December 9, 2015 – Lynn, Massachusetts just experienced something that no town or community wants to experience, a fire in an apartment building without fire sprinklers. This fire leaves 4 citizens dead, and many with emotional scars that won’t heal anytime soon. This fire, like many before it, shows the need for current building and fire codes, especially automatic fire sprinklers.

Common Voices, an advocates’ coalition determined to create a Fire Safe America and support people impacted by the ravages of fire, believes this tragedy is an important reminder of the dangers of fire and how fast it can and does strike. Common Voices extends its support to the families of those lost in this tragic fire and to those who were rescued by firefighters.

“These events are preventable,” says Common Voices advocate Vina Drennan, from Jersey City, New Jersey. “Technology exists and current codes should be in place to make sure people don’t die and that they aren’t scarred for life physically and emotionally.” Drennan understands, she lost her husband, FDNY Captain John Drennan in a residential fire in 1994.

“Why do we have to have tragedy after tragedy when we know what can solve our fire problem? Fire sprinklers are needed today,” adds Ron Siarnicki, Executive Director of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. “Too many people are dying in Massachusetts because of fire. Let’s work to protect our most vulnerable citizens and firefighters alike.”

Descriptions of the fire made by residents who did escape underscore how scary and chaotic a fire scene is for those living through it. Descriptions of smoke too thick to see through, along with jammed exits all make real an event that everyone hopes they never experience. Flashover, where everything combustible in a room ignites, happens in three minutes or less. Fire sprinklers are the answer to preventing flashover. Each sprinkler is individually activated by heat, only the sprinkler closest to the fire goes off. So occupants have time to escape. This is especially important in

apartment housing and townhomes. According to the U.S. Fire Administration and the NFPA, older adults and people with disabilities are at higher risk of dying in a fire. Fire sprinklers are on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year…ready and waiting for a fire that they will control.

“Our hope is that this event will help Massachusetts policymakers understand the important role that codes play in keeping citizens safe,” says Vickie Pritchett, facilitator of the Common Voices coalition. “We encourage those involved in the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations & Standards to maintain fire sprinkler requirements currently in place and eventually include all new construction.”

2014 statistics show that 40 citizens and 2 firefighters died in fires in residential occupancies in Massachusetts. Our advocacy groups say enough is enough. 16 citizens and 2 firefighters died in 2014 in fires similar to this one. Take action and support your local and state fire service leaders, they know how best to protect us from fire.

Common Voices supports the educational resources available at the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and also National Fire Protection Association’s Residential Sprinkler Initiative (Massachusetts Fire Sprinkler Coalition). Partnering together we can make a difference—fire prevention works and fire sprinklers save lives!

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