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Are Fire Sprinklers Effective?

Fire sprinklers are one of the most effective ways to control fire damage in a home or office environment because they are the only means of actively preventing the spread of fire. Other precautions, such as smoke alarms and fire extinguishers, are passive protection (that is, the burden is on the people in the building to get themselves out alive).

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) named fire sprinkler systems as an integral component of an overall fire safety strategy in a home, office, or other commercial property (in addition to smoke alarms, portable fire extinguishers, and an escape plan). When these sprinkler systems are properly installed and maintained, they save lives and money in property loss or damage. The NFPA further advises your sprinklers should be professionally installed and maintained, and not be used in any fashion other than for fire safety. 

  • Never hang things on the sprinkler heads, as this could accidentally break the fusible link and cause the sprinkler malfunction.
  • Never paint over a sprinkler head or smoke alarm.

Commercial fire sprinklers can control fires even in the most combustible areas. Following, are stories of businesses that survived serious fires with only minor damage, thanks to commercial fire sprinklers (from USFA):

  • A fire broke out in an automotive parts warehouse when cardboard boxes stored near a propane heater burst into flame. The fire activated the warehouse's commercial fire sprinklers. Firefighters arrived within eight minutes. They found plenty of smoke, but only one small fire, which they quickly extinguished.
  • A hot spotlight ignited some nearby clothing at a shopping center. This fire could have resulted in hundreds of lives lost, but owners had installed commercial fire sprinklers which controlled the fire immediately. The shopping center was running again after only an hour.
  • A dryer malfunctioned in a restaurant late in the evening, heating the clothes inside until they burst into flame. Firefighters were prevented from entering the building for some time, because the owners had changed the locks. When firefighters finally entered the building, the only fire they found was contained inside the dryer where the commercial fire sprinklers couldn't reach.