December 31, 2010 –

By Vickie Pritchett

I will never forget Vina sharing this idea with me…the idea being to make us think about how simple it is to install fire sprinklers and the tongue in cheek reference to allowing firefighters be “like firefighters in your home that work 24/7, 365 days a year.” Vina is a different kind of advocate—she has worked tirelessly to raise awareness about firefighter safety and LODD issues since her husbands’ death in 1994. She is always willing to go out on a limb and be innovative with concepts of how to raise awareness regarding our nation’s fire problem.

There is a twinkle in her eye when she envisions the “beautiful lady” who is proud to sleep with a firefighter, the college student who points to the firefighter who her parents told her to sleep with, and the elderly gentleman who joins in to remind listeners that he too knows who is like a firefighter in his assisted living facility.

The main point to remember is that Vina’s goal is to make you think, and to get you talking….about fire sprinklers. Her somber reminder about losing her husband brings us all to realize the important role that firefighter safety has on our nation’s fire service. Make the connection between fire sprinklers and the Everyone Goes Home Initiatives…pay special attention to Life Safety Initiative #15. Lives can be saved if we work to connect the dots and educate firefighters and citizens alike.

Donna Henson ~ “Air bags and Fire Sprinklers” 

The raw emotion of a mother who has lost her son really makes you stop and think. The comparison between air bags in automobiles and fire sprinklers in homes is one that works. Many people even make the comparison that smoke alarms are the seat belt. The main point being that once technology is proven that can save lives…our nation has set precedence in incorporating this into our codes and manufacturing  requirements.

Justina Page ~ “An Empty Swing Seat” 

Justina is able to take us into her single family home….we can feel her anguish in realizing that her children are in danger as she herself is suffering burns…and her realization that there is a child lost. We can feel her pain as she gazes out the window to watch other children playing, and asks the questions that parents ask.

Her direct plea to the viewer to install fire sprinklers….and her genuine account of “if I had only known…” makes the issue and solution obvious and simple.

Amy Acton ~ “The Club No One Wants To Join” 

As Executive Director of The Phoenix Society and a burn survivor herself, Amy hits home with the message that fire does not discriminate. “It happens to the rich, it happens to the poor, it could happen to you.”  Sharing photos from World Burn Congress, she shares with us the burn injury part of our fire problem equation. Many times we focus only on those who die, forgetting the impact to society and to the survivors themselves.  Burn injuries occur every 57 minutes, and are a significant part of our nation’s fire problem.

Gail Minger ~ “A Deadly Mistake” 

Gail brings to life every parent’s greatest fear… that there will be something we as parents forget to check that will ensure the safety of our children. She shares the story of all the things she made sure of before her son, Michael, went away to college. The “Deadly Mistake” is she did not check to see if Michael’s residence had fire sprinklers. Michael never graduated from college, as the result of a deadly fire.

Bonnie Woodruff ~ “Slow and Steady Wins The Race” 

Bonnie’s story relates a story of her son bringing home a turtle when he was a child…and shares the fact that the turtle is still alive while her son is not. Ben died in a fraternity house fire – on Mother’s Day, on Graduation Day….senseless deaths that could be prevented with fire sprinklers. Bonnie highlights her current efforts as an advocate working to challenge the opposition who work to defeat code requirements that include fire sprinklers.

State battles are occurring across our nation, and Bonnie shares that sharing of the statistics and facts by people who have been directly affected by fire can make a difference. She encourage you to get involved and remember that “slow and steady wins the race.”