Chief’s unwavering stance on home fire sprinklers leads to sprinkler ordinance


Por Fred Durso, Jr.

En 1999, Robert Gorvett, fire chief for the Village of Hoffman Estates in Illinois, proposed a residential fire sprinkler ordinance. Hoffman Estates was to be the largest municipality in Illinois at the time to require fire sprinklers in homes. It was no ordinary effort due to the village’s vast acreage for new subdivisionsa true Midwest “cornfield” community that would set a precedent for many of the 90-plus Illinois municipalities that now have residential fire sprinkler ordinances.

Although Chief Gorvett had the backing of his fire marshal, Hank Clemmensen, there was much external opposition. Original attempts to enact an ordinance garnered opposition from homebuilder associations and real estate groups. Political pressure from the village also came about, and Gorvett was threatened with not being made permanent fire chief if he did not drop the issue. But Gorvett did not fold under the pressure. Instead, he proposed a creative compromise that would slowly evolve into an ordinance that fully complies with NFPA 13D, Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One- and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes.

Chief Gorvett had to start from scratch, educating many fire service members, citizens, and government officials with fire sprinkler demonstration trailers, side-by-side burn demonstrations, and retrofit demonstration projects. Gorvett and the fire department provided NFPA reports and statistics supporting home fire sprinklers, as well as educational materials from the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC).

The compromised ordinance required fire sprinklers near all heat-producing devices (such as furnaces, ovens, fireplaces, etc.) in a home. Sin embargo, if those devices were not walled off from other rooms, fire sprinklers would be additionally required into those adjoining rooms where fire could potentially spread. In the end, when all heat-producing devices and the areas around the heat-producing devices were sprinklered, it essentially meant most of a home was sprinklered.

After some high-profile fires in the village in 2002, it was finally conceded to sprinkler the entire home. Another reason for the full ordinance was that partially sprinklered homes were not being recognized by insurance companies for fire insurance discounts. The systems had no engineered guidelines to meet.

After the full ordinance finally passed, Chief Gorvett helped the fire department develop a homeowner educational packet. (The packet was a prelude to HFSC’s free “Living with Sprinklers” kit.) Gorvett also had the fire department work with the local high school to offer a hands-on trade shop class and open house event to further educate the public and teenagers on sprinklers. He also hosted a fire sprinkler summit in 2005 with a side-by-side demonstration for the public and continues to take advantage of fire sprinkler trailers for live fire/sprinkler demonstrations.

The fire service still backs the ordinance. The Fire Prevention Bureau still continues to work with fire sprinkler contractors and homebuilders to ensure quality installations and offer educational materials for homeowners. A major effort is made to maintain close relations with homebuilders and fire sprinkler contractors.

More than 2,600 homes there are now protected with NFPA 13D systems. Thanks to Chief Gorvett for his leadership and convictions, and for setting an example for other large, fast-growing suburbs.

This post was written by Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting legislation, raising public awareness, and educating code officials and government policymakers on home fire sprinklers. Lia regularly offers his perspective on sprinkler activities taking place in his state and elsewhere.

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Fuente:: NFPA – Fire Sprinkler Initiative

Michael S. Williams

Michael S. Williams

Williams fundó el Instituto de Formación de Servicios de Bomberos en 1995 para encontrar soluciones a los desafíos que enfrenta el servicio de bomberos voluntarios. Él ha sido un miembro activo de la Asociación de Bomberos del Estado de California (SCAF) desde 1994, habiendo sido miembro de los comités de voluntarios y de relaciones públicas, y como subdirector división del sur. Se sienta en varias organizaciones locales, incluyendo el Consejo de Protección de Bomberos del Condado de Santa Barbara, los Tres Condados de Responsables de Capacitación de la Asociación, De Santa Barbara capítulo de CAER y es miembro fundador del grupo de Santa Bárbara PIO Emergencia Información Pública Comunicaciones (ÉPICO). Ha sido el autor de muchos artículos y columnista de un periódico local en materia de seguridad pública. Él es también el co-anfitrión de alerta comunitaria sobre KZSB AM-1290 en Santa Bárbara. Williams ha sido miembro de la Junta de Servicios de Bomberos del Estado de California desde 2008. Antes de involucrarse en el servicio de bomberos voluntarios, Williams era un oficial de policía de California para 12 ½ años y un Oficial de Entrenamiento de Campo Correo Certificado. Él es un investigador privado con licencia y consultor de seguridad especializada en auto asegurado, asignaciones de defensa del gobierno y de seguros.

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