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Making the case for home fire sprinklers

Making a convincing case for home fire sprinklers infographicDownload the infographic highlighting these points. 

Home fires are a major problem in the U.S.

Fire in the home poses a significant threat to the people of your community. More than 2,500 people die in U.S. home fires each year. Further showcasing the enormity of this problem is that roughly 80 percent of all fire deaths are the result of home fires. 

The national consensus is in favor of sprinklers. All model safety codes now require the use of home fire sprinklers in new, one- and two-family homes. These requirements offer the highest level of safety to protect the people of your community.

Smoke alarms aren't enough

Make no mistake: smoke alarms are crucial and significantly cut the risk of dying in a home fire. But these devices do nothing to suppress a fire. Home fire sprinklers in coordination with smoke alarms have been proven to protect lives and property against fire. In fact, sprinklers cut the risk of dying in a home fire by an astounding 80 percent.

Beware of misleading percentages on survival and death

Fire sprinkler opponents have been using a statistic of 99.45 percent to illustrate the effectiveness of smoke alarms in reducing home fire deaths. This NFPA statistic estimates the likelihood of surviving a home fire when a working smoke alarm is present. Taken completely out of context, a number like 99.45 percent sounds very high. But consider this:

  • Each year, over 2,500 home fire deaths occur in more than 350,000 reported structure fires. Therefore, the likelihood of surviving a home fire is approximately 99 percent without regard to the presence of smoke alarms or any other fire safety provisions. Does that mean 2,500 deaths are acceptable? Most people would say no.
  • Each year, there are an estimated 41,000 deaths due to motor vehicle accidents and an estimated six million reported motor vehicle accidents crashes. The likelihood of surviving a motor vehicle accident crash is 99.4 percent. Does that mean 41,000 deaths are acceptable? Most people would say no.
  • Each year, 2.4 million people die of any cause in the country compared to a total U.S. resident population of 300 million. The likelihood of surviving every hazard, threat, and illness for a year is 99.2 percent. Does that mean 2.4 million deaths are acceptable – that nothing at all should be done to protect Americans from anything, especially when technology exists that could save lives? Most people would say no.

Beware of misleading percentages on effectiveness and reliability

It is important to recognize that home fire sprinklers are designed to activate by the heat of a fire that grows large enough for the temperature t hit 135°-160°F. They are not activated by smoke. Opponents have cited some low percentages for what they call fire sprinkler efficiency. Such statistics improperly include as failures fires that do not produce enough heat to activate the sprinkler system, possibly because they were extinguished before heat rises to the point of activating the sprinkler. In home fires deemed large enough to activate an operational sprinkler, sprinklers operated and were effective in 91 percent of reported fires.

Beware of false claims made for newer homes

Sprinkler opponents like to tout that "newer homes are safer homes." In actuality, newer homes tend to have larger open spaces, lightweight construction materials, and furniture stuffed with combustible materials--all factors that exacerbate fire spread and lead to homes burning quicker than ever before. These threats place both homeowners and firefighters at significant risk.

Sprinklers do more than save lives

Sprinklers can also save your home. In fact, these devices can reduce the average property loss per home by about 70 percent.

Home fire sprinklers are cost-effective

A report commissioned by the Fire Protection Research Foundation places the average, national cost of installing sprinklers in new homes at $1.35 per sprinklered square foot, or about one to two percent of the total construction cost. This cost includes all costs to the builder associated with the system including design, installation, and other costs such as permits, additional equipment, increased tap and water meter fees – to the extent that they apply.