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Powerful op-ed on child fire deaths also makes a poignant plea for sprinklers

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By Fred Durso, Jr.

Pam Elliott, before and after a house fire that burned her when she was five years old (Photos: courtesy of Common Voices)

To curb the more than 200 annual deaths of children killed in car backup incidents, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will be requiring all light vehicles to have “rear view visibility systems,” according to a recent USA Today article. What had prompted the mandatory installation of these cameras, states the story, was “outcry” from consumer groups and families impacted by these tragedies.

While lauding the new requirement, burn survivor Pam Elliott is frustrated by the slow process and pushback against a similar–and proven–safety measure in homes, where children under 14 account for 15 percent of fire deaths, per NFPA’s “Home Structure Fires” report. Moreover, children under five have historically faced a higher risk of fire death than the overall population. “What makes me angry is that the technology to prevent these deaths and injuries exist–they’re called fire sprinklers,” states an op-ed by Elliott, a member of the newly formed North Carolina Fire Sprinkler Coalition and Common Voices, a network of fire safety advocates. Elliott was burned in a house fire when she was five years old. “The technology exists.”

Elliott also uses her op-ed to make a plea for fire prevention. “I only hope that comparing these statistics will somehow motivate fellow safety advocates and the fire service to take action,” she states. “We need to stand united in the message that fire sprinklers save the lives of both citizens and firefighters.”

Read Elliott’s full op-ed.

Source:: NFPA – Fire Sprinkler Initiative

Michael S. Williams

Michael S. Williams

Williams founded the Fire Services Training Institute in 1995 to find solutions to the challenges confronting the volunteer fire service. He has been an active member of California State Firefighters Association (CSFA) since 1994, having served on the volunteer and public relations committees, and as a southern division deputy director. He sits on several local organizations including the Santa Barbara County Fire Safe Council, the Tri-Counties Training Officers Association, Santa Barbara Chapter of CAER and is a founding member of the Santa Barbara PIO group Emergency Public Information Communicators (EPIC). He has been the author of many articles and a columnist for a local newspaper on public safety matters. He is also the co-host of Community Alert on KZSB AM-1290 in Santa Barbara. Williams has been a member of the California State Board of Fire Services since 2008. Prior to becoming involved in the volunteer fire service, Williams was a California police officer for 12 ½ years and a POST certified Field Training Officer. He is a licensed private investigator and security consultant specializing in self-insured, government and insurance defense assignments.


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