IRMO — In the United States, an average of seven people a day die in house fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
South Carolina firefighters in partnership with the NFPA are working to prevent those deaths by educating the public on the many lifesaving benefits of residential fire sprinkler systems.
"Soon the South Carolina Building Code Council will decide whether or not to require home fire sprinklers in new homes by adopting this provision [fire sprinkler requirement by the International Building Codes Council] as part of its residential code," said Randy Safer, southern regional director of the NFPA, which includes South Carolina. "Policy makers should vote in favor of this provision. Home fire sprinklers provide numerous benefits to individuals ... none more important than the fact that they save lives."
"This is a minimum requirement to achieve a reasonable level of safety. Policy makers that choose to bypass this provision or leave it out of the codes are choosing to allow substandard housing to be built."
Firefighters from across the state joined other fire service agencies including the S.C. State Firefighters' Association and the South Carolina Sprinkler Coalition in launching the statewide initiative, “Faces of Fire."
The campaign will feature South Carolinians who, as a result of a fire, either lost a loved one or was injured and who survived fires uninjured and now have the system in their homes.
Princella Lee Bridges of Greenville was on hand Tuesday to share her story.
On March 23, 1992, Bridges suffered burns that covered 49 percent of body as a result of a house fire.
"Home sprinklers were not in my home," Bridges said. "As a result I was injured and suffered 49 percent burn surface areas on my face, upper torso and hands."
"I’ve spent $2 million in health care. That’s much cheaper than it would be if we would put home sprinklers in every home so that each family can be safe."
Read more stories from supporters of home sprinkler systems including Linda Chavis, of Lexington, who lost her son, Jeffery Vaden Chavis, a firefighter here.
During Tuesday's press conference, a live demonstration was performed showing the benefits of having a home sprinkler system.
Safer said home fire sprinklers are far more effective at saving lives and limiting damage by containing or even distinguishing the fire before the fire department arrives.
“Asserting that sprinklers are not necessary because there are smoke alarms is like saying seat belts work so well no one would want an airbag in a car," he said. "When today no one would consider buying a car without an airbag but every night we sleep at home where fire can quickly spread because safety features are inadequate."
"Sprinklers are the best tool to stop a fire in its track and protect your families."
Chief Bruce Kline, chair of the S.C. Fire Sprinkler Coalition and chief of Lady's Island-St. Helena Fire Department, said fire sprinklers should be installed all newly constructed homes and the coalition is urging legislators to adopt the International Building Codes Council's requirement of the fire protection feature.
"We need this code requirement," Kline said.
Firefighters say new design and construction can make the fire protection systems as easy to install as plumbing.
"This code is the only code that will pay for itself through insurance premium reductions."
Facts about fire
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 380,000 home structure fires per year during 2006-2010 causing $7.6 billion in direct damage and more than 2,7000 civilian fire deaths and a dozen firefighters were killed.
Ninety-two percent of all structure fire deaths resulted from one- or two-family home fires.
For more information, visit firesprinklerssc.org.