Thursday, January 25, 2018

This is us, These are our fire codes, and how the show missed an important message

Did you see the this is us episode and unplug your unused appliances?

If so read this very carefully. Because there is a lot wrong with what you saw and a lot of fire safety lessons to learn. I know it's long but it just may save your life. 

Now you should unplug unused appliances to save energy. However the way that switch failed is not plausible at all. Besides that modern electrical systems would protect you from fires like this, the type of failure is only common with damaged switches when operated not idle. Crock pots are UL rated and possibly double insulated. 

The national fire protection association was formed in 1896, the next year they published the very first electrical safety code, known as the NEC now. Before the the national electrical code was first written houses fire were very common. Ask a firefighter alive in the 60s and 70s how common they were. That was almost 100 years afterwards.

The electrical code has required GFCI outlets near water since 1971 and ALL outlets in the kitchen since 1996. These breakers may have detected the fault.  
Starting in 2002 (also my first code book) Arc fault breakers have been required in all bedrooms. These arc fault breakers while sometimes troublesome due to nuisance tripping are able to detect the EXACT type of incident shown in the TV show. They perform very well and are available as a ground and arc combination unit. They are slowly becoming as well known as GFCI devices. 

Sometime around 2007 or earlier ICC building codes started to allow "lightweight construction" these are basically shell houses made with wood products more so then wood 2x4's and they burn like trailer are known to. Whole houses fully involved in say 5 minutes. Shortly afterwards the NFPA and concerned fire safety professionals have tried to push for tougher codes codes for this type of construction, and mandatory sprinkler systems. These were met with strong opposition.

Before I explain why I would like to mention these lightweight materials made building new homes much more profitable and 2007 is also close to the time the housing bubble popped putting strain on construction. 

The reason building codes nationwide do not offer it?

Your homeowners insurance and the construction industry fought it tooth and nail, because of money. Big suprise right? 

The insurance companies claim water damage from false activation would cost them too much. This is just patently wrong, modern suppression systems have an extremely robust mechanism to prevent that. Then they argue they are ugly. This is also wrong, I would have to point out the location of the sprinklers to you, they pop down from a paintable cutout. The construction industry argued that they are too expensive. You just couldn't be more wrong. I don't know about you but the lives of my loved ones are worth it, no matter the price. 

Pragmatically they are really not that much and the sprinkler fitting business would boom, stimulating the economy. Tradesmen tend to spend money they earn. The cost of the houses may go up very slightly. I have personally installed lawn sprinkler systems at houses that cost more than a suppression system would cost them. Well, when the house burns they will have a nice full turf to sleep on...if they lived that is. 

People say that show makes they cry a lot. I only wished that the producers would have used this drama to put people in the shoes of the men and women that have to bear witness to senseless loss of like in this country everyday. 

Preventable deaths in a day and age where smart phones connect us all across the world and we can talk to computers to lock doors, start are cars. Why are people still dying in simple house fire when we have the ability to stop them. Because of money, poor governmental regulation in some areas. If you cried during that episode, do the world a favor. Call your local fire marshal, local or state government representative and tell them enough is enough. The time for a national mandate is now. 

Were not cavemen anymore, people don't get eaten by wolves traveling to the next town, and we should have modern fire safe homes.

My name is Rob Daggett. I've been an electrician since 2005, became involved in public safety in 2008. 3,362 people lost their lives to fire in 2015. It's time every home has sprinklers not iPads.

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