House fires usually happen at night when you and your family are asleep. Fires are fast; they can go from a tiny flame to deadly destruction in as little as three minutes. Residential fire sprinklers can suppress and often extinguish a fire before the fire department arrives, giving your family time to escape.
Fires today seem to burn faster and kill quicker, because the contents of modern homes create smoke and toxic fumes. Fire sprinklers are also important since modern, lightweight home construction products, especially wood truss roof systems and wood joists, can rapidly fail under fire conditions, posing an extreme risk to firefighters responding to a fire.
Furthermore, many high-risk populations (such as infants, children, people with disabilities, and older adults) can have difficulty hearing and waking to smoke alarms, and difficulty reacting quickly and effectively enough for a safe escape. Their lives depend on stopping the fire early in its development - their lives depend on fire sprinklers.
Home Fire Sprinklers Are Simple to Maintain
Home fire sprinkler systems require very little maintenance. In fact, the sprinklers themselves require nothing more than an occasional look to ensure they are not painted and that nothing is hanging from them, or blocking them. Valves should be similarly checked to ensure they are turned on. According to the National Fire Protection Association, once a month, homeowners or sprinkler contractors should test the pump (if any) and visually verify that all valves are open and the storage tank (if any) is full. Twice a year, the water flow device and monitoring service (if any) should be tested. That's it.
Fire Sprinklers Are Environmentally Green
In October 2009, FM Global, one of the world's largest commercial property insurers, conducted full-scale fire tests to compare the environmental impact of sprinklered and non-sprinklered home fires. The tests showed that in the event of a home fire:
- Greenhouse gas emissions were cut by 97.8%.
- Water usage was reduced between 50% and 91%.
- Fewer persistent pollutants, such as heavy metals, were found in sprinkler wastewater versus fire hose water.
- The high pH level and pollutant load of non-sprinkler wastewater was an environmental concern.
Fire Sprinklers Are a Smart Investment for Developers
A national report from the Fire Protection Research Foundation (2008) found that the average cost to builders to install sprinklers in new homes was $1.61 per sprinklered square foot. Reduced labor costs and municipal trade-up incentives have made fire sprinklers a valuable way for home-builders to protect their bottom line. Options vary by jurisdiction, but typical trade ups for a sprinklered residential development or sub-division include street width reduction, additional units, and increased hydrant spacing.
Fire Sprinklers Are a Smart Investment for Homeowners
The installed fire sprinkler system is paid for over the life of a mortgage, just as is the home's electrical or plumbing system. A national poll conducted by Harris Interactive® showed that two-thirds (69%) of U.S. homeowners say having a fire sprinkler system increases a home's value.
The Home Insurance Industry Encourages Sprinkler Installations
The insurance industry banks on the fact that having installed fire sprinklers not only protects against fire injuries and deaths; they also protect against fire damage. As an incentive for customers, insurance companies offer discounts ranging from 5% to 25% off the fire portion of homeowner premiums. HFSC urges consumers to shop around for the best insurance discount.
The Charleston Fire Department encourages all residents to practice fire safety by installing and maintaining smoke alarms and residential fire sprinklers, practicing fire escape plans, and performing a home safety walk-through to remove fire hazards from the home.
To watch a home fire sprinkler system in action, visit FEMA's U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) website below and view a video clips showing a typical home Christmas tree fire with and without fire sprinkler protection.