In November 2013, the Village of Westchester voted to amend and update its building code, which included a requirement for fire sprinkler systems in new construction single-family homes. With the passage, Westchester is now one of 91 Illinois communities with home fire sprinkler requirements, resulting in safer homes for residents and responding firefighters alike.
“Trustee Nick Steker helped spearhead the process by obtaining home fire sprinkler information from his attendance at the Illinois Municipal League’s Annual Conference in October,” says Tom Lia, executive director of the nonprofit Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB).
Steker returned to Westchester and presented the idea of a home fire sprinkler requirement to the Village Board. Fire Chief James Adams, Captain Jeff Lebeda, Community Development Director Melissa Headley, and Building Commissioner Anthony Saviano were instrumental in educating the Village Board through its research and the eventual passage of the home fire sprinkler requirement.
At number 91, Westchester is part of a long list of Illinois communities that recognize the life- and property-saving protection that home fire sprinklers provide for both residents and responding firefighters. Long Grove was the first community in Illinois to pass a home fire sprinkler ordinance in 1988. In the 2000s, a surge of Illinois communities began upgrading their codes to include home fire sprinkler ordinances. While California and Maryland have adopted statewide codes for fire sprinklers in new construction homes, Illinois is the leading state for individual communities with home fire sprinkler requirements.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that 84% of all civilian fire deaths in the U.S. occur in homes1 — the place where people tend to feel safest. That’s why fire service leaders from communities across Illinois and the U.S. assert that life safety for both residents and firefighters is the main motivation for requiring home fire sprinklers. Life safety is also the reason why all national model building and fire codes from the International Code Council and NFPA now include home fire sprinkler protection.
Lia notes that the decision to require home fire sprinklers not only makes sense in terms of life safety, but also financially for residents and communities. Due to the protection they provide, home fire sprinklers reduce insurance rates for homeowners. Communities that do not update to the latest codes that include home fire sprinklers may also lose grading points from the Insurance Services Office (ISO) and pay more for insurance.
“Congratulations to the Westchester building, fire and elected officials for requiring home fire sprinklers in their community and following the U.S. Fire Administration’s ‘Fire is Everyone’s Fight’ initiative, a nationwide effort by the fire service and other advocates to reduce home injuries, deaths and property loss,” adds Lia.