Sprinklers in the home once
By David Hull
January 07, 2008
There has been a bit of misinformation put out there on residential
sprinkler systems. First, the sprinkler requirement is not for
all new homes, only those where the department cannot get an
engine closer than 150 feet. Don't want a sprinkler system in
your new home? Build your driveway so the fire department can
get an engine within 150 of your door. Done Deal!
Second, code requirements usually have one uniting cause. Either
a large dollar loss occurred that the construction requirement
could protect against or a life was lost where the construction
requirement, if in place, could have played a major role in preventing
that fire death. I say could because no one can absolutely guarantee
any requirement will prevent every fire or prevent every fire
The sprinkler companies spend an enormous amount of time, effort
and money perfecting their product, because if it fails their
liability is even more enormous. The same thing can be said about
the construction industry. Look at lightweight construction in
use on many of the homes being built today. That roof, however,
is no longer safe for the fire department to put personnel upon
during a fire. They fail much faster than they used to.
I need to stop here and LOUDLY state that I am NOT questioning
the integrity of any construction company or individual in this
town. They are craftsmen and know what they are doing and have
my respect. However, these light weight construction innovations
that have helped make it faster and much more cost efficient
for home builders to put a roof on a structure have made it more
dangerous for firefighters. Failure is expensive, in more ways
Today's homes are built much safer, but the contents also burn
much hotter, faster and create more and deadlier smoke than ever.
The plastics that have intertwined into our lives have replaced
much of the organic materials used in the past. These materials
give off more toxins than their organic counter parts, but they
are also more durable, offer more variety and are cheaper. Our
society likes durable variety, especially if it's cheaper.
The construction procedures in use today create a separated environment,
sealed off from the outside world. In the event of a fire, this
cocoon keeps both the heat and smoke inside the structure. This
environment does not make it easier for occupants to escape or
firefighters to enter, it makes it more dangerous. Flashover
used to take 8 to 10 minutes; it takes 2 to 4 minutes now. Ever
try to waking up in the middle of the night and evacuate your
whole family out of a smoky, burning house in 2 to 4 minutes?
Smoke alarms and carbon Monoxide alarms have made things safer
for the occupants. I also remember the same arguments being made
against the laws that required their installation. Smoke detectors
are not infallible. They don't put fires out and recent studies
have shown that many children do not wake up to the alarm. They
simply sleep right through it.
To help with this new development, a new smoke detector has been
developed with a digital chip in it that records the parent's
voice loudly demanding the kids to wake up and get out of the
house. Did you know that detectors get old? Studies have shown
that your detector should be properly disposed of and replaced
every 10 years. Most sprinkler systems are good for 25-50 years.
What happens to a new house 50 years down the road? It becomes
as susceptible to fire as a 50 year old home is today.
Failure rate of new sprinkler heads is 1 in 16,000,000. Do they
freeze? Of course they do, just like your domestic water system
in your home if you don't take care of it. This is one of the
biggest arguments the insurance industry has against them. People
don't take care of them. People don't take care of their smoke
alarms either. Is your fire escape plan formulated? Have you
practiced it? Can all of you exit your house in 2 to 4 minutes?
Please remember, by the way, that all three fire departments
have smoke detectors to give away and will offer installation
assistance to anyone who needs it. All you have to do is call.
They do work and they are the law.
The simple fact is that a combination of smoke alarms, carbon
monoxide detectors and home sprinkler systems offer the best
possible protection in case of a fire. You weigh the cost.
About: "Retired, rehired
and still trying to fight fires."
Received January 03, 2008 -
Published January 07, 2008
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