Firefighter invents 'stay-dry' sprinkler head stopper
Seal leaks with a one-size-fits-all stopper that can be installed from a 'safe' distance
Disabling a damaged sprinkler head can be a soaking-wet experience for fighters, and often cost home and property owners thousands of dollars in water damage. It's important to stop a leak as quickly and efficiently as possible, but wouldn’t it be great to say you won't touch a water-spewing sprinkler with a 10-foot pole?
Well, how about a 12-foot pole?
That’s now an option, with San Diego firefighter Matt Scarpuzzi’s new Quickstop Talon. It’s designed to fit most sprinkler heads on the market, regardless of what condition they’re in, and has been developed by a guy who got fed up with the lack of options out there and decided to create his own.
Scarpuzzi has two models — the residential fire sprinkler kit and the commercial fire sprinkler tool – both sold online for $89.95.
The Talon hit the market in June and has been reviewed by San Diego Fire Rescue Department and the Los Angeles Fire Department. The pole is in the third and final round of beta testing and should be available for sale by the end of the year.
We caught up with him to learn more about his product.
What makes your product unique?
The Quickstop Talon is the only sprinkler tool that can stop sprinkler heads whether they are intact, damaged or completely sheared. It is also the only tool that can be remotely operated allowing the user to stay dry and avoid having to climb dangerous wet ladders.
How did you come up with this idea?
I work in downtown San Diego where we respond to activated sprinkler heads often. I became fed up with tools that only worked on certain heads or tools that were completely useless if the sprinkler was damaged or sheared. As a firefighter, I would never use an ax that could only cut certain types of wood. Why would I use a sprinkler tool that was working less than half of the time I needed it?
What was the inspiration behind your tool?
My design is focused around the original sprinkler tong that was created in the 1920s. I looked at hundreds of modern sprinkler heads, simplified the use of the tool, and made it easy to operate with a single, one-hand motion.
Can you explain how it works?
The upper arms of the Talon slide around the threaded portion of the sprinkler head (or the top arms of a recessed head). The tool automatically aligns the lower gasket to the opening, stopping the flow of water immediately.
By anchoring directly to the sprinkler threads, the Talon is able to hold a water-tight seal up to 350 psi. When the tool is loaded into our 12-foot telescoping pole, the pole operates the Talon in the water while the user stays safe and dry on the ground.
If the tool has successfully clamped the head, it will disengage from the pole and remain in place on the sprinkler. The user has now stopped all further water flow and can take the time to locate the shutoff without causing more damage.
What’s the major difference between the commercial and residential models?
Our residential kit was created for the homeowner and was not designed for repeated, heavy duty, higher pressure commercial use. That's why the Talon fits so well in the fire service.
How is this different from a door wedge?
The Talon is far superior to door wedges because it not only stops fire sprinklers that are intact but also if they have been damaged or completely sheared. It is actually the only tool on the market that can do this with both 1/2- and 3/4-inch sprinklers. This means that whether your sprinkler has been set off by fire or accidentally activated by being broken off, the Talon can handle the job. The tool has also been tested to hold up to 350 psi water tight, making it capable of handling high-rise systems with jockey pumps etc... Of course, it is also the only tool on the market that can be used with the telescoping pole allowing the user to stay safe and dry.
What’s the worst sprinkler disaster you’ve experienced?
I have seen 42 floors of damage and a $2 million insurance claim from a single head. It was a brand new building in my district and two years later they are still having electrical problems from the water damage. I was in the research and development phase of my product and seeing that kind of damage only pushed me to finish my design faster.
Is the Quickstop being used by the market you envisioned?
We have sold to hospitals, building developers, sprinkler installers, moving companies, home owner associations, hotels and many others outside of the fire service. I think there is a very strong desire to protect your investment whether it is a home, business or commercial building.
Can you describe a specific instance where it was successfully used?
A sprinkler head was sheared by a remodeling crew in a shopping mall. I had the Talon in my turnout pants and was able to stop the head in seconds. It took my crew and the building manager over 45 minutes to find the main water valves.
The building was using a loop system and had multiple feeds. If the water had not been stopped at the head, hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages would have occurred. Retailers on floors below would have lost a significant amount of merchandise.
What’s been one of the challenges of starting this business?
Some people have said that by highlighting water damage we are bringing a bad name to fire protection systems. To me, that is like saying airbags bring a bad name to vehicles. Accidents are going to happen, and we want to minimize the negative impact of those accidents. By helping remove the concern of water damage, we may help more people decide to install a protection system in their building saving lives and property.