Automatic Fire Sprinklers
- From time to time “do-it-yourself” articles or kits appear that encourage consumers to install their own automatic fire sprinkler systems.
- The American Fire Sprinkler Association STRONGLY DISCOURAGES the installation of fire sprinkler systems by people who have not been trained in the proper installation of fire sprinklers.
- Fire sprinklers should always be installed in accordance with standards of the National Fire Protection Association using approved and/or listed materials. Fire sprinklers protect lives and property.
- To ensure proper design and operation, always seek a trained and competent contractor.
Automatic fire sprinklers have been in use in the U.S. since 1874.
Fire sprinklers are widely recognized as the single most effective method for fighting the spread of fires in their early stages – before they can cause severe injury to people and damage to property.
When one fire sprinkler head goes off to fight a fire the entire sprinkler system does NOT activate. Sprinklers react to temperatures in individual rooms.
The chances of a fire sprinkler accidentally going off are extremely remote.
Installation of fire sprinklers can provide discounts on insurance premiums.
The installation of fire sprinklers in new residential construction is estimated to make up around 1% of the total building cost. (Similar to the cost of new carpet)
New homes burn eight times faster than older homes, leaving families less time to get out alive. Seconds count all the more during a house fire because of a drastic decrease in the time a family has to safely escape. Fire sprinklers provide valuable time to escape a fire. The National Fire Academy (NFA), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and the U.S. Fire Administration (UFSA) all recommend fire sprinkler systems for new residential construction (Source).
Senior citizens and children under the age of 5 have the greatest risk of fire death. Sprinklers protect these most vulnerable populations who may not have the physical or cognitive ability to escape a burning building (Source).
A single sprinkler controls a home fire 90 percent of the time, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), saving a majority of a home’s possessions. Also, according to the non-profit Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, the average fire loss in a house with a sprinkler system is $2,166 as opposed to $45,019 in a home without the protection. Sprinkler systems reduce fire damage by up to 97 percent (Source).
A Harris International Interactive poll showed almost two-thirds of U.S. homeowners believe a sprinkler system increases a home’s value. Forty-five percent of respondents said a sprinklered home is more desirable than one without the system. Also, 38 percent of homeowners say they would be more likely to purchase a new home with sprinklers than without (Source).
For those who are concerned about the environment, consider this: sprinklers reduce the amount of water used to fight a fire by up to 90 percent as well as water and air pollution generated by a fire (Source).
Contrary to what you may see in television sitcoms, a home sprinkler system will not activate and spray water throughout the house if someone lights a cigar or candle. Sprinklers are not activated by smoke or smoke alarms. Only high heat (135 to 165 degrees F of an early house fire) will set one off and then only the sprinkler closest to the fire (Source).
Fire sprinklers immediately respond to a fire while it is still small, controlling the spread of deadly heat, flames and toxic smoke – whether or not the occupants have appropriately responded to the signaling smoke alarm. Fire sprinklers make up for human error, and they provide a life-saving cushion for a time-consuming escape (Source).
If you have a reported fire in your home, the risk of dying decreases by about 80 percent when sprinklers are present (Source).
The cost of installing home fire sprinklers averages $1.35 per sprinklered square foot for new construction, according to a Home Fire Sprinkler Cost Assessment report from the Fire Protection Research Foundation (Source).
Fire sprinklers fit most any decor and can be very unobtrusive. Newer fire sprinkler models can be mounted flush with walls or ceilings, or concealed behind decorative covers.
The National Fire Protection Association outlines several major strategies that are key to reductions in fire losses and especially in home fire deaths, which are 78.3% of the total fire deaths.
More, and more widespread, public fire safety education on how to prevent fires and how to avoid serious injury or death if fire occurs.
Residential fire safety initiatives remain the key to reductions in the overall fire death toll.
Wider use and proper maintenance of smoke detectors, coupled with practiced home escape plans.
Wider use of residential sprinklers.
Additional efforts to make home products more fire-safe, such as less fire-prone cigarettes and child-resistant lighters.
Addressing the special protection needs of high-risk groups, such as the young, older adults and the poor.
Myths About Automatic Fire SprinklersAutomatic sprinkler systems have enjoyed an enviable record of protecting life and property for over 100 years. Yet, there are still common misunderstandings about the operation and effectiveness of automatic fire sprinkler systems.
MYTH: “Water damage from a sprinkler system will be more extensive than fire damage.”
FACT:Water damage from a home sprinkler system will be much less severe than the damage caused by water from fire-fighting hose lines or smoke and fire damage if the fire goes unabated. Quick response sprinklers release 8-24 gallons of water per minute compared to 50-125 gallons per minute released by a firehose.
MYTH: “When a fire occurs, every sprinkler head goes off.”
FACT:Sprinkler heads are individually activated by fire. Residential fires are usually controlled with one sprinkler head. 90% of all fires are controlled with six or fewer heads, and a study conducted in Australia and New Zealand covering 82 years of automatic sprinkler use found that two or fewer sprinklers controlled 82% of the fires which occurred.
