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A fire sprinkler system is an active fire protection measure, consisting of a water supply system, providing adequate pressure and flow rate to a water distribution piping system, onto which fire sprinklers are connected. Although historically only used in factories and large commercial buildings, systems for home and small building are now available at a cost-effective price. Fire sprinkler systems are extensively used worldwide, with over 40 million sprinkler heads fitted each year. In buildings completely protected by fire sprinkler systems, over 99% of fires were controlled by fire sprinklers alone.
Watch this video for a brief demonstration of how sprinklers operate.
Most sprinkler systems are very simple. There are normally no moving parts to fail. The pipes are full of water, usually from the mains. The sprinklers over the fire burst open when they get hot and spray water on the fire. If you have water in your pipes the sprinklers will work.
Only the sprinkler closest to the fire will activate spraying water directly on the fire. Ninety percent of fires are contained by the operation of just one sprinkler.
Reports of water damage from fires in buildings with sprinklers are often exaggerated. Only the sprinklers over a fire open. All the others stay shut. A sprinkler opening by accident is almost unheard of and the chances are only 1 in 16 million! Firemen often use 10,000 times more water from hoses to do the same job as a sprinkler. A valuable item sprayed with water from a sprinkler as it puts out a fire can usually be recovered or restored. One that is burnt to a cinder and flushed down the drain by a fire hose is another matter! If there is a fire the water from one or two sprinklers is a small price to pay for saving a complete building, its contents or even a life.
Modern sprinkler are specially designed to meet the needs of architects in offices, hotels, shops, hospitals and prestige buildings. They are compact and elegant. In most buildings, the public are usually unaware that sprinklers are fitted. Miniature sprinklers are little bigger than a 50p piece and are neat and robust. They can be fitted with ceiling rosettes and painted to match any colour scheme. Concealed sprinklers are recessed and covered by a flat plate flush with the ceiling. They are unobtrusive and almost invisible. Concealed sprinklers are ideal for clean areas, where there is restricted headroom or vandalism is a problem.
The most important thing to do to keep your sprinkler system in good shape is to have it inspected and serviced by GTM fire Protection Ltd. This will ensure any potential problems with your system are addressed early ensuring it operates properly in the future. In addition, fire sprinkler system maintenance will usually lower insurance premiums. In terms of specific do’s and don’ts when it comes to your fire sprinkler:
- Test your fire sprinkler system weekly by opening the test valve and listening for an alarm gong.
- Know the location of the fire sprinkler system shut off valve.
- Make sure the fire sprinkler system control valve is secured in the open position.
- Have your system re-evaluated for upgrades when:
- Your building’s water supply changes. This can happen if you face a reduction of public water supply.
- Your building’s occupancy level or use changes.
- Your building’s layout changes.
- Leave the building and contact the fire service as soon as possible after the fire sprinklers go off, even if it looks like the fire has already been put out.
- Paint the sprinklers.
- Damage sprinklers (report any damage immediately).
- Hang objects from any part of the system.
- Obstruct or cover the sprinklers.
In a large, fast-moving fire, people often do not know which way to go and may not be able to use hose reels or fire extinguishers. Sprinklers are completely automatic. They work by themselves and can stop heat and smoke from trapping people.