One of the goals of the Fire Sprinkler Initiative is to give advocates the tools they need to get local governments to mandate fire sprinklers in all new one- and two-family homes.
Members of the fire service and other safety advocates are in a unique position to influence the legislative process as leaders in the community. They can speak to the death and destruction they see every day caused by home fires and how home fire sprinklers can help reduce these painful losses.
Before starting a sprinkler advocacy program, make sure you are informed about the current environment surrounding the issue. Be aware of any recent code updates or changes, recent fires in your community that were neutralized by a successful sprinkler activation, or home fire deaths or injuries that could have been prevented by sprinklers.
Build a coalition
Build support by reaching out to other sprinkler advocates in your community. By building a strong grassroots network of supporters, you can create a stronger voice that your local government will find difficult to ignore. This should be a balanced list of advocates that represent a wide variety of groups including, but not limited to:
- other public safety entities
- health-related groups
- religious organizations
- home-safety advocates
- skilled trades
- community service groups
- friends and neighbors
Once you have these supporting groups on board, be sure to keep them up-to-date on your activities and let them know what they can do to help the cause.
Show support for your issue
Once you have a local coalition, begin showing local elected officials the breadth of support for home fire sprinklers through as many avenues as possible. This can be done by sending letters to elected officials or members of the media, gathering signatures on a petition and presenting it to lawmakers, and encouraging advocates to attend public meetings to speak to the critical need for home fire sprinklers.
In addition to contacting your local officials, an effective means to spreading the advocacy message is by utilizing the expansive influence of the media. NFPA has designed newspaper ads and Letter to the Editor templates and compiled them into one comprehensive kit that will enable you to reach the public, and raise awareness of this life saving technology.
Op-eds are also a powerful way to get your message across, especially when written effectively:
1. Before writing, find a topic and develop a point-of-view. A contrary point-of-view or unique angle is okay. Don't be scared of being provocative or controversial.
2. Highlight the issue's relevance: why is it newsworthy?
The most important part of making sprinklers for new homes a reality will be convincing local elected officials that this is a life-and-death issue for their constituents. Use messages, data, and presentations available on this website and others. Decision-makers must be convinced that sprinklers are a life-saving fire suppression tool that not only reduce the number of deaths, injuries, and destruction associated with home fires, but also alleviate stress on local fire departments, conserve water, and provide added economic benefits for home owners. See NFPA's list of sprinkler fact sheets for more information.
When communicating with legislators, consider these points:
1. Technology has made it easy to send blast e-mails, prewritten faxes, and form letters. But nothing compares to the value of a personalized and thoughtful contact with a lawmaker.
2. Policy-makers are busy people. Every day, they receive dozens (if not hundreds) of requests. Keep your letter short and to-the-point.