MYTH: “A smoke detector provides enough protection.”
FACT:Smoke detectors save lives by providing a warning system but can do nothing to extinguish a growing fire or protect those physically unable to escape independently, such as the elderly or small children. Too often, battery-operated smoke detectors fail to function because the batteries are dead or have been removed. As the percent of homes in America that were “protected” with smoke detectors increased from zero to more than 70%, the number of fire deaths in homes did not significantly decrease.
MYTH: “Sprinklers are designed to protect property but are not effective for life safety.”
FACT:Sprinklers provide a high level of life safety. Statistics demonstrate that there has never been any multiple loss of life in a fully sprinklered building. Property losses are 85% less in residences with fire sprinklers compared to those without sprinklers. The combination of automatic sprinklers and early warning systems in all buildings and residences could reduce overall injuries, loss of life, and property damage by at least 50%.
Sources of Information on Fire Sprinklers:
Fire Sprinklers in Public Buildings
Automatic fire sprinklers have been saving lives and protecting property for more than a century.
Fire sprinklers are widely recognized as the single most effective method for fighting the spread of fires in their early stages – before they can cause severe injury to people and major damage to property.
Sprinklers are linked by a network of piping that is constantly filled with water under pressure. The pipes are in the ceilings or behind walls. The sprinklers are attached to the pipes. Each sprinkler protects an area beneath it.
Fire sprinklers are individually activated by a fire’s intense heat, and often just one sprinkler successfully extinguishes a fire. Only the sprinklers closest to the flames spray water; the other sprinklers do NOT activate at the same time.
Smoke cannot activate a fire sprinkler. And the chances of a fire sprinkler accidentally spraying water are extremely remote.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, “When sprinklers are present, the chances of dying in a fire and the average property loss per fire are both cut by one-half to two-thirds, compared to fires where sprinklers are not present.” NFPA analysis of civilian deaths per thousand fires in 1989-1998 showed the reduction associated with sprinklers is 60% for manufacturing properties, 74% for stores and offices, 75% for selected health care properties for the aged or sick, and 91% for hotels and motels.
Average property damage per hotel or motel fire was 56% less in structures with sprinklers than in structures without sprinklers during the years 1989-1998, according to NFPA. (Average loss per fire was $5,900 in sprinklered buildings and $13,400 in unsprinklered buildings.)
Sprinkler usage is growing in most properties. Nearly half of all hotels and motels, according to a 1988 survey by the American Hotel and Motel Association, have sprinkler systems. Other high levels of sprinkler usage are seen in facilities that care for the aged and sick and high-rise office buildings. In 1998, sprinklers were present in 77% of the fires in facilities that care for the aged, and 66% of high-rise office buildings.
NFPA has no record of a fire killing more than two people in a completely sprinklered building where the system was properly operating, except in an explosion or flash fire or where industrial fire brigade members or employees were killed during fire suppression operations.
How to Survive a Fire in a Public Building
Consider your personal safety before you enter a public building.
Look at the doors and windows. Door and window security bars that lack quick-release mechanisms could slow or impede escape if there is a fire. Narrow exits or too few exits, and exit doors that open inward, instead of out toward the street, are also danger signs.
Based on building design and other criteria, buildings are rated for a certain number of people to be inside at a given time. Too many people inside could overload the exiting arrangement in an emergency, making it difficult for people to safely escape. If the building looks or feels overcrowded, don’t go inside.
Once inside a building, immediately look around. Look up, toward the ceiling. Can you see fire sprinkler heads spaced along piping, or inset in the ceiling? If you can, that’s a good sign.
You must be able to see EXIT signs and the exit doors they identify. If you cannot, leave immediately.
All exits should be clearly marked with the doors unlocked and unobstructed. All pathways leading to the doors should be clear.
If you enter a public building and cannot easily locate exit signs and doors, or if you see exit doors with padlocks or obstructions, leave immediately. Inform local fire officials if you notice padlocked exits in any public building.
If you see something that makes you uncomfortable, such as open flames on candles or torches, or perhaps pyrotechnics displays don’t stay. Leave the building if you don’t feel safe.
One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself is to respond immediately if there is an emergency. If you hear the fire alarm sound, don’t assume it is a false alarm even if others don’t respond. React fast, moving quickly but calmly toward the exit that is closest to you.
Remember that the closest exit could be behind you. And remember that the closest exit isn’t necessarily the door you came in.
If you are on an upper floor of the building when the alarm goes off, use the stairs to exit; don’t use the elevator.
As soon as you are outside, move well away from the building and meet up with the rest of your party. Stay clear of fire and emergency vehicles.
It’s a good idea to have a meeting plan when you are out with friends – know in advance where you will meet, or how you will contact one another – if you get separated.
When choosing a hotel, it’s good practice to ask if fire sprinklers are installed in all guest rooms before you make hotel reservations.