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Residential Fire Sprinklers Amazing Results

"Install Residential Fire Sprinklers And Discover Their Amazing
Life-Saving Record 20 Years Of
Results Point To An Amazing
Record Of Saving Lives When Fire Sprinklers
Are Installed"

In June 4, 1985, the city of Scotsdale, Arizona, did something unusual: it enacted a law requiring all new homes to be fitted with fire sprinklers during construction.

Scotsdale had already passed a similar ordinance in 1974 that applied to commercial structures. Fire officials were impressed with the results of this ordinance-nearly 90% savings in fire damage costs in structures with fire sprinklers installed-that they began testing residential fire sprinklers to see if they would be similarly effective.

There was some resistance to the plan, particularly from builders-who were worried that the cost of installing fire sprinklers in new homes would drive buyers away from the area. At the time, it was determined that the average cost for installation of fire sprinklers would be $1.14 per square foot.

However, during the course of the ten-year study, the price of installing fire sprinklers was cut approximately in half, to about $.59 per square foot by 1996. Installers explained that this was from higher demand for fire sprinklers, improvements in cost effectiveness and technology, and higher competition among installation companies. The ordinance actually drove down the price of installing fire sprinklers.

But most importantly, the results of the ordinance to install fire sprinklers spoke for itself. In ten years, 7% of residential fires involved homes with fire sprinklers installed. Of those, 92% of fires were controlled by a single sprinkler head. The other 8% involved flammable liquid spills, which took three or more sprinkler heads to extinguish-but ultimately, those fires were controlled as well.

The average damages for homes with fire sprinklers installed were $1,945-compared to damages in homes without fire sprinklers, which came to $17,067. Although less than half of homes were fitted with fire sprinklers-the ordinance covered new construction only-the town experienced only a quarter of the fire damage seen in neighboring towns of similar sizes in the last year of the study.

Scotsdale serves as an important example of what can happen when a strong public education campaign is paired with support from lawmakers and officials. Millions of dollars in property damage and more than a few lives were saved as a result of their aggressive fire safety campaign.Return to Top

Success Stories: Fire Sprinklers In Action

Fire sprinklers are effective against every type of fire-as the citizens of Scotsdale found out. Below are just a few examples of fire sprinklers saving the day.

  • A homeowner put smoldering fireplace coals inside a flammable container inside the garage before leaving home. The container ignited-and was contained almost immediately by the fire sprinklers installed in the home. There was a great deal of flammable material in the garage, and other homes close by would have been in danger of catching fire if the blaze had been allowed to spread. As it was, the garage suffered almost no damage and the fire was controlled immediately.
  • A malfunctioning electric fan started a fire in a ground-floor apartment building. A single sprinkler head controlled the fire within minutes of its start.
  • A fire started within the walls of a home under construction. It burned within the unprotected space between walls and ceilings for some time before breaking into the living space. The fire was especially dangerous because it was undetected for some time, even with electricians and construction crew working on the premises. In addition, fire sprinklers are not positioned to protect against fires in the narrow space between walls and ceilings. However, the fire eventually broke into the living space of the home, which was protected by fire sprinklers. The fire sprinklers helped control the fire, making it possible for workers at the site to extinguish it completely.
  • An arsonist broke into a home and poured gasoline all over the bedroom of one of the occupants-and on the sleeping occupant himself-before setting the room on fire. The fire sprinklers activated immediately, and the occupant experienced only minor burns-despite being covered with gasoline. The fire sprinklers were directly responsible for saving this man's life.
  • In the early morning, EMT personnel responded to a minor medical incident at a Scotsdale resort. While parked in the basement parking lot of the resort, a fuel leak caused the ambulance engine to explode, starting a potentially serious fire-made worse by the oxygen tanks carried in the ambulance. Luckily, the resort had had fire sprinklers installed-five fire sprinklers were activated and controlled the fire in 20 minutes.
  • An arsonist used a large amount of flammable liquid to start a fire in a single-family home. Witnesses called the fire department and reported that a huge, uncontrolled blaze was engulfing the house. However, when the fire department arrived, they found a lot of smoke-but hardly any fire. The fire sprinklers had activated and almost completely controlled the fire before the fire department arrived-despite the large amount of flammable liquid used to start the fire, the fast spread rate, and the abundance of flammable material inside the house. Fire sprinklers are not designed to control fires of this magnitude-but in this case, the fire sprinkler system was able to contain the fire effectively.Return to Top

Why Should You Install Fire Sprinklers?

Chances are, you don't live in an area like Scotsdale, which mandates the installation of fire sprinklers in the home. This means it's up to you to decide to install fire sprinklers. Here are just a few compelling reasons why fire sprinklers make sense in any home.

