Columbia Southern Fire Protection Systems Planning Committee Report Imagine that a planned unit development consisting of large single-family homes is being proposed in your jurisdiction. The developer recently completed a similar project in a neighboring city that required residential sprinklers to be installed in the homes. Although residential sprinklers are not required in your jurisdiction, the planning committee would like information in order to help them decide if residential sprinklers should be included in the new development. To help them with their decision, they have requested that the fire department provide information explaining fire behavior in a home and the benefits of smoke detectors and residential sprinklers.
Assume the role of a representative from the fire department, and prepare a two-page report for the planning committee that addresses the items listed below.
Explain how fire can develop in a single family home.
Explain why water is used as an extinguishing agent and how it extinguishes fires.
Explain the benefits of installing fire protection systems (smoke detection and fire sprinklers) in single-family homes. As a part of your discussion of the benefits of residential sprinklers, include specific residential sprinkler experience data (fatalities, fire loss) from at least one community that has enacted residential sprinkler legislation.
Support your assignment with at least two sources from the CSU Online Library. All information from outside sources must be referenced; paraphrased and quoted material must have accompanying APA citations. Fire Preuention
SYSTEMS AND BASIC SALUAGE
BY DEflH J. MAGGOS
(1) Fire sprinklers installed in the basement of a single-family home. This installation uses steel, although plastic piping could he used for this type of installation.
[Photos courtesy of the La Grange Park (ID Fire Department.] (2) Fire sprinklers installed in the wall of a single-family dwelling. Note the plastic piping. It is
critical to get firefighters out to see these installations if they are new in your response district so your members can became familiar with the design.
N METROPOLnAN CHICAGO, MORE
and more fixed fire protection systems
are being installed in btjildings as areas are
developed and redeveloped. More than 30
Chicago suburbs now require the installation of
Hre sprinklers in new single-family construction.
As these systems’ benefits have been recognized, code requirements for them have become
more stringent. As more of these fire protection
systems are installed in your area, it is your responsibility to understand how they work. Departments should keep up to date on the types
of sprinkler systems being installed in their communities, especially regarding the differences
among those installed in residential dwellings.
La Grange Park (lL) Fire Department firefighters attend regular training sessions on tire
sprinkler systems. In the Chicago area, fire.
building, and water officials from communities
that have adopted or are planning to adopt sin• DEAN I. MAGGOS is a 22*year veteran of the
tire service and the director offireand building for
La Grange Park, Illinois. He is a state certified fire
officer in. fire preveniion officer, and fire investigator. He has a master’s degree in public safety administration from Lewis University in Romeoville.
IlHnois. and a bachelor’s degree in fire science
management from Southern Illinois University in
gle-family sprinkler ordinances regularly meet
to discuss their local codes and National Fire
Protection Association (NFPA) 13D, Standard
for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems in Oneand Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured
imperative we do what we can to stop the water
flow as quickly as possible. This is important at
commercial occupancies, with which we have
the most experience with sprinklers, to prevent
water from further damaging files, stock, and
Familarizing yourself with the details of fire
protection systems enables you do your job
more effectively and allows you to use them to
your advantage during fire attack (e.g., complex
smoke control systems) or to reduce property
damage by knowing how to stop the water flow
in a residential sprinkler system.
Although in residential occupancies such
damage is not co.stly in terms of contents, salvage is still extremely important at residential
properties, in which more and more systems are
Most of us first learned about fire sprinklers
back in the fire academy. Since that time, we
should have received in-.service training on
such systems and obtained some experience
responding to fires at which the sprinklers were
operating or the forkiift (occasionally) took out
a head. When responding to system activations,
we have all learned how important it is to make
sure the fire is out before we shut down the system, which we should never foiget. But what
about performing salvage once a fire is out or
when a system activates accidentally as a result
One’s home and personal belongings are extremely valuable to that person, even if it’s just
an apartment. If installed in accordance with
NFPA 13D or 13R, Standardfor the Installation
of Sprinkler Systems in Residential Occupancies up to and Including Four Stories in Height,
residential sprinkler systems have a great track
record for saving lives and property. However,
let’s not allow these systems to cause more damage than they should by not understanding how
they woric or what can be done to prevent further
To emphasize the importance of understanding these systems’ operation and how we can
DNCE THE FIRE IS OUT
impact their effectiveness, we need to discuss
Once it is determined that a system can be why they are being installed. Again, our most
shut down (the fire has been extinguished), it is basic mission is to save lives and property.
FIRE ENGINEERING January 2006 2 0 7
Fire Prevention Bureau
Residential sprinkler systems, if properly installed and maintained, are the most effective
way to complete this tnission. Remember, these
are considered to be “life safety” systems. Let’s
face it, about 80 percent of fire deaths occur in
residential fires. Residential tire sprinklers extinguish about 96 percent of fires using two sprinklers or less.
