Martin M. King, State Coordinator, National Fire Sprinkler Association – Wisconsin Chapter
(Appeared in the April 2019 issue of The Dispatcher)

As a representative of the National Fire Sprinkler Association, I’ve had manyopportunities to attend conferences and exhibit our material and resources.  Credit should be given to those who attend fire service conferences, seminars and training opportunities, taking that extra step to learn more about the different areas of the fire service. Education is never wasted. While not a replacement for experience, it helps prepare for the experience. Learning about others’ experiences helps increase the likelihood of more positive outcomes. Education also dispels fire service myths.

Vendor showcases provide the opportunity to see new equipment, vehicles and information that impacts the fire service. Vendors are able to show the latest technology the fire service uses to protect the community. The vehicles and equipment booths typically draw more traffic as visitors often want to learn more about improvements and evaluate products. Unfortunately, many skip other booths that are there to provide information about prevention and risk reduction. At a recent conference, a young firefighter stopped at my booth to look at information about fire sprinklers. I asked if he had any questions and he replied, “they work too good”. I didn’t want to let that comment stop our conversation so I thanked him for the compliment and discussed the fire timeline.

The fire timeline shows estimated fire growth according to model fires and when flashover occurs. It shows the importance of home fire sprinkler systems and their response times. The timeline, shown in minutes, also shows the steps for fire service response (detection of fire, report of fire, dispatch, response, set-up and fighting fire). The public (and some in the fire service) are typically not aware of how fast fire grows and becomes deadly, and how little time occupants have to safely escape. Too often, the fire service forgets that fire sprinklers protect responding firefighters as well, delaying or eliminating flashover, and making it safer for them to enter and extinguish the fire.

NFSA has adopted two slogans over the past couple years. One is fastest water, which NFSA uses to show that fire sprinklers respond early and put water on the fire in the shortest period of time. This greatly reduces the risk of injury or death for occupants and responding firefighters while decreasing fire damage. NFSA’s other slogan is Fire Sprinklers Buy Time, Time Buys Life, which touts the advantage of fire sprinklers providing protection to allow occupants to safely evacuate.

Benjamin Franklin, often referred to as the founding father of the fire service, created the first known fire company to extinguish fires and protect property. He later published many articles that focused on preventing fires leading to his famous phrase ‘An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure’ noting that preventing fires was easier than fighting them. We need to continue this age-old adage through education, engineering and enforcement (Ounce of Prevention) to reduce the need for the emergency response (Pound of Cure).

Installing fire sprinklers in new construction homes is like having a firefighter on duty 24 hours a day.  It helps reduce demand on the fire service.  Yet many elected officials fail to adopt national model codes that require fire sprinklers.

Fire sprinklers save lives, property, water, money, jobs, the environment and more. They make sure business patrons and employees are safe, keep the business running, and limit liability. For more information on how fire sprinklers save lives and property, please contact Marty King at [email protected]. Or, visit the Wisconsin Chapter of the National Fire Sprinkler Association at www.nfsawi.org; the National Fire Sprinkler Association at www.nfsa.org; or the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition at www.homefiresprinkler.org.