  • There are 44 people injured in a fire every day throughout the U.K.
  • A home catches fire in the U.K. every eight minutes.
  • It can only take a fire two minutes to go from a smolder or spark to an out-of-control conflagration.
  • It takes considerably longer than two minutes for most people to fully awaken and get out of a burning house when a fire alarm goes off.
  • Every day in the U.K., two people die in a fire. There has never been a fire-related death in a U.K. home with fire sprinklers installed.
  • Fire sprinklers don't just alert you to a fire-they put the fire out. This can be the crucial difference between lives saved and lives lost in a fire.
  • Fire sprinklers don't go off by accident. It takes fire-intensity heat to set a sprinkler head off-nothing else will do it. It's estimated that only one in 500,000 fire sprinklers malfunctions each year.
  • Sprinklers cost as much to install as new carpets. They easily pay for themselves in terms of property and lives saved with only one fire.
  • Fire sprinklers are effective because they cut the fire off before it has a chance to grow-no matter what fuel is used.
  • Losses in buildings with fire sprinklers installed average less than one-tenth those of buildings without fire sprinklers.
  • Fire sprinklers control over 99% of all fires that start in the home. In a home without sprinklers, there's a one-in-five chance your home will catch fire.
  • Sprinklers use only a hundredth the amount of water used by the fire brigade to control a fire.

Think Fire Alarms Are Enough To Protect
Your Home? Think Again

One Scotsdale family also thought fire alarms were enough to protect them from fire-with tragic results.

Improper disposal of cigarette ash started a residence fire in Scotsdale-in an older home that had not been fitted with fire sprinklers. The home was up to fire safety codes, with fire alarms installed. Two middle aged and one young adult lived in the house.

Even so, the family was rendered unconscious by smoke inhalation before the fire department could save them. When they arrived, they were able to get all of the occupants out of the house. One survived. One died at the scene, and one died later in the hospital.

This family had installed the conventional fire protection equipment usually recommended-including fire alarms. It wasn't enough to keep them safe.Return to Top

Passive Protection :
The TroubleWith Fire Alarms

Fire alarms provide a passive defense against fire: they alert you to a problem, but they don't do anything else to contain a fire.

Approximately 14% of fire alarms malfunction during a fire. Many more fail to work because of user error-the batteries have expired, or the device has been unplugged to prevent it from going off by accident. Fire alarms are so sensitive that a little smoke from food cooking on the stove can set them off-leading many people to unplug them in frustration. If you forget to plug them back in, the results could be tragic.

Most home fires happen at night, when people are sleeping. It can take several minutes for a family to wake up, get dressed and get out of the house when a fire alarm goes off-regardless of the noise. Those few minutes are all a fire needs to get out of control. The moment a fire alarm goes off, residents are in a race against the fire-and all too often, the fire wins.

In addition, young children are particularly vulnerable to fire. Children under the age of five typically don't understand that they need to get out of the house in case of a fire-no matter how often you tell them. They'll hide under a bed or in a closet to escape a fire, causing the parents to waste precious minutes looking for them. They often cannot escape on their own.

The handicapped and elderly are another high-risk group. They often cannot move quickly without assistance, and may have trouble navigating stairs and fire escapes in the event of an emergency. Many fire-related deaths involve people with medical conditions who could not move quickly enough to get out on their own.

A fire alarm will make plenty of noise in the case of a fire-but the people in a burning house are on their own.

Active Protection:
Why Fire Sprinklers Are So Effective

Fire sprinklers extinguish the fire at its source-before it has a chance to grow.

The moment a fire starts, it sends up a burst of heat that activates a sprinkler head. Fire sprinklers are designed for individual activation-a small fire won't set every sprinkler in the house off. Nine times out of ten, one sprinkler head is enough to extinguish a fire.

Fire sprinklers hardly ever malfunction or go off accidentally, like fire alarms do. The reason is that sprinklers can only be activated by a burst of heat strong enough to melt the seals on the sprinkler head, causing it to spray. The only thing remotely likely to produce that much heat in a home is a genuine fire.

The flow of water from fire sprinklers is designed to drop the core temperature of a fire past the point where heat can be maintained. Once a fire has dropped below that threshold temperature, it can no longer sustain itself. The fire sprinklers put out the fire by removing its heat.

Fire sprinklers also reduce the chances of death by smoke inhalation. This is the most common cause of death in case of house fires-most people suffocate long before the fire gets to them. Fire sprinklers spray water on the source of smoke, weighing down the larger smoke particles. This thins the smoke, giving people in a burning home a better chance of surviving to escape.

Sprinklers are the most effective means of protecting your home against fire. They are more effective than fire alarms, fire extinguishers, and even the fire department. If you have anything in your home worth protecting-and all of us do-you should give fire sprinklers serious consideration. After just one fire, your family will thank you for it.

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