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Ask a firefighter

Posted: Monday, December 15, 2003

Question: Although smoke detectors are essential in every household, they're designed to detect, not control the fire. What more can an individual do to protect his family and home in the event of a fire?

Answer: Home fire sprinklers complement the smoke detector's work, providing a way to fight flames immediately. In less time than it would take most fire departments to arrive on the scene, home fire sprinklers can contain and even extinguish a fire. There's less damage and less chance of deadly smoke and gases reaching the family.

Installing both smoke detectors and a fire sprinkler system, reduces the risk of death in a home by fire by 82 percent.

A residential fire sprinkler system is a series of pipes tied into your home's domestic water system. Spaced throughout the home, sprinkler locations depend on the specific design and layout of the house by the use of heat activated heads placed either in the ceiling or high on the walls. The sprinkler heads typically have either a small solder link or a glass tube inside, and when the temperature inside the house rises to approximately 160 degrees, the solder melts or the glass shatters, activating the sprinkler.

An individual head releases approximately 13 to 24 gallons of water per minute, and only the heads in the path of the fire are heated to the activation point.

In order to work properly, a residential sprinkler system needs to have an adequate supply of water that is delivered at an adequate pressure. Most houses that are served by a municipal water system will have plenty of both, but if your water supply comes from another source and you have concerns about either the capacity or the pressure, you can easily augment your system through the installation of a simple storage tank and pump system.

Only qualified contractors should install fire sprinklers. They will know how to install the system in compliance with national standards, which ensures that the spacing is correct and an adequate water supply is available. Also, fire sprinklers have different operating temperatures and flow patterns. You need someone knowledgeable who can select the correct sprinkler for each area of the home.

This column was provided by Central Emergency Services Fire Marshal Gary Hale.



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