Also, in most instances, residentialfiresprinklers will activate in the first few minutes of the
fire’s ignition. This means that most of the time,
the sprinklers will begin extinguishing the fire
before the occupants have time to escape and
Now, consider how much time elapses
from the fire’s ignition to its discovery to
calling the fire department to processing the
call. Then firefighters have to be dispatched,
don their turnout gear, travel to the scene, and
set up operations. Even if someone is home,
there is a good chance the sprinkler will have
been suppressing the fire for several minutes
before you arrive.
What about water damage? A residential
fire sprinkler puts out only about 18 to 26
gpm, whieh is much less than the average
initial attack line.
It’s critical to know how these systems are designed if you have sprinklered homes in your
response areas or if you may likely befirstdue
to a home with sprinklers, which is becoming
Let’s consider a system with the exterior
horn/strobe designed to activate only on water
flow—this device is not supposed to activate
on any other alarm. You are then called to this
house because the hom/strobe is activated. No
one is home and, as usual, the neighbor doesn’t
(3) Fire sprinklers installed in the wall of a singlefamily dwelling. Note the coordination with the
electrical CDnduit. (4) These are two examplei of
residential fire sprinklers. At left is a concealed
type sprinkler head; hetnw it is the white cover that
hides it. At right is the recessed pendant sprinkler
head. Note the unique design of the concealed type
and the small frame of the pendent type, which can
make conventional methods of stopping flow at the
MUITIFAMILY, MULTISTORY, MULTI1ASKS
For those of you who do a great deal of
training in multifamily dwellings with sprinklers, this may just be a reminder For others, it
is valuable information. If a sprinkler activates
in a multifamily. multistory building, one of
our first tasks should be to shut down the fire
pump (if there is one), whieh will greatly reduce the flow.
Next, stop the water flow using tongs or
wood chocks, although I don’t see this happen
often. With specifically “residential” sprinkler
heads, this is not always possible; although
there are kits available to help you.
After doing this, shut down the floor control valve (usually located in the stairwell but
sometimes hidden above the ceiling in corridors). I’ve seen way too many firefighters first
try to locate the main control valve on the first
floor or in the basement, taking the entire system down and letting water from piping near
and above the activation site drain through the
single open sprinkler orifice. This creates unnecessary water damage and is somewhat irrational in this day of highly trained firefighters.
Once such flow is stopped at any control
valve, be sure to open the sectional drain valve
(adjacent to the floor control valve) in the area
to reduce the great amount of water heading for
2 0 8 January 2006 FIRE ENGINEERING
SINGLE-FAMILY, SIMILARITIES AND
In addition to sprinklers being installed in
multifamily, multistory buildings, many more
communities throughout the nation are now requiring sprinklers in single-family homes. More
than 30 Chicago sutwrbs now require the installation of fire sprinklers in new single-family construction. What should we be thinking about in
these occupancies, once the fire is extinguished
or a sprinkler is damaged and discharges? These
systems, although they are quite similar, have
some distinct differences from those used in
multifamily, multistory structures.
These residential sprinkler systems are
signed to go off so quickly that you most
likely would have no clue as to whether a
fire has occurred. In this case, you need to
•member that if the hom/strobe is activated
and water is flowing, either because of a fire
or possibly a break resulting from frozen
pipes in an unheated building—as happens in
winter—you most likely would have to take
action to prevent further damage, whether
from fire or water.
Once inside, if you find a fire extinguished
or water issuing from the system, there are
some other things to remember. Most singlefamily home systems do not have floor control
valves, so you would need to stop flow at the
sprinkler (using tongs, chocks, or some other
tool if possible) or at the main control valve
where the water enters the home.
In homes with fire pumps, the water may
enter there, so you may need to shut it down.
Remember, you probably don’t have floor
control valves, so if the activation is on the
lower floors, all the water from the upper
floors is coming your way.
Make sure you open the main drain to quickly
rmpty the system. Another way to mitigate water damage until the water flow stops is to hold
the coupling of a I H-inch hose over the sprinkler and mn the hose back out a window or a
door. One of ourfirefighterswho happens to be
a plumber suggested this solution.
There is a lot more to leam about sprinkler
systems and salvage; I just covered a few basics.
Some of you more suppression-oriented people
probably found it difficult reading about sprinklers. But let’s face it. we are responsible for saving lives and property, which has always included
salvage. This is just another critical aspect. If
someone spends money to install sprinklers in
his home or business and the spritiklers do their
One difference is that some of these sys- job, it would be a shame if additional personal
tems are connected to central stations whereas belongings and property were damaged because
others activate only local notification devices, we didn’t thoroughly understand our job as it
such as interior bells or exterior horn/strobes. relates to sprinklers. •
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