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The Importance of Home Fire Sprinklers

February 10, 2014

home fire sprinklersI was looking at newly built homes a few weeks ago, and during the tour the Realtor was telling me about all of the upgrades the builder offered. I asked if fire sprinkler systems were an option and she gave me a confused look and said, “No, why would they be?” I told her I feel more comfortable living in a home with fire sprinklers, and she said, “In my 25 years as a Realtor nobody has ever asked me about a fire sprinkler and, frankly, they’re expensive and don’t do anything.” She then changed the subject to the granite countertops and hardwood floors in the kitchen, saying they were an added expense but quite a luxury.

Talk about an added expense that doesn’t do anything!

The NFPA reports that over 2,300 civilian deaths happened in 2012 due to home fires, and according firesprinklerinitiative.org, the cost of home fire sprinkler systems has dropped to $1.35 a square foot. Fire Sprinklers lower insurance costs and can significantly reduce property damage in the event of a fire (sprinklers reduce the average property loss by as much as 70% in the event of a fire). In about 85% of home fires, only one sprinkler head is activated.

Some make the argument that newer homes are safer, so they don’t need sprinklers. If you factor in to the mix the lightweight construction new homes are built with (used in 50-66% of all new homes), which firefighters are much less likely to enter in the event of a fire due to their structural instability in high temperatures, sprinkler systems can help offset the risk of a total loss in your new home. Some studies have shown that lightweight construction can be prone to catastrophic collapse as early as six minutes from the start of the fire.

Why isn’t a smoke alarm enough? A smoke alarm will alert a resident to a fire but won’t do anything to extinguish the fire. While all homes should have operating smoke alarms (see our blog about how they work!) they’re simply a warning system to evacuate the house. It won’t stop the fire from hurting or damaging you, your children, pets, or valuables. One thing I’ve learned after being in the insurance and fire safety industry for a few years is how few people realize the advantages of a fire sprinkler system. If you do one thing today, I beg you to watch this Marble Mountain Fire Burn video done from a fire department in California. There are two links near the bottom: the first is a home without a fire sprinkler system, and the second is a home with one installed. Notice the temperatures the fires reach, and in such short periods of time!

When the realtor was finished parading the wonders of stainless steel appliances and three-car garages, I asked if those would save my children were a fire to start in the kitchen during the night. While perhaps I was being rude, I did notice that she didn’t have a response.

To learn more about home fire sprinklers, visit www.firesprinklerinitiative.org!

Article by: Kristen Skinner

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