Automatic extinguishing systems are the most effective means of controlling fires. When properly installed, sprinkler systems are a highly effective safeguard against loss of life and property. The National Fire Protection Association has no record of a multiple death fire in a fully sprinklered building where the sprinkler system was working properly. The savings in the cost of insurance often makes the expenditure for a sprinkler system a wise business investment.
Automatic sprinkler systems consist of a system of pipes with sprinklers placed at intervals along the pipes. Water is fed through the pipes to the sprinklers. The sprinkler system is temperature sensitive. The heat from a fire will activate the system causing water to discharge from the sprinklers. The water should be discharged in sufficient quantity to either extinguish the fire entirely or at least prevent its spread.
The idea of automatic sprinkler protection is not new. In about 1878, a rustic version of today's sprinkler system, called the Parmalee sprinkler, received its first practical application in the United States.
Constructing a new building with sprinkler protection requires careful evaluation of the building design, construction, location, intended occupancy, and water supply to ensure effective operation of the system. The building occupant is a major consideration in designing a sprinkler system. The system will be designed to properly safeguard against the hazards inherent to that occupancy. For example, the sprinkler system designed for an office building would be greatly different than that of a woodworking operation. Older buildings can be retrofit with sprinkler protection, but that often mandates renovations to prepare it for the installation. This can be quite expensive.
There are six major types of sprinkler systems. While each of these systems is different, all have one thing in common: All include a system of pipes to carry water from the source to the sprinklers.
- Wet pipe systems
- Dry pipe systems
- Preaction systems
- Deluge systems
- Combined dry pipe and preaction systems
- Special types
The design and installation of a sprinkler system should be entrusted only to fully-qualified professionals.