Elie van Strien, Chief Fire Officer of Amsterdam and Region, addressed the attendees of NFPA's 2012 EuroCon in Amsterdam this morning. The Netherlands Fire Brigade covers 415 municipalities, 16.5 million people, 41.500 km2 of area, 19% of which is water. The Chief said he was honored to have NFPA here during the 300th anniversary celebration of Jan van der Heyden (1637-1712), the founder of the Amsterdam fire brigade, inventor of fire pumps and valves used in the Netherlands, a painter and the person responsible for the installation of street lighting that lead to the city's famous night life.
Admittedly embarrassed that his country's regulations do not require sprinklers, except in cases where there is no other option for protection by engineering design or construction (early thought was that stone construction was sufficient protection), Chief van Strien sees many pressures that are driving change toward the installation both commercial and residential sprinklers:
- Artificial/manufactured building materials leading to shorter flashover times.
- Insufficient fire protection systems for buildings with changing occupancies.
- Reliance on staff for evacuation of people from healthcare facilities, prisons and elder care facilities that have too few people to be effective.
- 40 deaths last year in residences, 60% of which were the elderly who were unable to evacuate.
- The dispelling of common sprinkler myths of expense, currently a domestic installation is approximately €2500 EU or approximately $3250, but the Fire Brigade is working with research groups to develop low pressure sprinkler heads that would eliminate the need for pumps lowering the average cost by 60%. (In the United States, the cost of installing sprinkler systems to the home builder averages $1.61 per sprinklered square foot.)
- The real impact of the Fire Brigade working with housing companies to retrofit some dormitories and other public housing facilities, which has already saved several lives.
Carol Ann Faber
Director, NFPA Membership & Continuity Products