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Hoffman Estates Chief Gorvett Remains Strong Advocate for Home Fire Sprinklers

Hoffman Estates Fire Chief Robert Gorvett and Fire Inspector Scot Neil

When Fire Chief Robert Gorvett and others from the Hoffman Estates Fire Department first began advocating for residential fire sprinklers within the Village boundaries in 1999, they were met with some opposition. As single-family homes and townhomes were being built on the west side of town, property developers were opposing all proposals for fire sprinkler protection requirements. Supporters of fire sprinklers found that they also did not have much support from others in the Village because of a lack of understanding about fire sprinklers, but they were determined to match the Village’s commercial fire sprinkler ordinance with an ordinance that would protect residents in their own homes.

Although home fire sprinkler education resources from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and other fire safety organizations were limited at that time, Chief Gorvett and other fire officials, including former Fire Marshal Hank Clemmensen (current President of the International Association of Fire Chiefs), addressed many of the important questions and issues regarding fire sprinklers through their own research. In 2000, their efforts helped to create a compromise code that required fire sprinklers in only “heat-producing” areas such as furnace rooms, dryers, fireplaces and stove areas. With that ordinance, the fire department became a pivotal example for many other communities.

However, Chief Gorvett and other fire officials believed that more education was going to essential in getting a full-out residential fire sprinkler ordinance passed. The fire department began using educational information provided by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) to educate Village personnel and community members about the dangers of fire and the benefits of fire sprinkler protection. They also provided education through live fire sprinkler demonstrations and the use of fire statistics from NFPA. Former Mayor Michael O’Malley (deceased) was especially influenced by the fire sprinkler 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 a kit to present to homeowners of newly sprinklered homes and eventually utilized HFSC’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.

“Throughout the years, Chief Gorvett has remained a constant supporter of home fire sprinkler systems. The people and firefighters of Hoffman Estates are better protected and safer because of his successful efforts to update the Village’s codes,” says Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board. “Congratulations to Chief Gorvett and all other current and former fire department officials who have worked so hard over the years to protects the Village’s residents.”

Hoffman Estates is one of nearly 80 jurisdictions in Illinois that currently require residential fire sprinklers according to the the NFPA or International Code Council model codes. Over 2,700 homes within the Village are protected with fire sprinklers.

 

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