Illinois Fire Departments Reach Beyond “Fire Prevention Week” With Year-Round Home Fire Sprinkler Education & Demonstrations

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Fire Prevention Week may be over, but nonprofit Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board says Illinois fire service members continue educating tens of thousands of people about the benefits of fire sprinklers in homes.

Fire Prevention Week is a great annual platform to promote residential fire sprinklers and explain the lifesaving benefits they provide to homeowners, but fire departments in Illinois understand that home fire sprinkler education needs to be ongoing.

Illinois fire departments have been busy the last couple of months hosting open houses and community events to make the public more aware about fire safety, and more specifically, home fire sprinklers, culminating with national Fire Prevention Week (FPW) from October 9-15. However, those who missed the FPW residential fire sprinkler demonstrations, which display the tremendous speed of fire and the quick response of home fire sprinkler protection, are likely able to see these demonstrations year-round. According to the nonprofit Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, nearly 50 demonstrations have been held this year alone.

Tom Lia, executive director for the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, explains that the Illinois fire service is committed to home fire sprinkler education throughout the year, not just FPW. Instead of reaching out to thousands of community members only during FPW, Illinois fire departments more likely reach tens of thousands through their continual educational outreach.

“Every year during Fire Prevention Week, fire safety and prevention messages are prevalent in schools and media across the nation, but fire sprinkler education does not begin or end with Fire Prevention Week,” says Lia. “Fire Prevention Week is a great annual platform to promote residential fire sprinklers and explain the lifesaving benefits they provide to homeowners, but fire departments in Illinois understand that home fire sprinkler education needs to be ongoing.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association, eight out of every 10 fire deaths occur in the home. In an effort to lower that statistic in their communities, 74 municipalities and fire protection districts in Illinois have local ordinances that require home fire sprinklers, however, many homeowners, both in Illinois and nationwide, are still unaware that fire sprinklers are available for homes and are unsure of how they operate. Their image of fire sprinklers is typically generated by Hollywood movies, which incorrectly portray fire sprinklers and create myths such as that all fire sprinklers activate at once.

To dispel these myths, explain how home fire sprinklers work, and demonstrate the lifesaving benefits fire sprinklers provide, Illinois fire departments’ outreach includes side-by-side and fire sprinkler trailer demonstrations.

Side-by-side demonstrations have been said to be the most dramatic and effective way to show large crowds how home fire sprinklers operate. A side-by-side demonstration consists of two 8x8x8-foot constructed cubes that are furnished to appear as similar rooms in a home with the only difference being that one is protected with a fire sprinkler and the other is not. Viewers can see in real time how quickly a fire can turn to flashover, the temperature at which everything in the room ignites, in the unsprinklered room. In the sprinklered room, they are able to see how quickly the fire sprinkler activates in response to the heat from the fire and the effectiveness of the sprinkler in controlling or extinguishing the fire.

The Illinois Fire Inspectors Association, Northern Illinois Fire Inspectors Association, Gurnee Fire Department, and Mokena Fire Protection District offer use of their fire sprinkler demonstration trailers to local fire departments. Fire sprinkler demonstrations trailers are also effective in showing how a single fire sprinkler in a room activates due to the heat from a fire.

Personnel from NIFSAB offer assistance to many of the fire departments in preparation for their events. Lia, who has helped conduct well over 300 side-by-side demonstrations as well as many fire sprinkler trailer demonstrations over the years, praises the fire departments for their fire sprinkler education and outreach efforts.

“Illinois is consistently a top state for fire sprinkler demonstrations and education during Fire Prevention Week, however, it doesn’t end there,” adds Lia. “Our State’s fire service recognizes the importance of providing home fire sprinkler messages year-round. That’s what makes the Illinois fire service stand out the most.”

In 2011, side-by-side demonstrations have been conducted at the following:
Addison Fire Protection District
Alsip Fire Department
Bartlett FPD
Berwyn FD
Channahon FPD
Clarendon Hills FD
Darien-Woodridge FPD
Deerfield-Bannockburn FPD
Downers Grove FD
East Moline FD
Fire Sprinkler Fitters Local #281
Grayslake FPD
Gurnee FD
Harper College
Hinsdale Fire Department
Huntley FPD
Illinois Fire Inspectors Association
Itasca FPD
La Grange Park FD
Lake Bluff FD
Lake County Fair
Lake County Fire Safety Expo
Lake Forest FD
Lockport Township FPD
Long Grove FPD
Lyons FD
Manteno Community FPD
Merrionette Park FD
Mount Prospect FD
Mundelein FD
Moraine Valley Community College    
New Lenox FPD
Newport FPD
North Maine FPD
Orland FPD
Palatine FD
Palatine Rural FPD
Peotone FPD
Pleasantview FPD
Port Byron FD
Romeoville FD    
Schaumburg FD
Tinley Park FD    
Warrenville FPD
Wauconda FPD
Westchester FD

Fire sprinkler demonstration trailers have been used at the following:
Alsip FD
Batavia FD
Bloomington FD
Bolingbrook FD
Boone County FPD
Bristol-Kendall FPD
Countryside FPD
Hoffman Estates FD
Illinois Association of Fire Protection Districts
Lake County Fair
Lake Zurich FD
Mount Morris FPD
Orland FPD
Oswego FPD
Palatine Rural FPD
Peoria FD
River Forest FD
Roselle FD
Round Lake FPD
University of Illinois
Western Springs FD

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The Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting progressive legislation, raising public awareness, and educating code officials and governmental policy makers by demonstrating the proven performance of fire sprinklers in saving both lives and property.

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Erik Hoffer
Peg Paul & Associates
815-464-8001
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