Residential fires destroy an alarming number of lives and property. In 2007 in the U.S., there were 414,000 residential fires that caused:
- 2,895 fire deaths;
- 14,000 injuries; and
- $7.5 billion in property damage.
Here are a few facts you might not know about fire sprinklers:
- On average, they use significantly less water to extinguish a fire than would be required by the fire department. Sprinklers use just 10 to 26 gallons per minute (gpm), while fire crews use 125 gpm, per hose.
- Insurance premiums are often lower for homes that are equipped with fire sprinklers, which help pay for the systems.
- In buildings equipped with sprinklers, 90% of fires are contained by the operation of a single sprinkler head.
- Newer fire sprinkler heads are designed to activate independently of one another, leaving unneeded heads in reserve, and sparing water-sensitive items.
- Fire sprinklers are triggered only by temperatures that surpass a certain heat threshold, making it practically impossible to trigger them accidentally.
Sprinklers respond to fires immediately and automatically from locations that may be dangerous for firefighters to reach. In contrast, fire departments can be quite slow to respond, given the following potential delays:
- In rural areas, it may take a long time for fire trucks to reach their destination.
- Calls made at night are responded to more slowly than calls made during the day, as most career and volunteer firefighters are asleep.
- If the 9-1-1 call comes from a cell phone, the dispatcher will have greater difficulty pinpointing the fire’s location than if the call comes from a landline.
- While some fire departments are always well-prepared, in many areas, the firefighters will need time to assemble, get suited up, and prepare the fire truck.
- Fire trucks can be slowed by traffic, and they can even get lost en route.
Inspectors should pass the following recommendations on to their clients:
- Always make sure control valves are in the open position.
- Always report damage to any part of a sprinkler system immediately.
- Never paint a fire sprinkler.
- Never stack items close to fire sprinklers, as this may reduce their heat sensitivity. Tops of storage or furniture should be at least 18 inches below fire sprinklers, according to the National Fire Sprinkler Association.
- Never hang anything from any part of a fire sprinkler system.
In summary, residential fire sprinklers are a valuable, cost-effective safety addition to any home, although they require periodic maintenance.