We all know how effective properly installed, routinely maintained, and regularly inspected and tested fire sprinklers can be for protecting building occupants and content, responding firefighters, and structural members. Data available from both the National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Fire Administration reflect this effectiveness in terms of limiting fire-related deaths and property loss in commercial and residential occupancies.
The well-documented safety margin provided by fire sprinklers has led to their inclusion in the model building/fire codes adopted by many state and local jurisdictions across the country.
It's important to understand, however, that while many localities have adopted sprinkler requirements before and after they were included in the model codes, many others have not. Even in jurisdictions that have adopted the model codes without modification, they often apply only to new construction and usually do not include a requirement to retrofit older buildings with sprinklers and other safety enhancements.
As this story demonstrates, absent retrofitting provisions to provide fire sprinklers in existing structures, fire departments will continue experiencing fires, including major ones, in older buildings.
For this reason, and even if we were able to someday ensure the presence of fire sprinklers in every structure, it's critical to consider community risk reduction holistically through education, enforcement and engineering.
With national Fire Prevention Week still fresh in our minds, we must redouble our efforts to provide fire- and life-safety education through schools and other channels, enforce robust fire-prevention codes and standards wherever possible, and ensure the presence of working smoke alarms in every home.
About the author
With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel — FireRescue1's editorial advisor — is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.
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Jay McLaughlinWednesday, October 23, 2013 4:49:55 PMAt who's risk? I have installed fire spriklers for over twenty years..it's the code enforcement that needs changing..how many lives does it really take for government to open their eyes?
Blake MayoWednesday, October 23, 2013 6:37:30 PMI'm sorry but you need to open your eyes!!! If a municipality is totally on a municipality run water supply then I totally agree that any given building should be fully sprinkler system. However, if a building is on a private water supply then According to most state Department of Health said water systems only needs to deliver 5 gallons per minute and have a reserve of approximately 750 gallons for an average 3 bedroom home. Many private systems in the US have trouble meeting this requirement. So explanes to me how a residential system is going to make a difference? If anyone tells me that a reserve water supply will be required with a standby pump that is driven by a standby gen set. I will not buy that either. Statically speaking if such a system is installed it will FAIL when needed. So again I will say more research is needed for a better system
Dominick G KasmauskasFriday, October 25, 2013 5:10:58 AMUh, nope. It's only about a 270-300 gallon tank n pump. 10 minute stand alone water supply. No need to be a part of well system. Or municipal system.