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Sprinklers Can Save Loss in Home Fires

October 04, 1987| Associated Press

One out of every 10 homes will have a fire this year, but fortunately there's a way to help protect family, home and valuable possessions.

Whether you're purchasing a new home or thinking about remodeling the house you live in, you should consider installing a quick-response residential fire sprinkler system.

Statistics from the U. S. Fire Administration (USFA), part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, indicate that of the more than 6,000 Americans who die from fires each year, 80% die in their home. USFA says a combination of quick-response residential sprinkler systems and smoke detectors is the best prevention.

According to safety experts, residential sprinklers are 95% effective in saving lives and 80% effective in protecting property. And water damage is minor.

Commercial Use Established

Sprinklers have been in commercial use in this country for more than a century. But up until the last few years, they've enjoyed only minimal popularity in the home. High installation cost, fear about water damage and aesthetic considerations have sometimes discouraged residential sprinkler installation.

But, as communities have increasing difficulty paying for new fire-fighting equipment and stations, sprinklers have become a practical reality. Smoke detectors, if properly maintained (batteries tested at least once a month, changed once a year) can provide early warnings from fire and cost under $20. But they don't extinguish fires or protect property. Sprinklers can suppress a fire before it has a chance.

While your home is being built or remodeled, installation of a sprinkler system requires substantially less piping and labor. Through improved technology, your home could be protected for roughly $1.50 a square foot.

Quick-response residential sprinkler systems can be connected to your home's water system and are designed to operate one isolated head at a time.

Heat Activates Sprinkler

If a fire breaks out, the sprinkler head nearest the fire will activate first. Only one or two heads are usually required to extinguish or contain a fire, often within two or three minutes. Each head contains a small metal (alloy) pellet that blocks the flow of water when in place.

Under heat conditions of 165 degrees or higher, it melts and drops down to allow water to spray. This mist extinguishes the fire and minimizes harmful smoke and gases. It's generally smoke, not fire, that kills.

All standard residential sprinkler systems call for metal or plastic piping, sprinkler heads, a bell alarm and a back-flow valve that keeps sprinkler water from flowing back into drinking water. The bell alarm sounds when the system is in active operation.

Independent insurance agents and adjusters have reported property loss savings of more than 80% on homes protected by fire sprinkler systems.

Some insurance companies offer incentives for homeowners to install fire sprinkler systems. Depending on the homeowner's coverage, you could save 5% to 15% a year on premiums.

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