November 25, 2018

A Win for Fire Sprinklers in Hollywood

The turkey was done, dishes were cleaned, and I was slowly slipping into that post feasting slumber.  I was flipping through what was On Demand and found the movie “Skyscraper” where Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson once again saves either the world or a portion of it.   I figured sure, let’s give it a try. 

The premise is about a super skyscraper over 220 stories tall and the bad guys who set the building on fire on the 96th floor, only to be kept in check by the fire sprinkler system.   Now for the twist — the bad guys can turn the fire sprinklers off remotely and the fire starts to advance.  The race against the clock begins, my slumber begins to turn into curiosity and I am hooked.

Spoiler Alert: Please stop reading here if you want to see the movie.  It is near the end where the two heroes save the day: The Rock and the Fire Sprinkler System.

This is where it dawns on me.  In our industry, we are all too quick to give Hollywood a bad rap for always portraying fire sprinklers in a bad light, or do they?  Let’s take a step back and realize how far we really have come over the past few decades.  In the movie the only one foolproof life-saving device, other than Dwayne Johnson, is the fire sprinkler system.  Now, I can tell you for certain that it is cheaper to put a fire sprinkler system in your building or house than it is to hire Dwayne Johnson to save the day. 

Hollywood realized that the fire sprinkler system was the only proactive means to stop the fire or at least keep it in check.  Building codes were not addressed and passive fire protection was overlooked. Sure, those are also key components towards life safety, but Hollywood focused on fire sprinklers and rightfully so.

When the bad guys lit the fire on the 96th floor it is was clear in the movie that the fire would not advance any further due to the fast action life safety devices, not to be confused with The Rock. The few people on the higher floors were not worried one bit.  Why?  Because of the fire sprinkler system.  It was not until the bad guys remotely turned off the system did the fire advance up to the 220th floor.  Now we find our hero out of time and hope, stuck with fire all around him with a child in his arms, could this really be the end of Dwayne Johnson?  Not in this movie, because the real hero is the fire sprinkler system which is turned back on at the last second.  

It is easy to focus on all the bad that Hollywood has done for our industry over the years and rightfully so, however, this one was a win for us.  Sometimes we just need to change our point of view a bit and keep an open mind.  Had this movie been made 10 or 20 years ago I highly doubt a fire sprinkler system would have even made it into the movie.

The mindset is changing.  It is going to take some time, but it is trending in the right direction.  On this holiday not only was I thankful for friends and family, but I was also thankful for the fire sprinkler system that saved the day — and Hollywood for changing with the times.

by David Kurasz, Executive Director of NJFSAB and the NFSA PenJerDel Chapter

November 25, 2018

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