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5 Myths About Fire Sprinklers that You Should Know

Fire Sprinkler Systems Are An Important Weapon In Your Fire Protection Armoury

Fire Sprinkler Systems are a tool meant to protect people and their property. Considering that this is the intended purpose of a fire sprinkler system, it’s no surprise that there are numerous myths spread about them. In order to help you better understand automatic fire sprinkler systems and the facts behind the myths, let’s break down what these myths are, why they came about, and whether or not or not the are true.

 

Myth 1: Water damage from a sprinkler system will be more extensive than fire damage.

Fact: Fire damage is usually more extensive than water damage from a sprinkler system, but not in all situations. Water damage will follow the path of least resistance.
A fire hose, which delivers between 19-45 litres per minute of water, may cause a lot of water damage due to the pressure behind the water stream. If you were standing in front of it and could not move away quickly enough, you would be sprayed with the water or even knocked down and injured. Two or three sprinklers can also severely drench an area but are less likely to cause injury because they are delivering much less water per minute.
Fire hoses are very forceful and can spray 30 metres while a quick response sprinklers’ spray is approximately 2 metres long. A firefighter spraying a home fire with a hose only has control over the angle that it sprays at. If there is structural damage to the house, such as collapsed walls or ceilings, this can allow the water to get behind them and do substantial additional work to the home.

Myth 2: When a fire occurs, every sprinkler head goes off.

Fact: Only the sprinkler heads that are close enough to be affected by the fire are activated. The number of sprinkler heads that are activated depends largely upon the intensity of the fire. It is fairly common during most fires for only a portion of the protected area to be protected by the sprinklers. This could be as low as 10% or as high as 95%. However, it is very rare for even unprotected areas to be protected by less than one sprinkler. That means that 90% of all home fires are controlled with less than six heads going off (90% confidence level). In fact, only 4-8% of all home fires burn an entire room and cause an alarm to activate.

Myth 3: “A smoke detector provides enough protection.”

Fact: It is estimated that between 70 and 80% of Australian homes have smoke alarms, but this has not resulted in a decrease in fire deaths. There are many reasons why having a smoke alarm can be so ineffective. Firstly, it only warns us that there is a fire. Even if we act immediately and escape, the fire can still cause serious damage to our property and possessions. Additionally, smoke alarms may fail to give an alarm because they are installed incorrectly or because they are not maintained properly. For example, smoke detectors require regular maintenance and cleaning to ensure the sensors are kept free from dust and other particles that could interfere with the functioning of the device. In case of a fire, smoke detectors provide a warning system. They can do nothing to control a growing fire or protect those who are unable to escape on their own. Smoke detectors do not replace the need for working smoke alarms in every room of your home, as well as outside sleeping areas. You should also regularly test your home’s smoke alarms so you know they work when you need them most.*

Myth 4: “Sprinklers are designed to protect property, but are not effective for life safety.”

Fact: In Australia fire sprinkler systems provide a high level of life safety. Property losses are 85% less in residences with fire sprinklers compared to those without sprinklers. A combination of automatic sprinklers and early warning systems is the key to an effective fire protection system. As a result, fire sprinkler systems have been shown to be very effective in reducing the number of deaths from fires and the amount of property damage. The National Fire Protection Association reports that sprinklers reduce the death rate in residential fires by about 80%. Even more importantly, there is an 85% reduction in property losses when compared with properties without fire sprinklers.

There are different types of fire sprinkler systems available – deluge, pre-action and dry pipe. Deluge systems use water stored in a large tank or water supply main to operate the sprinklers when a fire alarm is triggered. The system automatically opens the valve(s) to allow water to flow from the tank by gravity through pipes to all discharge points. This type of system is used in larger buildings such as factories, high-rise apartments, hotels, schools and warehouses.

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A Deluge Fire Protection System or Pre-Action Fire Systems – Which One is Better?<<

In most Australian jurisdictions, pre-action systems are required for commercial buildings over 120m2 in area. Pre-action systems are similar to deluge systems but with an additional feature – they can be activated manually before there is any fire detection or before a fire has started. In this way, they provide a higher level of life safety than deluge systems alone. Pre-action systems are not suitable for use in residential buildings unless automatic sprinklers are also installed because they rely on manual activation by building occupants after detection of smoke or fire.

Myth 5: “My fire sprinkler system doesn’t need to be maintained because it doesn’t get used very often.”

Now, one thing that you should always keep in mind is that under AS 1851 guidelines, fire sprinkler systems do need to be maintained. This will help to ensure that they continue to function optimally, and also that they continue to pass the mandatory inspection tests that are required by law every year. It’s important to remember though, that this is not because the system is used very often at all. In fact, it can be used several times a day for testing purposes and still not have an impact on the maintenance schedule. The real reason for this maintenance requirement is because people tend to forget about fire sprinkler systems after they have been installed and therefore don’t think about conducting any maintenance themselves. Because this can potentially set you up for some very serious problems if there is ever a major malfunction with your system, AS 1851 requires that you employ a professional service provider to handle your maintenance needs instead.

In this article I have attempted to dispel some of the myths surrounding fire sprinklers for your office, warehouse and other commercial and residential applications. Hopefully, this has given you a better understanding of fire sprinkler systems and the benefits they offer, whether it is for an existing or new construction build.

If you’d like more information on fire sprinklers Australia-wide, or would like a quote on adding fire sprinklers to your commercial or residential building, please feel free to contact us. We look forward to hearing from you!

Yours In Fire Safety 

Alex

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