(Left to right) Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board; Rick Marek, president of the Illinois Fire Inspectors Association (IFIA); U.S. Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL); Illinois State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis; Joey Jeraminas, vice president of the IFIA; and Mike Toika, treasurer of the IFIA.[/caption] In mid-June, over 100 leaders of the Illinois fire service converged upon Wheeling, Illinois, for Illinois Fire Service Home Day, an annual fire service event that showcases emergency response equipment and fire protection efforts. Hosted by the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association of Illinois at the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) Readiness Center, the event included educational presentations and demonstrations that created a forum for fire service leaders to bring fire and emergency service issues front and center with state and national legislators and staffers. Among the many legislators attending as observers was U.S. Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL), who is a member of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus and was also featured as a keynote speaker. Others in attendance included State Representatives Sidney Mathias (R-Arlington Heights), Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook), Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora), Lisa Dugan (D-Bradley), Thomas Morrison (R-Palatine), and Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley) and a staffer for U.S. Representative Randy Hultgren (R-IL). [caption id="attachment_2006" align="alignright" width="201"] Illinois State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis (left) speaks about fire sprinkler protection with U.S. Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL) in the fire sprinkler demonstration trailer.[/caption] One of the national-level issues that were discussed with legislators was the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act (FSIA). The FSIA addresses the nation’s large stock of older multi-unit residential and commercial buildings that do not have fire sprinkler protection because they were built before fire sprinklers were required. The proposed legislation encourages building owners to invest in lifesaving safety upgrades through tax incentives, therefore, helping solve the fire safety problem by providing an opportunity for building owners to install fire sprinkler systems. Speaking on a more local level, State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis discussed the Illinois fire service’s drive to update the State’s older edition of the National Fire Protection Association‘s (NFPA) 101 Life Safety Code to the 2012 edition, which now requires fire sprinklers in one- and two- family homes, townhomes, nightclubs and other assemblies that have a higher occupant load level, and older high-rise buildings. The update will ensure that Illinois’ buildings will be better protected from fires in the future, safeguarding the people of Illinois. The nonprofit Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB) took the opportunity to educate the legislators about the importance of life-safety systems such as residential fire sprinklers by hosting live fire demonstrations inside the Illinois Fire Inspector Association’s fire sprinkler trailer. The demonstrations each illustrated the dramatic, fast-moving action of fire as well as the quick response of fire sprinklers to knock down the fire, preventing it from spreading and eliminating the intense heat and toxic smoke. Fire sprinklers provide the additional escape time necessary for occupants to safely escape their homes. [caption id="attachment_2008" align="alignright" width="300"] Tom Lia (on the right), executive director for the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, discusses fire sprinkler technology with Illinois Representative Sidney Mathias (R-Arlington Heights).[/caption] According to NFPA, 85% of fire deaths in 2010 occurred in the home. “It’s important that our legislators are aware that fire sprinklers provide a proven solution to the residential fire problem and are backed by our State’s fire service leaders,” says NIFSAB Executive Director Tom Lia. In fact, fire service leaders have helped seventy-eight municipalities and fire protection districts in Illinois pass fire sprinkler requirements in single-family homes through the adoption of national model codes from the International Code Council and NFPA. This year alone, four jurisdictions in Illinois have passed residential fire sprinkler requirements: Glencoe, Flossmoor, Manhattan Fire Protection District and Gurnee. Nationwide, residential fire sprinkler requirements are being adopted by local jurisdictions and even on the statewide level in California. “Fire safety and fire codes truly need the attention of both national and local policymakers,” adds Tom Lia. “We are grateful for the time that U.S. Representatives Roskam and numerous Illinois elected officials spent to research the equipment, materials and information at this fire service open house.”]]>