If you are thinking about building a new home, add in a home sprinkler system. It can save your life and the lives that that are near and dear to your heart. Both career and volunteer fire services insist that having a home sprinkler system will save the lives of citizens, firefighters, and property from the devastating effects of residential fires. There is no doubt that adding sprinklers will increase the cost of building a new home. There is also a very real possibility that homeowners who have sprinklers will see a decrease in their homeowners’ insurance premiums.
Firefighters who have witnessed first hand the damage a fire can bring might ask, what took you so long? Here is a firefighter’s take on this subject. In a letter to state senators in October 2010, state Fire Commissioner Ed Mann wrote, “please consider that since the late 1980s, when sprinklers became law in Prince George County, Maryland not one person has died in (a) home protected by automatic sprinklers. On the other hand, at least 100 people have died in the same time period in residential fires were no sprinklers existed.” To expand on what Ed Mann has said, on average 2,500 people each year died in a home fire. The homes that have been protected by a sprinkler system, saw reduced the average property loss per home by about 70%. While many homeowners have a smoke alarm, integrating that system with a home sprinkler system, has cut the risk of dying in a home fire by 80%.
Another reason why firefighters feel having a home sprinkler system in new construction is needed, is modern homes are much more dangerous than ever. Modern 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 more quickly than ever before. These treats place both homeowners and firefighters at significant risk, as most of the items in our homes are made of plastic or other materials that, when ignited, give off poison gas that can kill quickly. The sprinklers will quickly extinguish or at least keep fires contained, thus limiting an occupant’s exposure to the hazardous, deadly smoke, giving them the time they need to escape. Many new homes are built with pre-engineered and lightweight structural components. When exposed to fire these items become compromised and are prone to fail in as little as five to eight minutes, just about the time the first fire truck is pulling up to the scene. The unknowing firefighters walk or crawl into the zero visibility and the floor under them gives way sending them into the fire below.
It used to be that a firefighting crew had time to mount an interior attack on a fire before collapse became a concern. Unfortunately, with fires in new homes, the battle may be lost before the firefight begins, sometimes with a very tragic result.
In a report commissioned by the Fire Protection Research Foundation, the average national cost of installing sprinklers in new homes is $1.35 per square foot or about 1% of the total cost of construction. While cost can vary, people tend to pay more for granite countertops. If your concern is that a home sprinkler system would be unsightly, well a home sprinkler system can come in a concealed fashion, as shown below.
For those who have watched a movie or TV show where a sprinkler head activates and suddenly all of the sprinklers in the room are flowing, that is just Hollywood theatrics. Only the sprinkler(s) closest to the fire will activate, spraying water directly on the fire. And since sprinklers use significantly less water to suppress a fire then a fire hose, water damage is significantly reduced.
So take it in consideration when rebuilding your new home. Adding a home fire sprinkler system can save your life, the lives of your loved ones, and your property.