Facts and Myths About Commercial Fire Sprinkler Systems
What do large structures like high rises, stadiums, medical centers and warehouses have in common? These enormous commercial buildings require optimum fire protection in the form of commercial fire sprinkler systems. Plenty of myths camouflage the facts when it comes to the usefulness of fire sprinklers. We’ll freshen up the murky waters by separating fact from myth.
Myth: Fire sprinklers are triggered by smoke.
Fact: Commercial fire sprinklers douse flames when intense heat reaches the sprinkler heads. When flames unravel, within seconds, massive amounts of heat surge upward toward the ceiling. Fire sprinklers operate on the infiltration of heat.
In fact, glycerin-based liquids are housed within the fire sprinklers’ glass bulbs. When hot air of 135 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit collides with the bulbs, the glycerin-based liquids inside expand. Upon the liquid expansion, the bulb shatters. The immediate upshot is that the sprinklers are activated.
It is a relief to know that the smoke from the toast burning in the office break room will not trigger the fire sprinklers.
Myth: One sprinkler causes all sprinklers to activate.
Fact: Television enjoys dramatizing sprinkler systems. Movies show commercial sprinklers going off like firecrackers, with one sprinkler activating the whole floor’s sprinkler systems.
The fact is that each sprinkler functions on an individual basis. The majority of fires in commercial spaces are doused by the water of just one or two sprinkler heads. Data from 80 years of automatic sprinkler usage uncovers that 82 percent of fires are extinguished with, at the most, two sprinkler heads.
Myth: The water damage from sprinklers is disastrous.
Fact: The water unleashed from fire sprinklers does far less damage than the water from a firefighter’s hose. When a fireman attempts to extinguish the fire burning on a commercial property, he uses six times more water than a sprinkler system would. Consequently, a visit from the fire department and the subsequent extinguishment can lead to significant water damage.
Keep water damage to a minimum by installing a commercial fire sprinkler system. Remember, the entire system is rarely triggered by one sprinkler head. Small fires are contained — and so is the water damage.
Myth: Fire sprinklers are unnecessary, as smoke alarms offer adequate protection.
Fact: While smoke alarms alert employees about the presence of a fire, these detectors do nothing to extinguish the fire.
Plus, if a fire breaks out during the nighttime or on weekends, the fire alarm fails to douse the fire, allowing the rampage of flames to destroy property well before the fire trucks arrive.
Myth: Fire sprinklers do little to save lives and reduce injuries.
Fact: Injuries and fatalities are reduced when an automatic fire sprinkler system is in place. The National Fire Protection Association reports that out of every 1,000 reported fires in properties with an automatic extinguishing system (AES), 0.8 deaths occurred; in stark contrast, in buildings without an AES, 6.3 deaths resulted. This data indicates the death rate is 87 percent lower in structures with a sprinkler system than in those without.
Alarming statistics exist for injuries related to fires and the critical part sprinkler systems play. For every 1,000 reported fires, 23 injuries resulted when the structure featured a sprinkler system. This means that the injury rate is 27 percent lower in buildings with an installed sprinkler system than in those without. Injuries that occurred were due to the fires being too minor to trigger the sprinklers; or, injuries were sustained in the earliest moments of the fire outbreak, before the sprinklers could activate.
Myth: A commercial fire sprinkler system does not require maintenance.
Fact: Like any mechanical device, sprinkler systems should undergo regular upkeep in order to operate at critical times. A lack of maintenance can lead to sprinkler failures. It is important to note that fire sprinkler breakdowns are less common due to enhanced fire safety technology.
Regular upkeep includes ensuring the pipes do not freeze in cold temperatures, testing the sprinklers monthly, checking pressure in the pipes, examining heads periodically for damage and unrestricted flow, looking for leaks and ensuring the valves properly open and close.
Plus, property owners should ensure the sprinklers are kept on. While seemingly reasonable, in 59 percent of incidents of sprinkler system failure, the system had been shut off.
Myth: Property insurance premiums are unaffected by the installation of sprinklers.
Fact: Sprinkler installation can be mandated by certain local ordinances. While installing sprinklers can be financially burdensome for some business owners, many insurance companies will reduce the premiums if a sprinkler system is in place. Annual inspections of the sprinklers are required to sustain the reduced insurance premiums.
A fire is likely to cause insignificant damage in your commercial property if the fire sprinkler system is turned on and well-maintained. In the event a small fire breaks out and it is immediately extinguished by sprinklers, the resulting fire damage will be minor. Whether a fire wreaks major or slight damage to your commercial building, contact your local fire and smoke damage restoration expert. ServiceMaster NCR is prepared to handle any level of fire and smoke damage.
Fire Damage Restoration
ServiceMaster NCR’s experienced technicians arrive quickly onsite to assess the commercial fire damage. Our IICRC certified and trained specialists are equipped with advanced tools and technology to clear the premises of damaging smoke, soot and resulting odors. Most surfaces affected by smoke and fire can be successfully restored. Such surfaces include porcelain, aluminum, brass, marble, stainless steel, upholstery and carpeting.
Our comprehensive fire and smoke damage restoration services include working with your insurance agent during the claims process. ServiceMaster NCR has earned a stellar reputation with major insurance companies.
ServiceMaster NCR is ready to swiftly tackle fire and smoke damage in your commercial property or residential home. Our specialists stand by 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to take your emergency call. Business and home owners in the Alexandria, Virginia, and Washington, DC, communities rely on ServiceMaster NCR for all their fire damage restoration and smoke cleanup needs.