Residential sprinklers are devices installed in a home to attack a fire in its early stages by spraying enough water to put out the fire or keep it from spreading. Sprinkler heads are held closed until heat activates them. Only the sprinkler heads near the fire open, spraying water on the fire to extinguish it or control it and keep it from spreading.
Sprinkler heads operate quickly to minimize the threat from heat, flames and toxic smoke. The National Fire Protection Association has no record of a multiple-death fire (killing three or more people) in a residential property where a complete sprinkler system was installed and operated properly. This includes houses, apartments, mobile homes, hotels, motels, dormitories, etc.
Sprinklers have been used for years in commercial and industrial buildings and the record is almost as good. More than 6,000 people die in fires in the United States each year. Sprinklers could save thousands of these people. In fact, as many as 90 percent of the deaths in residential fires could have been prevented by using sprinkler systems.
Residential sprinkler systems use lightweight, inexpensive piping and fittings of plastic, copper or thin-wall steel in place of traditional materials. Their "quick response" opens faster than those in industrial and commercial properties and operate from the household water supply. These sprinkler systems can be built into new housing or added to existing buildings. It is estimated that residential sprinkler systems would add only about one to one and a half percent to the cost of new housing.
Because home sprinklers are effective, they may help reduce insurance claims. In many states, insurance companies offer special discounts to homeowners if their home has an approved sprinkler system. Residential sprinklers are practical. They are small enough to blend into a typical household and are attractively designed. The sprinkler heads stand out less than one inch from the ceiling. You also can buy ornamental plates to blend in with the decor of a home. A home system uses much less water than an industrial or commercial system.
Myths About Sprinklers
Many people have a concern about sprinklers accidentally going off in their home. One study showed that sprinkler accidents generally were less frequent and less severe than accidents involving the rest of the home's plumbing system.
Some people believe that water damage from sprinklers will do more damage than the fire itself. Water damage from sprinklers is not greater than fire damage. All fires have to be extinguished eventually and a sprinkler puts far less water on a fire than a fire hose would! Plus, the value of the lives that might be saved is far greater than any furniture or carpeting.
Residential sprinkler systems are far less expensive than they used to be, principally because of the new, quick-response residential sprinklers and the smaller water supplies they require.
If one sprinkler goes off, they will not all go off. Only the sprinklers in the area of the fire will go off.
"Fires Only Happen to Other Guy"
Nearly everyone in the United States will have a fire in his or her lifetime. Almost everyone knows someone who will die or be injured in a fire. The people who consider themselves immune from fire are the very ones with the highest risk of having a fire.