by Essex County Fire and Rescue Service
Jan 27th, 2021
7 mins

There is clear evidence that the installation of sprinklers can be effective in the rapid suppression of fires within all types of buildings reducing the risk of business disruption, injury and death. Sprinklers have been successfully used for the protection of property such as factories, department stores and shopping centres for well over 130 years and more recently with the increased use within domestic and residential properties including the mandatory inclusion in Wales for all new builds, there is clear evidence that the installation of sprinklers can be effective in the rapid suppression of fires, therefore considering this, suppression systems can be utilised either in existing buildings or at design stage of any new development to compensate for:

• Where compartment sizes will be exceeded.
• A compensatory feature where B5 Access and facilities for the fire service cannot be met.
• To allow a building construction in a previously denied location.
• Extended travel distances.
• Reduction in fire resistance of compartment.
• Increased unprotected areas relative to adjacent boundaries.
• Flexibility and innovation in design.
• More flexible use of the building

Sprinklers can increase the sustainability and life expectancy of buildings, by limiting fire development and significantly reducing the amount of smoke, CO2 & other pollutants. Because only the sprinkler head or heads immediately above the fire actuate, less water is used and there is a significant reduction in the amount of water run off carrying pollutants into the water system.

So let’s examine the myths:

Myth: When there is a fire all of the sprinklers go off together.
Fact: Sprinkler heads go off independently and only when directly affected by the heat of a fire.

Myth: Water from sprinklers causes more damage than the fire.
Fact: Because the sprinkler system attacks the fire immediately, it is much smaller than the fire the Fire Brigade meets when it arrives some 5 – 30 minutes later. Sprinklers typically use around sixty litres per minute of water each to control the fire which is between 4% and 1% of the water used by EACH Fire Brigade hose. So in the event of a fire the sprinklers will actually reduce water damage.

Myth: Sprinklers can go off accidentally.
Fact: Tests over the past 10 years show that the chances of a defective head are approximately 16 million to 1, which is slightly longer odds than you winning the lottery. This figure includes all types of defect and therefore the actual chance of an accidental discharge is considerably less.

Myth: Sprinklers are only designed to protect property, and are not effective for life safety.
Fact: Statistics show that there has never been any multiple loss of life in a fully sprinklered building. Property losses average 85% less with sprinklers compared to those without. Clearly sprinklers provide a high level of life safety. The combination of automatic sprinklers and early warning systems in all buildings and residences could reduce overall injuries, loss of life and property damage by at least 80%.

Myth: Sprinklers are too expensive to install.
Fact: in new buildings the costs of installing sprinklers, considered over the life span of the building, work out economically – roughly equivalent to carpeting the same building. It is also likely that insurers will offer premium discounts and policy excesses may be lower.

Myth: Sprinklers are to expensive to maintain.
Fact: Annual maintenance costs are reasonably low and would be a lot less than the cost of replacing machinery.

Myth: Sprinklers are ugly and affect the design of the building:
Fact: sprinklers actually allow design freedoms, they may allow larger rooms and a reduction in partitioning. Sprinklers can be recessed or flush mounted and unobtrusive.

Myth: Sprinklers only work on fires that can be put out with water.
Fact: Sprinklers can now be foam enhanced to control flammable liquid, chemical and petroleum fires.


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