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

It’s a new year! Now is the time to review last year’s data to determine what needs improvement to reduce the risk of fire, injury, and death within your community. Fire prevention focuses on three aspects: education, Inspection, and enforcement.

Review your community outreach during the past year and determine whether or not the education prevented fire or injury. Determine whether your efforts addressed specific risks to the community or if your outreach was performed because you always did it. Examine the previous two years, and compare numbers to see if your efforts are working. For example, if you had a smoke alarm program, you saw a change in the number of homes protected by working smoke alarms. Or, if you went to a school to educate children, there were no injuries to children in your community’s home fires.

Education is not just focused on the public but it also is on your fire department personnel. A great place to start is to look at the quality of the reports. Does the report address the potential causes and show the big picture? Reports should include documentation: observations, owner/occupant/witness statements, fire protection activation, the extent of damage, sufficient damage estimate, insurance information, possible violations, and follow-up. Be sure your personnel understands the limitations of active and passive fire protection systems, and how to identify whether they activated. This includes smoke alarm sounding, fire sprinkler activation, and fire door closed.)

Did you meet your target for inspections? Determine if common violations could be prevented by focused education and personnel training. Make sure you’re inspecting all properties and collecting information for your database that could be used electronically in the future. Work with your municipality to assure codes are up-to-date and enforceable, and that you received all plans for new construction or alterations to buildings.

Finally, there is enforcement. We use education to promote change through understanding, but we must be able to have enforcement to push those that just do not want to comply. Enforcement should be timely (within 60 – 90 days.) If you use a stepped approach to enforcement, does the process need to be updated? Liability can be attached for failure to enforce state or municipal codes.

Fire sprinklers save lives, property, water, money, environment, jobs, and more. They keep business patrons and employees safe, keep the business running, and limits 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.