Are Fire Sprinklers Effective?
If you own a home or a commercial building, you might be wondering whether fire sprinklers are worth the investment. Are they effective at putting out fires, saving lives, and preserving property, or are they simply overrated? Let’s find out.
How Do Fire Sprinklers Work?
There are four different types of fire sprinklers: wet pipe, dry pipe, pre-action, and deluge. The most widely used are wet pipe fire sprinklers. In this type of system, sprinkler heads attach to a piping system that continually holds water to allow for immediate discharge when activated.
The next most common system (dry pipe fire sprinklers) contains plumbing filled with pressurized air or nitrogen, which exits the sprinkler head immediately before the water starts flowing. This creates a minor delay but is useful for buildings where low temperatures could cause standing water in the sprinkler system to freeze.
Regardless of the style you install, all fire sprinklers share several important characteristics:
- Fire sprinklers respond to heat, not smoke, to reduce accidental activation in non-fire situations.
- Each sprinkler head activates independently to reduce water damage. In fact, in two-thirds of fires where the sprinkler system operates, only one or two sprinkler heads open.
- The sprinkler system releases much less water than the fire department would use to douse the flames, again reducing water damage.
How Effective are Fire Sprinklers?
If you’re uncertain whether sprinklers are right for your building, consider the following research compiled by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA):
Fire sprinklers save lives
In sprinklered homes where fires occur, the death rate plummets by 82 percent. Similarly, in sprinklered manufacturing facilities, deaths in a fire drop by 88 percent. In warehouses, not including cold storage facilities, fire deaths are 61 percent lower when sprinklers are present. In fact, the NFPA has no record of a multiple-death fire in a completely sprinklered building, as long as the fire sprinkler system operated correctly.
Fire sprinklers preserve property
In every industry, property damage rates plummet in buildings with sprinklers compared to those without. The rate of property damage from a fire in non-sprinklered homes averages $20,000 compared to $7,000 for sprinklered homes, a 65 percent decrease. Fires in non-sprinklered restaurants cause an average of $53,000 in property damage, but this falls to $13,000 when sprinklers are present, a 75 percent decrease!
Sprinklers operate as intended a majority of the time
When fires break out in sprinklered buildings, the sprinkler system operates 91 percent of the time. In these cases, the sprinklers are effective at putting out the blaze 96 percent of the time. This amounts to a total success rate of 87 percent.
Leading reasons why sprinklers fail to operate
Nearly two-thirds of sprinkler operation failures happen because the system was shut off during an inspection and never turned back on. Other leading causes of sprinkler failure include manual intervention (17 percent), lack of maintenance (6 percent), and inappropriate system type for the application (5 percent). Only 7 percent of sprinkler failure is caused by damaged components.
Leasing reasons why sprinklers operate but are ineffective
Sometimes sprinklers activate, but they don’t extinguish the fire. This is most often caused by failure of the water to reach the fire (44 percent) or insufficient water pressure (30 percent). Only 8 percent of ineffective performance is caused by damaged components.
Unifour for Fire Sprinkler Services in the Southeast
Since 1984, we have been the company to call for fire sprinkler services for businesses, organizations, and restaurants. One of the main reasons your neighbors have been trusting Unifour Fire & Safety for over 30 years is because we are a one-stop shop for fire protection services in the Southeast. If you have questions about your current fire sprinkler system or need one installed, please contact us today at 866-511-5540.