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About Fire Sprinklers:
Fire Sprinkler History

Fire sprinklers were invented by Henry S. Parmalee, an American, in 1874 to protect his piano factory. During the next 75 years fire sprinklers were installed primarily for the protection of property, especially factories and warehouses.

 In the 1940's there were several fires that killed many people: The Coconut Grove Night Club in Boston 1942, 492 killed; LaSalle Hotel in Chicago 1946, 61 killed; Winecoff Hotel in Atlanta, 1946, 119 killed. After these fires and the great loss of human lives, the fire and building officials realized that some form of life safety must be provided for building occupants. In their search they found that factories and buildings equipped with fire sprinklers had an amazingly good life safety record compared with similar unsprinklered buildings.

Over the next several decades building codes were changed to increasingly call for fire sprinklers throughout buildings for life safety, especially in buildings where rapid evacuation of occupants is difficult or the fire hazard of the contents is high.

How do Fire Sprinklers Work?

Fire sprinklers are individually heat-activated. They are tied into an automatic network of piping filled with water under pressure. When the heat from a fire raises the temperature of the fire sprinkler to its operating temperature (usually 165 deg F), a solder link will melt or a liquid filled glass bulb will shatter to open that single sprinkler, releasing water directly over the source of the heat.

Fire sprinklers are on call 24 hours a day. They operate automatically in the area of fire origin, preventing a fire from growing undetected to a dangerous size, while simultaneously sounding an alarm. They keep fires small. The majority of fires in sprinklered buildings are controlled or extinguished by one or two sprinklers.
How do Fire Sprinklers Protect Lives?

Fire sprinklers do not rely upon human factors such as familiarity with equipment, escape routes or emergency assistance. They go to work automatically and immediately to reduce danger. They discharge water directly over the fire source, preventing the fast development of fires of intense heat which are capable of trapping and killing building occupants. They reduce the danger of smoke which is generally the cause of death of building occupants.
What About Water Damage?

Fire sprinklers, when activated, discharge water which can cause damage. However, when you consider the amount of damage that an uncontrolled fire can cause, it is insignificant. The amount of water put on a fire by the Fire Department is usually tens to hundreds of times more than the amount that a fire sprinkler would discharge.