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Importance of Automatic Sprinklers in Buildings

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It is hard to comprehend why people continue to die in fires when advances in fire safety technology are readily available. This is because the need for sprinkler system has been overlooked by the industrial and non industrial sector in India.

Most of the organizations believe that manual firefighting using external fire tender and/or yard hydrants are more or equally effective. But the fact is manual fire fighting is often hindered by physical barriers and smoke that may prevent them from aiming the hose streams directly at a fire. However, sprinklers operate only over the fire area and discharge water directly onto the fire resulting in less water damage as compared to hose streams.

The fire sprinkler system discharges water when the effects of a fire have been detected, such as when a predetermined temperature has been exceeded. Fire sprinklers are extensively used worldwide, with over 40 million sprinkler heads fitted each year. In buildings protected by fire sprinklers, over 99% of fires were controlled by fire sprinklers alone.

Builders have issues with the cost/benefit of this added fire protection and seek trade-offs to off-set their cost and effort to stay affordable. Tough the industrial clients in buildings see the safety benefit of sprinklers, they are not sure about the value addition from the sprinklers, and are more worried about water damage.

Fire sprinklers are most effective during the fire’s initial flame growth stage.

The benefits of using fire sprinkler systems include:

• Immediate identification and control of a developing fire – Sprinkler systems respond at all times, including periods of low occupancy.

• Immediate alert – In conjunction with the building fire alarm system, automatic sprinkler systems will notify occupants and emergency response personnel of the developing fire.

• Reduced heat and smoke damage – Significantly less heat and smoke will be generated when the fire is extinguished at an early stage.

• Enhanced life safety – Occupants will be subject to less danger when fire growth is checked.

• Design flexibility – Fire and smoke barrier placement becomes less restrictive since early fire control minimizes demand on these systems.

• Enhanced Security – A sprinkler controlled fire decreases demand on security forces, minimizing intrusion opportunities.

• Decreased insurance expenditure – Sprinkler controlled fires are less damaging than fires in non-sprinklered buildings. This results in lower insurance reimbursements. Insurance underwriters will usually offer reduced premiums in sprinkler protected properties which can save a large amount of capital.

It is also not necessary for every one to learn in the hard way. The lessons learnt during large losses should be studied by all and to be used in the larger interests of the society. Sprinklers do more than save lives; they also protect property from destruction by fire. ‘Saving lives’ means more than just preventing deaths.

Sunny Verma

Loss Prevention Consultant



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