention and entertain and educate at the same time. For many people, their home and possessions are all they have. It is important to protect it from the danger of fire, and fire prevention saves lives.

We have all seen a home engulfed in flames on the news and wondered if everyone got out safely. We are glad it is not us. The best way to stop home fires is prevention. Fire prevention includes working smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, fire drills, and home fire sprinklers. [2]

Most of us are familiar with smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and fire drills. Few are familiar with the option of home fire sprinklers. I have watched several youtube videos, sponsored by local fire departments, demonstrating the effectiveness of residential sprinkler systems. Most had a similar theme of two rooms side by side with one sprinkler protected and the other not. Fires are started in each room to observe the results.[3]

An informative youtube video is a demonstration by the Warrensburg, Missouri fire department. [3] It is a dramatic and realistic visual demonstration of how quickly a fire can get out of control. The fire was started with paper and cardboard and within 3 minutes the unprotected room was engulfed in flames. The fire in the sprinkler protected room was extinguished. To witness the side by side results in real time was educational and chilling. It was disturbing to watch the room engulfed in flames and the fire chief say, “We’re still two and a half minutes from your house.”

Today’s fires burn hotter and faster. New homes and furnishings are made from composite materials containing petroleum based resins. Once ignited, these tend to burn quickly and at higher temperature. The smoke can be toxic and as deadly as the flames. A home fire can get out of control quickly. The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, a non-profit organization promoting fire safety through sprinkler systems, created a home fire timeline. [2] They estimate it takes 2-3 minutes to detect and report a fire and another 5-8 minutes for the firefighters to arrive. Within 3-5 minutes there is what is called flashover where the flames and toxic smoke intensify rapidly and no one survives. This shows how little time the occupants have to escape. Home fire sprinklers activate quickly giving occupants time to escape and greatly reducing property damage. [1]

Fire sprinklers activate when a fire is small. Only the sprinkler closest to the fire activates when the temperature reaches between 135 to 160 degrees. Sprinklers can only be set off by heat. The water used by fire sprinklers is estimated at 10% of the water the fire department uses to extinguish a fire. [2] This causes less property damage and is better for the environment.

The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition states that no other fire prevention strategy has as much documented life safety effectiveness as fire sprinklers. Home fire sprinklers are safe, efficient, and simple to maintain. Fire sprinklers use the household water main. Special pipes can be installed in areas where freezing occurs. Once installed, the only maintenance is making sure sprinkler heads are unobstructed and water lines are pressurized. Home fire sprinklers can be installed at a reasonable cost. A 2013 report from the Fire Protection Research Foundation estimates it costs $1.35 per square sprinkled foot to install. Some insurance companies offer 5% to 25% discounts on homeowner premiums which may offset the cost of installation. [4]

HGTV is known for innovative remodeling and makeover ideas. You entertain and educate a massive audience. You would be doing a public service by promoting fire prevention on your show. The National Fire Protection Association has sponsored Fire Safety Week since 1922.

This year’s Fire Prevention Week runs from October 3 to October 9, 2021. I would schedule an airing during this time to show your support. Fire safety is important and can be entertaining.

Please help save lives by using your forum to educate your audience on the importance of fire prevention. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Hunter Alden Grout
North Oconee High School
Bogart, GA

Bibliography:

(1) Ahrens, Marty. “Fire loss in the United States” National Fire Prevention Agency, 2016. https://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Data-research-and-tools/US-Fire-Problem/Fire-loss-in-the-United-States

(2) Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, Inc. “Home Fire Sprinkler Systems: Separating Fact from Fiction.” 2016, https://homefiresprinkler.org/media-fact-sheets/

(3) “Home Fire Sprinkler Demonstration.” Youtube, uploaded by City of Warrensburg Government, September 2013. https://youtu.be/zEKBwT2f0Zg

(4) United States, Congress, Fire Safety Statistics. “U.S. Fire Statistics.” July 2019. www.usfa.fema.gov/data/statistics/index.html.


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