The Producer Got it Wrong

 In Tip of the Week

We are not sure who advises the producers on certain TV shows, but they often sacrifice truth for the sake of excitement, and get it wrong. Take automated fire sprinklers, for example. While watching a popular TV show recently, the heroes were in a tool room of a warehouse, hiding from a large group of drones that were attacking and shooting at them. To foil the drones, the heroes, still in a closed tool room,  set a rag on fire and held it up to a sprinkler head in the ceiling. Of course, the resulting deluge throughout the warehouse shorted out the drones and they were saved.

Sprinklers just don’t work that way.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), automatic fire sprinklers are “…a network of piping filled with water under pressure that are installed behind the walls and ceilings, and individual sprinklers are placed along the piping to protect the areas beneath them. Because the water is always in the piping, fire sprinklers are always “on call.” If fire breaks out, the air temperature above the fire rises and the sprinkler activates when the air temperature gets high enough. The sprinkler sprays water forcefully over the flames, extinguishing them….” (emphasis added).

Notice the underlined words. The NFPA, in their explanation, uses the singular word “sprinkler,” not the plural word. In most automatic fire sprinkler systems, only the sprinkler head or the ones in the area of a fire activate. Going back to our TV show, if the heroes had activated the sprinkler with the fire in the tool room, most likely, only the sprinkler head in the tool room would have activated, not the entire sprinkler system throughout the warehouse. But of course, unfortunately this would not have saved our heroes.

Most often, you don’t have control over whether there are sprinklers in your work place. Either there are sprinklers or there are not. If there are automatic fire sprinklers, then there are certain inspection requirements to ensure they are functioning properly when there is a threat of fire. Inspections should include:

  • Monthly: inspect valves and gauges.
  • Quarterly: inspect water flow and supervisory alarm devices.
  • Annually: have the system inspected by a professional sprinkler inspection company.

Where you do have control over the presence of these potentially life-saving devices is in your own home. If you are remodeling or are having a new home built, we strongly recommend that you consider the addition of fire sprinklers. Some people elect not to have them put in because they are afraid that the sprinkler will activate accidentally, or because of the expense. However, the NFPA dispels these as myths. They offer these facts:

  • It is extremely rare for sprinklers to operate accidentally. In a typical home, water damage will be considerably less from unwanted sprinkler discharges than from other plumbing mishaps.
  • Cigar smoke or burnt toast cannot cause a sprinkler to operate. Only the high temperature that results from a fire will activate the sprinkler.
  • All the sprinklers do not activate at once. This scenario may be common in movies and TV shows, but it just isn’t true for home fire sprinklers. Only the sprinkler closest to the fire activates. Ninety percent of the time, one sprinkler contains the fire.
  • Home sprinklers are less than the cost of upgrading the carpet in your home, usually about one to two percent of the cost of your home, and your homeowner’s insurance often gives you a good discount for having them installed.

Automatic fire sprinklers save homes and save lives. They can extinguish a fire before it has the opportunity to grow into something that demolishes your home completely, often even controlling the fire before the fire department can arrive. And in doing so, the sprinkler system itself becomes the hero.

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