Written by Laura King, NFPA, Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition Canada
As safety advocates, we sometimes – often, actually – wonder if our work makes a difference, if anyone’s paying attention.
Elaine Kenny paid attention. And now, new homes on Kwantlen First Nation in British Columbia are being built with home fire sprinklers.
Kenny is the project manager for Kwantlen, and housing is her purview.
In 2018, Kenny was invited by the Township of Langley to a sprinkler summit. There she watched a side-by-side sprinkler demonstration, and immediately understood the benefits of home fire sprinklers.
“When . . . I saw that I immediately said that we had to go back to council and recommend that Kwantlen do that from this day forward,” Kenny said.
Since then, two public buildings have been retrofitted with sprinklers, and three new rental homes are being built with home fire sprinklers.
“There was no having to convince council,” Kenny said. “It’s about saving lives and protecting the health of our people.”
Kwantlen’s housing policy now requires sprinklers in all new homes.
At the 2018 summit, Kenny said, presenters provided such compelling and evidence-based information about the benefits of sprinklers – more time for occupants to escape a fire and reduced risk to firefighters – there was no question about next steps.
Data shows people living on First Nations in Canada are 10 times more likely to die in a fire than those living elsewhere. Kenny remembers a 2017 house fire on Kwantlen, but said at the time she was not aware of sprinklers for residential buildings. While there have been multi-fatality fires on some First Nations that lack adequate fire protection, the Township of Langley Fire Department responds to Kwantlen.
For Kenny, understanding how to work with builders and contractors to have sprinklers installed was a steep learning curve; homes in Kwantlen are built on slabs, so sprinkler systems are housed in the attic and require additional cost to insulate.
Now, with the groundwork having been laid for home fire sprinklers – specifications determined and contractors lined up – a neighboring First Nation is following suit.
May 17-23 is Home Fire Sprinkler Week. We’re unable to do side-by-side demos, so we’ve gone virtual with our messaging for fire departments to share with residents – the same messaging Elaine Kenny saw and heard.
Our social media analytics show plenty of people are paying attention – people like Elaine Kenny, who help us make a difference.