In the first three months of 2014, 51 Pennsylvania residents died due to fire. That number is among the highest in the nation during that time and reflects the very real danger Pennsylvanians face when it comes to fire safety. Fire does not discriminate; it can strike anytime in any type of home.
There were 909 civilian fatalities due to fire in the United States between Jan. 1 and April 1 and 33 firefighter fatalities. In 2012, the latest year for which we have official data, property loss was estimated at $9.8 billion in structure fires alone.
Despite this, states including Pennsylvania still resist the concept of mandating residential fire sprinkler systems in newly constructed one- and two-family homes and rely solely on smoke alarms for safety.
While working smoke alarms are an effective way to alert residents to a fire, they require residents to take action and don't prevent the spread of fire. Our most vulnerable citizens — children, the elderly and the disabled — may not be able to respond to alarms like others. Fire sprinklers are the only form of proactive fire protection and can protect lives and property by immediately reacting, controlling and even extinguishing a fire.
We urge all citizens to check the batteries in their smoke alarms, educate themselves on current fire protection requirements in their cities and states and learn how to protect themselves and their loved ones from the dangers of fire.
The writer is the president of the National Fire Sprinkler Association.