Fire Protection Industry

F.A.Q.

sprinkler head
How effective are fire sprinklers?
Sprinklers operate automatically at the start of a fire, preventing a fire from spreading and keeping fire and water damage to a minimum.
How do fire sprinklers operate?
Automatic fire sprinklers are individually heat-activated, and tied into a network of piping with water under pressure. When the heat of a fire raises the sprinkler temperature to its operating point (usually 165ºF), a solder link will melt or a liquid-filled glass bulb will shatter to open that single sprinkler, releasing water directly over the source of the heat.
When a fire starts, do all sprinklers discharge at once?
All sprinklers in a building do not operate simultaneously. Sprinklers distribute water directly where it is needed to confine and control a fire. In the majority of fires, only one or two sprinklers are required to operate.
Can sprinklers discharge accidentally?
The likelihood of a sprinkler discharging water in the absence of a fire is very small. In very sensitive areas such as art galleries, a "pre-action installation" can be provided, where water is only introduced into the system after certain triggers have been fired.
How much water damage is caused by sprinklers?
Because sprinklers attack the fire while it is still small, the total amount of water needed for fire suppression is small. If the fire is permitted to grow, the fire service will typically apply hundreds of gallons of water per minute during their operations.
What are "trade-offs" between fire protection system costs and savings?
The system cost can often be offset by insurance savings, and by specific design alternatives or "trade-offs" permitted by most building codes in view of the superior protection afforded by sprinklers.
How often should my system be inspected?
It is important that a company's sprinkler system is regularly serviced, but the frequency of these varies depending on the type of system in use.
Under BS EN 12845, the valves in a wet pipe sprinkler systems should be serviced at least once per year. Alternate valve systems, which typically comprise a dry and wet alarm control valve, an accelerator, sprinkler heads and a dedicated water supply system, should be serviced biannually, once during April for the warmer months and again in October to charge the system with air and set up the accelerator.
Sprinkler systems which have their own water supply will require additional maintenance.
For further information see article by Dave Tonkinson, sprinkler risk adviser at Aviva Risk Management Solutions (ARMS).
When was the first automatic sprinkler system installed?
Possibly the oldest in Britain was fitted in 1812 at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and, in an updated form, it is still in use today.
How does inspection affect my insurance rate?
Buildings which are completely sprinklered enjoy special reduced rates. However, if the insurance company does not receive verification of system inspection, penalties in the form of higher insurance rates apply.
How does inspection affect my liability?
Recent court decisions have held building owners and managers liable because they did not have a fire sprinkler system in a building which had a fire. Even though sprinkler systems were not required in these buildings by fire or building codes. In the US, owners have had to pay out millions of dollars. Similarly, an owner or manager of a building with a fire sprinkler system would be held liable if he failed to maintain that system in a working condition.

About sprinkler systems

pipework

A fire sprinkler system is an active fire protection measure, consisting of a water supply system, providing adequate pressure and flowrate to a water distribution piping system, onto which fire sprinklers are connected.

Possibly the oldest in Britain was fitted in 1812 at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and, in an updated form, it is still in use today.

Each closed-head sprinkler is held closed by either a heat-sensitive glass bulb or a two-part metal link held together with fusible alloy. The glass bulb or link applies pressure to a pip cap which acts as a plug which prevents water from flowing until the ambient temperature around the sprinkler reaches the design activation temperature of the individual sprinkler head. In a standard wet-pipe sprinkler system, each sprinkler activates independently when the predetermined heat level is reached. Because of this, the number of sprinklers that operate is limited to only those near the fire, thereby maximizing the available water pressure over the point of fire origin.

Why have one?

A sprinkler activation will do less damage than a fire service hose stream since a great deal less water will be discharged than would typically be used by the local fire service. In addition, a sprinkler will usually activate between one and four minutes, whereas the fire service typically takes considerably longer to commence spraying water at the fire. This additional time can result in a much larger fire.

Since a sprinkler system is fully automated it will avoid the risk to life of untrained occupants of the building trying to fight the fire manually with hose reels or fire extinguishers.

Benefits

Fire protection sprinkler systems and suppression systems:

  • Save lives and prevent injury
  • Save buildings and significantly reduce property loss
  • Typically involve less than four sprinkler heads, containing fire and minimising water damage
  • Deliver water directly to the source of the fire
  • Are functional 24 hours a day and operate instantly the moment a fire is detected
  • Limit the production of smoke and fumes
  • The protection sprinkler and suppression systems offer allows design flexibility in new buildings. In particular movement around these protected buildings are made easier due to less fire doors and lobbies
  • Have long term financial benefits from insurance premium reductions
  • Operation of a sprinkler system will rapidly control a fire, raise the alarm and reduce the rate of production of heat and smoke, allowing time for occupants to escape
  • Drastically reduce the damage caused by a fire and therefore minimise the disruption and time taken to achieve business continuity
  • Provide a dramatic reduction in harmful emissions from unsuppressed fires
  • Minimise production of atmospheric pollution toxic gasses and particles

Commercial / Residential / Domestic

Fire sprinkler systems come in three categories: Commercial, Residential and Domestic. At KPFP we can handle all three types of project.

Residential Fire Sprinkler Projects

Office blocks
  • Student accommodation
  • Residential and nursing homes
  • Smaller day centres
  • Rented houses in which 3 or more people live
  • Shared residence with shared access and living spaces

Domestic Sprinkler Projects

  • House extensions
  • Newly build family homes
  • Newly build houses with 4 or more storeys
  • Modified single family houses
  • Private group residence

Commercial Fire Sprinkler Projects

  • Larger offices
  • Hospitals
  • Large day care centres
  • Schools
  • Warehouses
  • Factories

How they work

Sprinkler heads are connected at regular intervals to a grid of piping that covers the whole of the protected area. Most commonly, sprinklers are seen in ceilings but they can just as easily be installed in other areas where there is risk of fire such as floor voids. The pipes are fed with water from the town mains, or possibly from a tank or pumped supply.

In most cases the pipes are kept filled with water and the sprinkler heads are closed using a glass bulb, which shatters once a pre-defined temperature is reached. This releases the water through that sprinkler only. Since only the sprinklers affected by the heat of the fire are activated, they receive the maximum pressure of water to fight the main source of the fire and other sprinklers where there is no fire are not activated, keeping unnecessary water damage to a minimum.

Once a sprinkler head opens and water starts to flow, the flow of water activates a mechanical gong fire alarm. This is a particularly reliable form of alarm as it has no dependency on the electricity supply.

For installations where there where accidental activation is particularly undesirable, such as in museums with rare art works, manuscripts, or books; and Data Centres. A pre-action system may be installed. Here, the action of a detector device, such as a fire or smoke detector releases a preaction valve, the water fills the piping system, and an alarm is given in advance of the activation of sprinklers. This means that pipes in the sensitive are are not permanently filled with water, risking leaks and accidental sprinkler activation. An alarm within this type of system will often give an opportunity to extinguish the fire by manual means before a sprinkler activates.