Asa Tuten Memorial – GFSA Essay Contest

The Asa Tuten Memorial – GFSA Essay Contest for 2020 has ended. Thank you to all who participated.

The first place winner of a $1500 scholarship is graduating from South Forsyth High School

The second place winner of a $1000 scholarship is graduating from Tift County High School

The third place winner of a $750 scholarship is graduating from Duluth High School

The scholarship will be paid directly to the educational institution in the student’s account.

The first place essay:
We have all heard the line “They don’t make ‘em like they used to.” American homes and commercial buildings epitomize this phrase, yet the general public does not know the danger these buildings present to them without the proper installation of fire sprinklers. The modern home is not built with the same structural standards as homes from even 30 years ago. Additionally, the contents of homes and commercial buildings, from the synthetic materials of the furniture and rugs to the highly flammable curtains that hang on the windows, turn a potentially small or manageable fire into a massive inferno in mere minutes. While families and workers lives are at stake, so are the lives of the firemen and women who are sent to extinguish the flames. The solution, it seems, would be quite easy: Install fire sprinklers. Unfortunately, local and state representatives do not broadly support the idea of fire sprinklers in all residential and commercial buildings, and the media lacks a clear understanding of how valuable sprinklers would be in the lives of fire fighters and families in the state of Georgia.
Most of the time, when people do not understand something, they do one of three things: learn more about the issue, deny the issue, or simply ignore the issue. The media has such a great opportunity to learn more about the issue, but right now they are simply ignoring the problem. While there are any number of issues consuming media forums, public safety must find its way to the top of the list. According to the website homefiresprinkler.org, there are endless ways that the public can be made aware of the benefits of sprinkler systems. For example, simple brochures can “provide consumers with updated facts about why home fires can become deadly in less than two minutes and how home fire sprinklers give people extra time to escape” (1). This information can be given out to “a variety of […] audiences, from the public to local officials to community planners and developers” (1). In fact, one of the easiest ways the media can help the general public understand the need for fire sprinklers is to encourage people to watch short 90 second videos that are “designed in formats that you can email, upload to your website and in your PowerPoint presentations, and share via Facebook, Twitter and other social media” (1). The media does not have to instill fear into the minds of daily Facebook or Twitter users, but they could certainly emphasize the importance of sprinkler installation to dispel the myths associated with sprinklers. After all, the general public still probably assumes that when a fire happens in a home or business, all of the sprinklers go off, causing endless water damage to the home or commercial building. The exact opposite is true. A youtube side by side video posted by The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition showed minimal damage to a living room that caught on fire. The video without the sprinkler system showed complete devastation to the house in under seven minutes (1). With better promotion of these types of videos on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, people could see the effectiveness and necessity for sprinkler systems in both homes and commercial businesses.
Local and state representatives need to be convinced of the value of fire sprinkler systems. All over the United States, there have been heated discussions about mandatory sprinkler installation, and it all comes down to money rather than safety. According to the website propublica.org, “homebuilders and realtors […] argued [sprinkers] would not improve safety enough to justify the added cost” (2). Yet, the website finehomebuilding.com states clearly that “fire sprinklers and smoke alarms combined reduce the risk of death by 82%” in homes that take advantage of these systems that are becoming more and more cost effective each year (3). While it would seem that legislators would want to work with the insurance commissioners and insurance agents regarding the safety of policy holders, the lobbyists for the home builders associations are incredibly powerful. Legislators and representatives must be diligent in representing the people of their districts by encouraging, if not mandating, the safety of those people they have sworn to protect. It would be in the best interest of the voting public to have representatives who thought of their family, friends and neighbors’ safety over the needs of lobbyists who overshadow the value of commercial and residential safety.
I have grown up in a social media driven world, and I simply cannot see how small campaigns on social media cannot be supported by our representatives. I know that as I head into my own future, I can promote simple fire safety tips to people who may not understand the value of sprinkler systems. I am not a home owner, but I will be one day. I am not a working in the medical field, but I will be one day. In both situations, I know that the health of my family, my co-workers and my patients will be vastly improved if they know they are in structures that are protected with sprinkler systems. I hear people pine about the good old days all the time, but the truth is that we need to look to a future when people understand the human value of installing fire sprinkler systems. If homes and businesses continue to fall under the adage “They don’t make ‘em like they used to,” at least the fire fighters will have more time to save the places we call home, the commercial spaces where we work, and the people we love within those walls.

Works Cited
1. The Homefire Sprinkler Coalition. “Protect What You Value Most.” www.homefiresprinkler.org. 2018.
2. Faturechi, Robert. “The Fire Sprinkler War, State by State.” www.ProPublica.org. June 22, 2016.
3. Ermides, Chris. “Code-change alert: Fire sprinklers in all new homes.” The Taunton Press, Inc. 2020.