Staying Ahead of the Flame Game


Nine people died each day in structural fires in the United States in 2007 — 3,430 people in that year. And while there was a 5.2 percent decrease of reported fires during 2007, property damage climbed significantly by 29.5 percent from 2006. However, the industry’s recent efforts to legislate better fire protection — taking advantage of improved technologies – have spurred changes in fire code that will help reduce the loss of lives and property.

On the equipment side, fire alarm systems gather and process information faster than ever, and addressability is becoming more of the norm than the exception. In addition, wireless radio is becoming an accepted method of central station reporting and video-based fire detection is making inroads.

Each year SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION provides an in-depth look at the wealth of fire statistics offered by the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) report, Fire Loss in the United States 2007, by Michael J. Karter Jr. of NFPA’s Fire Analysis and Research Division. SSI‘s 2008 Fire Market Report is designed to help installing fire/life-safety systems companies keep on top of this dynamic segment of the industry, especially during this time of great economic duress.

SSI‘s latest research shows the fire systems business held steady at 13 percent of security systems contractors’ total revenue pie in 2008. However, the average number of annual standalone fire system installations dropped off 11 percent during the year. And although the average price charged for a commercial system rose by $2,700, profit margins sank from 35 to 33 percent. In addition, nearly every other metric fell compared to 2007.

On the plus side, this year’s fire report will look at some of the newest trends, movements and technologies changing the fire detection arena. Legislative efforts by federal and state government, and private organizations have paved the way for the industry to better protect lives and property. This report will also look at how code enforcement officers have become more knowledgeable and skilled in fire code and its application, minimizing some of the challenges security contractors have with authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs). 

Legislative Efforts Lead the Way

During the past 12 months, there have been several noteworthy efforts in the area of government legislation. For example, House Bill H.R. 1409, College Life Safety and Fire Prevention Act, was one of the highlights of this year’s legislative efforts. According to the Congressional Record, made available through Thomas Legislative Directory, H.R. 1409 provides incentives for educational facilities to implement changes and advancements in the area of life-safety systems.

The measure is summarized: “To establish a demonstration incentive program within the Department of Education to promote installation of fire alarm detection systems, or other fire prevention technologies, in qualified student housing, dormitories, and other university buildings, and for other purposes.”

The National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) of Irving, Texas, was instrumental in working with Representative Vito Fossella of New York to pass the bill. According to a NBFAA press release published earlier this year, “Last night the U.S. House of Representatives passed a Higher Education Act, by a vote of 354-58, which included language from H.R. 1409, the College Life Safety and Fire Prevention Act introduced by Rep. Vito Fossella, R-N.Y. The National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) hailed this vote as a major victory for public safety and for the industry.”

When H.R. 1409 was passed, George Gunning, past NBFAA president, said, “NBFAA members are committed to this fight to save lives from fire-related deaths, and we will continue to work with our elected officials to support legislation that provides for greater protection of life and property. For two years, the NBFAA has been fighting the battle to educate lawmakers and interested parties about the value of fire detection plus suppression. The passage of the House bill with this vital language included is a major victory in our efforts to have an impact on the safety of students and others who live and work in colleges and universities.”

Another NBFAA-led legislative effort pertains to H.R. 3021, the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act. “The measure directs the Secretary of Education to use $6.4 billion in authorized grants to state educational agencies for the modernization, renovation, or repair of public school facilities. When the bill first passed through the House Education and Labor Committee, it only mentioned fire and safety standards as one of the areas for grant recipients,” noted an NBFAA press release issued in June.

Gunning, whose term as NBFAA president ended July 1, says those alarms are necessary to alert students, staff and teachers to evacuate a public school facility when an emergency is detected. “Professional installers, such as NBFAA member companies, are essential to the proper functioning of fire or security alarm systems since they are proficient in electronic systems and the codes and standards for this type of equipment installation,” he says.

Another major effort in the area of life safety concerns legislators turning their attentions to residential sprinklers. This is another area on which to keep a close watch as it develops.

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