One sentence from a recent conversation continues to stick in my mind. “If it weren’t for that sprinkler in the townhouse, we would’ve had a good fire.” It was stated only partly in jest, the young firefighter, like many, always wanting more of the challenge of a “good” fire. No one, save the psychotic, wants to see someone else’s property destroyed much less anyone injured; but this is juxtaposed with the firefighter’s inherent desire to perform their craft and test themselves in that environmental nightmare we call “inside.”
We need a partial shift in balance to begin better educating the younger firefighters as to the desirability of residential sprinklers. For the most part, their response to commercial sprinkler alarms and fires is something they accept as common and normal. The expansion of residential sprinklers, however, is newer and something which reduces the size and number of their bread and butter—the house fire. Understanding is one thing, but acceptance is another. Sliding the scale so these aggressive young men and women buy into the importance and value of these systems is a critical leadership task.
It is difficult to see, accept, and support technology which if (or hopefully when) it becomes widespread, can eliminate much of the reason many of us came into this business to begin with. It’s like the people version of steam replacing the sail or the car replacing the horse; not gone, but much reduced. Just the same, pushing for these systems over the construction industry lobbyists and their pocket politicians should be continued. That, and educating the younger generation of firefighters— so they can succeed where we haven’t.