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Working Together For Home Fire Safety



Nine out of every 10 fire deaths happen at home, and most of these fires happen at night while people are sleeping. These are industry statistics that Jon Rocasi knows well and not just because he’s a firefighter in Tampa, Florida. Those numbers are on his mind every time he leaves his Palm Bay home to go to work. He can’t help wondering if one of those times while he’s on duty, his wife and children will be victims of a home fire. During his 15 years of career fire service with agencies across the country, Rocasi had witnessed the heartbreaking loss of lives and possessions due to fire and resolved to do whatever he could to keep his own family safe. He began by researching fireproof construction materials with an eye on retrofitting his house. While options did exist, the cost was significant—certainly more than the family budget could absorb. So, his next step was to seek grants from local municipalities that would help offset the costs. 

Firefighter Jon Rocasi and his family are now protected by residential sprinklers, thanks to AFSA Florida Chapter members.

Although he was not able to secure financial assistance, he did get help in another form: information about residential fire sprinkler systems. Rocasi knew most commercial buildings had those types of systems, but he was not aware of a contractor who installed a residential version. As he did more investigation and compared quotes from various companies, Rocasi also learned that, from a cost perspective, a residential fire sprinkler system was more affordable than fireproof drywall—roughly $1.35 per square foot of sprinklered space in new construction. 

Unfortunately, however, even that cost savings would be a strain on the family finances, leaving Rocasi in the untenable position of having to weigh the cost of equipment and installation against the value of his family’s safety. 

That’s when Quick Response Fire Protection entered the picture. The company installs residential fire sprinkler systems manufactured by Viking SupplyNet, and when Gene Robinson, who handles contract and Virgin Island sales at the company, learned of Rocasi’s story, he resolved to do what he could to ensure that at least this firefighter could go to work each day knowing his family was safe at home. 

Robinson made a call to Viking, hoping the company would be willing to donate the equipment. “Our industry has great respect for first responders, and Jon’s story really touched me,” said Robinson. “We work with manufacturers who share the same respect, so I called my Viking representative, and asked if they could give a break on the material. Viking ended up donating all the material.” 

Jason Ehrlich with Quick Response Fire Protection designed the residential sprinkler system for the Rocasi family.

But the story doesn’t end there. News of the equipment donation from Viking spread throughout Quick Response and team members at the company took up the cause. Project designer Jason Ehrlich volunteered to design the system on his own time, and Charlie Bracket, Marty Brasher, Daniel Burgess, John Henderson, Dion Hudson, Jarmen Mann, Gene Robinson, and Johnathan Rodreges donated their time to install the system. 

“Gene making the material donation ask to Viking sparked the rest of the guys to donate their time,” says company owner Marty Brasher. “I couldn’t be more proud of the Quick Response team.” 

Rocasi was deeply gratified by the help he and his family received. “I was talking with my wife about how we were going to cover the cost of the fire sprinkler system when Quick Response called and said their employees wanted to donate the design and labor, and Viking wanted to donate all the materials. We are blessed,” states Rocasi. “I feel like our family now has a full-time firefighter inside our house.” 

Far from being a high-end add-on, a residential fire sprinkler system can literally mean the difference between succumbing to a home fire or surviving it. A home fire can become deadly in two minutes or less. Even more alarming, new homes built of common unprotected lightweight building materials and flooring can burn faster than older construction houses, making them even more deadly. Yet residential fire sprinkler systems are often not considered when buying or building a home. 

“It’s important to us at Viking that we find ways to give back to fire service officials whenever possible,” comments Ben Johnson, who is the director of sales for Viking, adding, “We were grateful to have a hand in the installation and look forward to future collaboration initiatives that allow us to support our community.” 

Firefighter Jon Rocasi and his family are now protected by residential sprinklers, thanks to AFSA
Florida Chapter members.
Firefighter Jon Rocasi and his family are now protected by residential sprinklers, thanks to AFSA Florida Chapter members.

Learning about residential fire sprinkler systems has also sparked an interest in Rocasi and his wife to create a not-for-profit. “I’m that guy who wanted a system and had to figure out how to pay for it,” notes Rocasi. “Our family received an incredible blessing, and we’d like to find a way to pay it forward. Maybe it hasn’t touched you, but you know someone who has had a home fire. It’s time to start talking about residential fire sprinklers and how we get them in our homes.” 

To learn more about residential fire sprinkler systems, visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC), the leading resource for independent, noncommercial information about home fire sprinklers, with resources and informational materials for developers, land planners, and homebuilders, at homefiresprinkler.org. n