20150622_132341 In 2013, former National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) Regional Manager Bob Kleinheinz and Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB) Executive Director Tom Lia joined together with Bob Tinucci, then-chief of the Roselle Fire Department, to establish the Illinois Fire Sprinkler Coalition (IFSC). The group expanded the informal work that previously was being done to pass an Illinois Fire Services Association (IFSA) resolution in support of residential fire sprinklers. The IFSA comprises 13 fire-related groups as well as the sponsoring agency, the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association (IFCA). The first meeting of the new IFSC drew representatives from these groups, with diverse attendance including the firefighters union, volunteer firefighters, fire districts and fire chiefs. While it had a promising beginning, the IFSC was in the very early stages of organization when the then-Illinois State Fire Marshal initiated an unexpected attempt to update a complete model code statewide, NFPA 101: Life Safety Code. It resulted in a major shift in work and outreach. The IFSC had only met once prior, with the second meeting necessarily focused on the statewide effort to upgrade the code. While the code update was unsuccessful, it prepared the IFSC for things to come. In 2014, the IFSC managed to stop a major effort to ban fire sprinklers in any new state code. Even though there were media blitzes and town hall meetings set up by fire sprinkler opponents, the subcommittee vote was held and the ban process was stopped, making it possible to continue to pass codes on a town-by-town, fire-district-by-fire-district basis as had been the fire service’s main focus for over a decade. Illinois Fire & Building Officials Day [caption id="attachment_4309" align="alignright" width="251"]20150622_093804 Newly appointed State Fire Marshal Matthew Perez speaks about the importance of home fire sprinkler protection.[/caption] With that behind and a new State Fire Marshal now appointed, the IFSC recently regrouped. To formally relaunch its activities and renew supporter interest, the IFSC brought more than 120 Illinois fire and building officials together during the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Conference & Expo held in Chicago in June 2015. The theme for the renewal of IFSC efforts was education. Priorities are education for the base firefighter, fire department, fire district and fire and building associations. Education is the necessary first step prior to opening up IFSC activities to other stakeholders. [caption id="attachment_4305" align="alignright" width="250"]20150622_073834 20150622_083648 20150622_084523TOP: Russ Sanders discusses NFPA resources for home fire sprinkler education. CENTER: NFSA’s Jason Webb discusses inspection, testing and maintenance of fire sprinkler systems. BOTTOM: Attorney Linda Pieczynski discusses liability for inspection, testing and maintenance.[/caption] NFPA Midwest Director Russ Sanders provided an update on all of NFPA’s programs and the varied support that is available. Due to considerable interest in maintenance issues on systems in Illinois, the meeting initially emphasized NFPA 25 and other inspection, testing and maintenance (ITM) codes and standards. Jason Webb, director of ITM for NFSA, gave a detailed review of the need for regular testing as required in NFPA 25, and how to accomplish it. Attorney Linda Pieczynski offered an overview of the legal requirements, authority and liability of fire officials and building owners with regard to ITM compliance. The meeting shifted to a focus on residential fire sprinkler activities following a presentation by NFPA President Jim Pauley of a $10,000 Bringing Safety Home Grant to the IFSC. It was one of 16 grants awarded by NFPA to fund fire sprinkler advocacy campaigns in various states. The grant will fund a grassroots education program to educate the state’s elected officials by utilizing existing Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) and NFPA materials. The generous award will help the IFSC educate the new state Representatives and Senators who have recently come into office; more than 47 percent of Illinois officials are newly elected since the last model code vote. [caption id="attachment_4308" align="alignright" width="251"]Members of the Illinois Fire Sprinkler Coalition receive a "Bringing Safety Home Grant" from NFPA President Jim Pauley (left of check). 20150622_094623 TOP: Members of the Illinois Fire Sprinkler Coalition receive a “Bringing Safety Home Grant” from NFPA President Jim Pauley (left of check). BOTTOM: Illinois jurisdictions that passed home fire sprinkler ordinances were recognized.[/caption] Recognition awards were given to officials of Illinois jurisdictions that have instituted home fire sprinkler ordinances since Illinois’ last residential fire sprinkler summit, including Addison, Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District, Brookfield, Elmwood Park, Evanston, Hazel Crest, Niles, Riverdale, Roselle, Westchester and Westmont. NIFSAB’s Tom Lia followed with a list of back-to-basics education programs for firefighter, homeowners and elected officials, with a particular focus on Firefighter Life Safety Initiative #15 and the need for fire sprinkler emphasis in fire departments’ interactions with the media following fires. [caption id="attachment_4312" align="alignright" width="251"]20150622_101005 20150622_105531 20150622_095506TOP: NIFSAB’s Tom Lia speaks about how fire sprinklers protect firefighters. CENTER: HFSC’s Peg Paul showed an educational home fire sprinkler video. BOTTOM: Vickie Pritchett talks about the advocates of Common Voices.[/caption] Peg Paul, communications manager for HFSC, gave a presentation on home fire sprinkler outreach and encouraged participants to utilize HFSC’s website and its free education materials, many of which were underwritten by past FEMA federal Fire Prevention & Safety grants. HFSC’s materials were created specifically to address the needs of firefighters, homebuilders, real estate agents, elected officials, homeowners and other interested parties. Vickie Pritchett, NFSA director of public education, updated participants on recent activities of Common Voices, an advocates’ coalition which uses fire and burn testimonial stories from those personally affected by fire to educate the public about the impact of fire. NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative communications manager Fred Durso provided an overview of the Fire Sprinkler Initiative, why it was developed, how it can help local sprinkler advocates, and how to receive regular updates and information on Initiative activities beyond visits to the website. NFPA’s western regional sprinkler representative Jeff Hudson, who serves as Illinois’ Fire Sprinkler Initiative representative, noted there are now 25 state coalitions and he discussed his role in supporting them, including Illinois, as a facilitator, administrator, coordinator, and scheduler — basically doing all of the groundwork necessary to take the operational burden off of the proponents and stakeholders. [caption id="attachment_4313" align="alignright" width="250"]20150622_102953 20150622_11293420150622_113909 TOP: Fred Durso discusses the resources available through the NFPA Fire Sprinkler Initiative. CENTER: Jeff Hudson talks about the development of state fire sprinkler coalitions. BOTTOM: Tim Sashko embraces the Illinois Fire sprinkler Coalition on behalf of the Illinois fire service.[/caption] IFCA Executive Director Tim Sashko advised that the IFSA will take up the issue of residential fire sprinkler requirements and requested representation from the 13 member organizations during the IFSA’s summer meeting. The meeting concluded with participants in agreement that the renewal was a valuable kick-start to the growth and development of a new, stronger, more representative residential-focused Illinois Fire Sprinkler Coalition that will help lead Illinois into a fire-safe future.  ]]>