Fire Sprinkler Advocate Bob Gorvett (Hoffman Estates) Retires

Bob Gorvett

Chief Bob Gorvett retired from the Hoffman Estates Fire Department at the end of June after being involved with the fire department for his entire fire service career of 41 years — three years as a volunteer firefighter followed by 38 years as a full-time member. He served as the fire chief of the department for his last five years.

Gorvett was a key fire official in getting a home fire sprinkler ordinance enacted in Hoffman Estates, but it was an uphill battle. He began the process with a lot of research and by educating village officials with any statistics he could find from the National Fire Protection Association. His first success came in 2000 by creating a compromise code that required fire sprinklers in only “heat-producing” areas such as furnace rooms, dryers, fireplaces and stove areas.

With the “heat-producing areas” home fire sprinkler ordinance, the fire department became a pivotal example for many other communities. Gorvett educated village officials with live fire sprinkler demonstrations conducted by the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB) using the Illinois Fire Inspectors Association‘s fire sprinkler trailer. Former Mayor Michael O’Malley (deceased) was especially influenced by the fire sprinkler trailer demonstrations since he previously had a fire in his home that his family was fortunate to escape.

Village officials soon realized that the fire sprinkler systems did not protect the areas where most people die in fires: bedrooms and living rooms. They also noted that the ordinance from 2000 did not provide any reductions in fire insurance premiums since whole houses were not sprinklered.

With continued educational efforts, Chief Gorvett, former Fire Chief James Eaves and other fire department personnel were able to convince the Village Board to pass a residential fire sprinkler ordinance in January 2002. The fire department developed an educational kit to present to homeowners of newly sprinklered homes and eventually utilized the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition’s “Living with Sprinklers” Kit to help homeowners understand the benefits of their fire sprinkler systems and how they work.

More recently, Chief Gorvett and Fire Inspector Scot Neil worked with Mayor William D. McLeod, who supported the original fire sprinkler ordinance as a trustee, the Village Board of Trustees, and Building Department Director Don Plass to further solidify fire sprinklers into the Village’s codes by adopting the 2009 editions of the International Building Code, International Fire Code and International Residential Code.

“Chief Gorvett left the people of Hoffman Estates and the fire service in a much safer position thanks to his work toward a home fire sprinkler ordinance and other fire safety advocacy efforts,” says NIFSAB Executive Director Tom Lia. “We congratulate Chief Gorvett for his accomplishments within the fire service and wish him well in his retirement.”

 

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