Let Nozzlehead hear all about it.
He’ll answer you with 2,000 psi
of free-flowing opinion.
Send your letters to:
Nozzlehead, c/o FireRescue
Penn Well Corp.
21-00 Route 208 South
Fair Lawn, NJ 07410
Attn: Diane Rothschild
Got a fire service
question or complaint?
Me: I Would Like to Do Good.
The Authority: What’s Your Definition of Good?
The push to install residential sprinklers
There was quite a bit of good discussion in the past year or so related to residential fire sprin- klers, mostly focused on the idea that they
work, are affordable, and can pretty much assure a
family that future birthday parties can be counted
on. In the past year, I received a few letters related
to this subject of residential fire sprinklers, so I’m
going to share my story with you to answer those
letters all in one shot.
Admittedly, as I have gotten older I have
gotten wiser (in certain specific areas, so
please don’t generalize). I have always tried
to do good with some level of success, and when
I didn’t achieve it I was usually able to figure out
why—starting with looking in the mirror.
One “good” I want to do is something that
initially impacted me about 33 years ago, but even
more so about nine years ago. Thirty-three years
ago, I bought our first home for about $50,000,
and my first daughter was born. In 1983, there
was little to no discussion related to residential
fire sprinklers. Back then, the heavy push was
on what, even then, were relatively inexpensive
smoke alarms, which were state of the art. So, our
900-square-foot, one-story wood-frame on a slab
house had plenty of them.
Throughout my career as a chief officer, I have
pushed for residential fire sprinklers. I really started
pushing in the late ’80s when we were faced with
huge growth in rural areas without municipal water.
It made good sense to me and especially my #2 in
command who really took the issue to heart. Keith,
like many of you, understood the impact and risk
of large (really large!) homes being built in areas
without municipal water. He discovered a system
where residential sprinklers could be installed with
300-gallon tanks in basements or garages. Ingenious. At least to Keith ... and me.
This was a sprawling rural area with McMan-
sions being built by the day, protected by volunteer
firefighters (responding from home or work when
the pagers beeped and the whistles blew), in an area
with no municipal water. What usually happened
in the event of a fire? Do the math. Keith’s idea
solved a huge problem and would absolutely save
property and lives. He tried to do good.
It didn’t take long for the elected officials to cordially
and very unofficially “like” the idea (after numerous
demos, facts, etc.), but they wanted absolutely nothing
to do with actually requiring the idea. “Who are we
to tell people what to do” was a statement—not a
question. After all, they had “relationships” with the
builders. Cough. Cough. Wink. Wink.
Keith tried to do good. Could his idea have solved
numerous problems, helped literally tens of thousands of people, and even saved money? Absolutely.
Have beautiful homes burned to the ground despite
hard working firefighters? Yep. To the ground.
Do homebuilders have a clear business interest in
rebuilding burned down homes? I can give you several billion examples of yes. Although homebuilders
support smoke alarms, they aren’t fans of residential
sprinklers. Why not? Because it adds an “
unnecessary” cost to the buyer. Cough. Again. Actually,
residential fire sprinklers would reduce the business
of rebuilding burned up homes. BINGO.
Burned up homes can be rebuilt, but what about
memories and personal property such as photos,
family bibles, computers, and wedding dresses?
Not so much. And then there is the issue of the
About nine years ago, I was wonderfully blessed
when I received the title of Poppie. There is
NOTHING more important to me than what that
title means and what our now six grandbabies (that
my wife Teri and I love beyond words) mean to us.
Those babies are absolutely our life, and our actions
reflect that 24/7/365.
As required in the Poppie job description, I spend
every minute I can with the babies doing whatever
they wanna do—buying them whatever they want
and feeding them ice cream for breakfast, donuts
for lunch, and pizza for dinner. It’s part of my