Sprinkler Systems: Debunking the Myths

August 5, 2013 By In News 1 Comment

Over 40 million sprinkler heads are installed each year, but many people in the UK still have reservations. In our time serving businesses around Devon in all areas of fire safety, we have come across a few myths regarding sprinkler systems which prevent people from seeing them as a great option in fire suppression. Today we’re going to discuss some of those myths.

Myth #1 Sprinkler systems are too expensive.

Sprinkler systems require piping to be installed throughout a building, and were once only used in large, high-risk commercial buildings. Many people still believe that sprinkler systems are only suitable for bigger companies with a larger budget, but it’s not true! Installing a sprinkler system actually costs about the same as a carpet fitting. For the work they do, they are certainly cost-effective.

Myth #2 They aren’t effective.

If you’ve noted that some sprinkler systems don’t entirely extinguish a fire, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that they aren’t effective. But this isn’t the case. There are two types of sprinkler system. The first are those that contain fire, smoke and heat until the fire brigade intervenes. The second are those that first contain the heat, then work to extinguish a fire. The former is not less effective, because containment is one of the most important aspects of fire suppression. When a fire is kept under control, the damage and destruction will be far less than without the use of sprinklers.

According to the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA), in buildings fully protected by sprinklers:

  • 99% of fires were controlled by sprinklers alone.

  • 60% of fires were controlled by the spray from no more than 4 sprinklers.*

Myth #3 All that water will be damaging.

Actually, sprinklers do a lot more good than harm. Often people are afraid that the output of water will damage more building contents than a fire will. Sprinklers put fires out at their source to reduce damage, whereas it could take a year for business to recover after an untamed  fire, if at all. Let’s look at the facts:

  • “Losses from fires in buildings protected with sprinklers are estimated to be 1/10 of those in unprotected buildings.” – BAFSA*

  • “Installing fire sprinklers would almost eliminate the risk of fire death, cut the risk of injury by over 80%, drop the risk of fire damage to property by 90% and massively help the environment by reducing the damage caused by fire and substantially reducing the amount of water used by fire fighters.” H20 Fire Sprinklers, Scotland **

Myth #4 When one goes off, they all go off.

Sprinkler heads operate individually. The most popular format for sprinkler systems is the wet pipe system, where water is stored in pipes at a certain pressure. Many of them use a small glass bulb that bursts at a certain temperature, allowing water to release.

Myth #5 Sprinkler Systems aren’t used very much.

Sprinkler heads are small, so you may not have noticed their increasing popularity in the UK. Sprinkler systems are becoming mandatory in many countries around the world; not just in commercial buildings but in homes. For example, in 2011, Wales was the first country to make sprinkler systems a requirement in new homes.

Myth #6 There’s a high risk of accidental discharge.

Many people look up, see a sprinkler head, and imagine themselves randomly sprayed and soaked by a faulty sprinkler. Despite this scenario being popular in movies, it actually doesn’t happen that much in real life:

  • “Accidental discharge of water from all causes is 1 in 500,000 (per year of service)” – BAFSA*

  • “Accidental discharge of water due to manufacturing defects is 1 in 14,000,000 (per year of service)” – BAFSA*

Don’t fear: If you install sprinkler systems in your property, you don’t have to turn up to work in a wetsuit!

Got any more questions about sprinkler systems? Get in touch today.

* Information from the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA) website, 2013: http://www.bafsa.org.uk/facts.html
** Information from H20 Fire Sprinklers, Scotland website, 2013: http://www.h2ofiresprinklers.co.uk/fire_sprinklers.php

One Response to Sprinkler Systems: Debunking the Myths

  1. Great work on your myth busting. Hollywood does like to glamourise sprinklers for some reason. Especially the ‘one goes off all goes off’ idea. I think this could really put people off, especially with the massive rise of computer numbers in offices now.