New study shows ease of integrating home fire sprinklers with local water supply systems

Published on October 22, 2009
No design issues or significant cost issues found

October 22, 2009 – Home fire sprinklers can be integrated with local water supply systems with ease according to a new study - Integration of Residential Sprinklers with Water Supply Systems (PDF, 842 KB)  - released today by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The study, conducted by Newport Partners of Maryland, looked at detailed information for 20 US communities with a residential sprinkler ordinance and concluded that water supply integration requirements have been put into place, and there are no examples of insurmountable problems or issues. Neither design problems nor significant added costs were found in the communities surveyed.

“This is another critical piece of substantiation against the myths that abound about home fire sprinklers,” said Jim Shannon, NFPA president. “It is simply not true that sprinklers cannot be integrated with public water supply or significantly adds to cost. What is true is that home fire sprinklers save lives and should be required in new construction of one- and two-family homes.”

All model safety codes now include such a provision. According to NFPA, the risk of dying in a home fire is cut by about 80 percent when sprinklers are present.

Key findings from the report
While sprinklers are still a fairly recent development in all of these communities (average ordinance age is about 3 years), water supply integration requirements have been put into place, and there are no examples of insurmountable problems or issues. Neither design problems nor significant added costs were found in the communities surveyed. Findings included:

  • Nearby communities, such as those in the same state, generally adopt consistent provisions on issues such as water metering requirements; making compliance more uniform and predictable.
  • More unusual design requirements, such as dual water service lines or dual water meters, are rare and typically driven by a local issue which would not apply in most other areas
  • In more than half of the communities, no cost impact resulted from sprinkler-induced changes to water meter size, the need for additional water meters, or changes to tap size. These communities also did not have higher monthly service fees from the water supplier for homes with sprinklers. (In those communities where one or more of these factors did add cost, the average added cost was about $400.)
  • Administrative issues such as concerns about water shut-off and larger, less accurate meters are not viewed as significant issues. In those communities where system inspections are required, communities are adopting a variety of practical strategies.

Overall, water suppliers, building departments and fire service have developed practical approaches to accommodate both home fire sprinklers and the local water supply.

Study Background
In-depth interviews were conducted with 20 U.S. communities with a residential sprinkler ordinance to better understand how sprinklers are integrated with the local water supply systems, including any added costs related to meters or tap fees. Participants included local water providers, building departments and fire service staff. The interview questions were based on a literature review of fire sprinkler/water supply integration issues, and were conducted by phone after first screening a community to make sure it had an ordinance covering all new single-family construction that had been in effect subsequent to 1999. This research was conducted in Spring/Summer 2009.

A copy of the full report may be found at www.firesprinklerinitiative.org.

About the Fire Sprinkler Initiative: Bringing Safety Home
The Fire Sprinkler Initiative, a project of the National Fire Protection Association, is a nationwide effort to encourage the use of home fire sprinklers and the adoption of fire sprinkler requirements for new construction.

About the National Fire Protection Association
NFPA has been a worldwide leader in providing fire, electrical, building, and life safety to the public since 1896. The mission of the international nonprofit organization is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education. Visit NFPA’s Web site at www.nfpa.org

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Contact:  Lorraine Carli, Public Affairs Office: +1 617 984-7275

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