Did you ever wonder what would happen to your family if a fire started in the house? Would everyone be able to get out in time? Would they know what to do and where to go as soon as they smelled smoke?
The reality is that when a fire strikes, every minute counts. That’s why the United States Fire Administration recommends that everyone have a comprehensive fire protection plan that includes smoke alarms, residential sprinkler systems and a well-planned home fire escape plan.
“Given the proven effectiveness of today’s fire sprinkler technologies, it’s little wonder that residential fire sprinkler systems have grown significantly in popularity and, in some states, are mandated when a house is built or remodeled,” says Matthew Kuwatch, global business director for BlazeMaster Fire Sprinkler Systems. “Unlike smoke detectors, which simply alert you when a fire has started, fire sprinkler systems provide a proven means for delaying the spread of a household fire or even extinguishing it, thus giving residents the extra time they often need to exit safely.”
Such precautions, in addition to increased educational efforts, are paying off in the form of fewer fire-related deaths in the United States. The fire death rate in the United States has declined by 66 percent since 1979, according to a July 2011 report issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. That’s good news, but not good enough when you consider that the United States still has one of the highest fire death rates in the industrialized world. According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were roughly 480,000 structure fires in the United States in 2009 that resulted in nearly 2,700 civilian deaths, nearly 15,000 related injuries and $10.8 billion in property damage.
The best time to start protecting your family is when you’re building a new home or remodeling an existing one, as residential fire sprinkler piping runs behind the walls and between the floors, exposing only the sprinkler heads through the ceiling or wall. Just as important as planning your home fire escape plan is researching the right fire sprinkler system, as not all of them perform the same. Piping materials and overall design of the system can be very different with some offering significant cost and performance advantages.
As a result of corrosion problems and escalating material costs, metallic systems are no longer being installed as frequently but are being replaced with newer, high-performance, more cost-effective technologies. BlazeMaster Fire Sprinkler Systems, for example, which are made from a revolutionary, high-temperature specialty material that has been effectively used in life safety applications for nearly 30 years, have become the most specified non-metallic fire sprinkler system in the world. Lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and easy to install, they offer significant cost savings over steel systems in the form of reduced material and labor costs. They also provide a superior safety performance over other plastic systems because they do not support combustion and will not continue to burn after the ignition source has been extinguished.
From a design standpoint, a fire sprinkler system can operate independently as a stand-alone system or in combination with the plumbing system (often referred to as a multipurpose system). Due to reliability concerns, however, these combination systems are not approved for use in many regions of the country.
Regardless of the piping material or system design, fire sprinkler systems are a wise investment. Not only do they increase the survival odds if a fire should strike, but they can also result in reduced insurance premiums because of their ability to limit property damage. Unlike the myths and movies that portray multiple sprinkler heads going off simultaneously to discharge a large amount of water, the reality is that automatic fire sprinklers are individually heat-activated to spray water only in the immediate area of the fire. In many cases, only one sprinkler head operates to extinguish a fire. The amount of water discharged from a sprinkler head is roughly 1/8 the amount of water typically disbursed if the local fire department is called in.