Mythblaster Monday 11: Safety Resides in Each Home Fire Sprinkler

We often talk about the best way to improve fire safety outcomes is by having interconnected smoke alarms to alert people so that there may be a fire. Interconnected in the smoke alarm sense means that when one sounds, they all sound.

But for home fire sprinklers, this idea of connection results in a persistent myth. Throughout our Mythblaster Monday series, we identify common misunderstandings surrounding home fire sprinklers, offering resources that share their many benefits and flush out the misinformation. Last week, we provided information on developer incentives for installing home fire sprinklers, and today we are clarifying a question that advocates commonly face.

Myth: If one sprinkler goes off, they all go off

Fact: Sprinklers activate independently; only the sprinkler closest to the fire will activate

Hollywood has done us no favors when it comes to home fire sprinkler myths – they in fact perpetuate one of the most common misunderstandings about sprinklers. Often in movies or TV shows you see every sprinkler going off in a building when there is a fire or another mishap by some villain character. That is simply not true.

Regardless of the type of system—combination or stand-alone, fire sprinklers are attached to pipes throughout the home or property. While they are connected, they don't all go off at once. Home fire sprinklers are there for early suppression, giving occupants more time to escape and giving firefighters a more controlled scene to face. The key to information to refute this common misconception is in this video that shows that only high temperatures activate a sprinkler, only the sprinkler closest to the fire will be affected. In 90 percent of fires, one sprinkler is enough to control the flame.

The focused suppression of individual sprinkler activation also results in lower damages and water usage. Research shows that when sprinklers are present, the average dollar loss per fire is 63 percent lower than when there is no automatic extinguishing system, and that sprinklers discharge an average of 341 gallons of water per fire, compared to 2,935 gallons per fire discharged by firefighter hoses.

More information on how home fire sprinklers work and what benefits they offer different stakeholders can be found on the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition and the Fire Sprinkler Initiative websites.

Sign up for the NFPA Network Newsletter
James Monahan
James Monahan
Public Affairs Intern

Related Articles