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Five Steps to Better Advocate for Home Fire Sprinklers

How to Better Promote This Technology and, in Essence, Your Business

I recently had some informal conversations with members of the fire sprinkler industry involved in residential installations. Their answers helped gauge their current level of fire sprinkler advocacy. While some admitted to promoting home fire sprinklers here and there, others admitted to having no involvement in advocacy or not knowing where to start.

Becoming a vocal ally supporting home fire sprinklers has its benefits; it raises awareness of a technology to a generally unaware public, which, in turn, aids your business by increasing sprinkler acceptance and use. If unsure how to perfect your pitch for sprinklers or where to begin, don’t fret. There are easy steps you can take to perfect your pitch.

The National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Fire Sprinkler Initiative is an entire campaign dedicated to increasing requirements for home fire sprinklers via advocacy efforts. Using the initiative’s resources, here are five ways you can take action today.

I. Understand the Problem Before you can promote the solution to America’s home fire problem, you must explain why the solution matters. Use NFPA’s extensive research reports underscoring, annually, the tragedies associated with home fires. Key point: each year, nearly 2,500 people die from home fires, and another 13,000 are injured. Obtaining local fire statistics over a 10- to 15-year period will better illuminate what’s happening in your area to the public and your local decision makers. Check the Fire Sprinkler Initiative website’s sprinkler coalition pages, many of which include this data. Also, get educated on the fire sprinkler laws, or lack thereof, in your state. • Fire sprinkler requirements: FireSprinklerInitiative.org/Legislation • Research reports: FireSprinklerInitiative.org/Research
• Sprinkler coalitions: FireSprinklerInitiative.org/Coalitions

II. Join the Good Fight You now can lend your expertise on fire sprinklers to a growing, grassroots movement. Thirty states (and one Canadian province) have developed state sprinkler coalitions. Coast to coast, these groups are in need of sprinkler installers and contractors with extensive knowledge of this technology to help promote the cause. Some coalitions are strictly educating the public on sprinkler effectiveness while others are championing for mandated fire sprinklers. If your state has a coalition, contact the coalition chair and see how you can get involved. If your state doesn’t have a coalition, contact NFPA. We can help you initiate one. (See coalition link above.)

III. Promote the Solution Home fire sprinklers reduce the risk of dying from fire by 80 percent, and reduce property loss by 70 percent. If you’re looking for resources promoting these astounding statistics, visit the Fire Sprinkler Initiative’s “Take Action” page. There, you’ll find infographics (which might be a nice component to your company’s website), fact sheets, and videos ideal for social media sharing. Our newest resource is a downloadable, advocacy toolkit featuring the Fire Sprinkler Initiative’s greatest hits. Additional, and more educational, resources are offered by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HomeFireSprinkler.org). Don’t forget to download its new home fire timeline which vividly portrays the speed of today’s home fires and rapid response of fire sprinklers.

• Advocacy tools: FireSprinklerInitiative.org/advocacy-tools

IV. Counter the Opposition In case you missed it, a 2016 story by the nonprofit news organization, ProPublica, illuminated the power of the homebuilding industry, one of the most powerful opponents against fire sprinkler requirements. The report states that this industry has spent more than $517 million in the last decade on state politics, and has been influential in thwarting sprinkler requirements in at least 25 states.

We might not be able to match these dollars, but we do have fire safety on our side. Anytime you hear or see a “sprinkler myth” being perpetuated in your region, use your voice and state the facts. Write a letter to the editor in response to an anti-sprinkler story or let the public know a home fire incident may have been prevented if fire sprinklers were present. If there is a “sprinkler save” in your region, highlight it. As one of our advocates eloquently wrote, “If fire sprinklers are important enough to make it into every model building code, why are fire sprinklers not important enough for Massachusetts homes?” Insert your own state into that sentence, and you’ve made a pretty compelling case for this technology.

V. Stay in the Know We are always creating new resources aimed at taking the guesswork out of fire sprinkler advocacy. Check the Fire Sprinkler Initiative’s site for these new additions. You’ll also read about sprinkler news making headlines and new tactics for advocacy. The more knowledgeable you are, the more effective you can be as an advocate. n

Rising Stars Sprinkler IndustryABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fred Durso, Jr., is communications manager for NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative. Follow him on Twitter @FredDursoJr. For ways to advocate for home fire sprinklers in your region, visit NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative website at FireSprinklerInitiative.org.

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