Green Fire Sprinklers?

NFPA Journal features new research on dramatic water savings in sprinklered homes during a fire

One of the best defenses against anti-sprinkler legislation is sound research that can be used to convince lawmakers, whether through public outreach or legislative testimony, of the benefits of home fire sprinklers.

Case in point: Residential Fire Sprinklers — Water Usage and Water Meter Performance Study (PDF, 2 MB), a new report that concludes that a home fire sprinkler system uses, on average, only a small fraction of the water used by the fire service in a response to a fire at an unsprinklered home.

The study, commissioned by the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF), found that water conservation of a sprinkler system is significant: the amount of water used to fight fires in homes without sprinkler systems can be many times higher than the amount discharged solely by a sprinkler system. In addition, many of the residential water meters tested met criteria established by NFPA 13D, Sprinkler Systems in One and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes. The FPRF study found that projected water infrastructure demand could be reduced by 47 percent when homes in a community are protected by sprinklers.

Read more about this new study in an NFPA Journal feature article by Fred Durso, Jr

written by: Mike Hazell

Fire Chief calls for help

Fire chief calls for residential sprinklers after fire destroys  home

According to a report on, the chief of the Colchester Center (VT) Fire Company is re-issuing his call for local lawmakers to require automatic sprinkler systems in new homes. This comes after crews spent nearly six hour battling a blaze that eventually destroyed a local home.

The fire started in a shop room, but officials have yet to determine the cause, Chief Mike Chmielewski told the newspaper. “If they had residential sprinklers, the house would probably be standing today,” he said.

The report says that last October, local lawmakers shelved the fire chiefs’ proposal because opponents questioned the relative benefits of sprinklers and said the sprinkler mandate would have boosted the cost of new housing. According to a report from the Fire Protection Research Foundation, the cost of installing sprinkler systems to the home builder averages $1.61 per sprinklered square foot.

Read the full news report on

Calgary Chief backs code change


Published: December 09, 2010 5:32 a.m.
Last modified: December 09, 2010 12:33 a.m.

Text size                  AnswerTips-enabled //

Calgary’s fire chief was given the go-ahead to continue lobbying to change the safety code by members of the Community and Protective Services committee yesterday.

“Those recommendations, I believe, tell us to continue to follow the path that we have been following, which is trying to influence code changes at both the federal and provincial level,” said fire chief Bruce Burrell.

Burrell said one of the most important changes that needs to be made to the code in his mind would be making residential sprinklers in new homes mandatory. He said making it optional to install a sprinkler would have very little impact. 

“I would say (the province is) interested. We’re not the only fire department in Canada or in Alberta that is talking to provincial officials about residential sprinklers,” he said.

Stan Schwartzenberger with development and building approvals for the City of Calgary said those changes will take a long time but are necessary.

“It takes multiple years to enable those changes, and for good reason,” he said. “We need that flexibility in the code now to make a Calgary-based solution to the issues we see emerging.”   

Myth #3: sprinklers are too expensive

In an attempt to understand the true local (Alberta) cost of adding a sprinkler system to a new home I have broken down some figures from the past 2 1/2 years.  These are Gold Seal Homes’ figures and are reflective of the rural Alberta market.  Cost /sq.ft. will drop proportionately for homes in larger markets, as housing costs and land costs tend to be higher and therefore the sprinkler costs become relatively smaller.  Here we go…

Gold Seal has produced:

  • 25 sprinklered homes in Carstairs since 2008
  • total net cost of all sprinkler systems $140,930.00
  • highest sprinklers system cost to date: $8,208 in a 3288 sq. ft. home
  • lowest sprinkler system cost to date: $4800 in a 1768 sq. ft. home
  • Average cost per sq. ft.= $2.45 (1)
  • Average cost as a percentage of house cost = 1.553% (2)
  • Average cost of system over 25 homes = $5,637.20

(1) $140,930 (sprinkler costs for 25 homes)/57,519 sq.ft. (total living area of 25 homes)=$2.45

(2) $140,930(sprinkler costs for 25 homes)/$9,074,500 (total selling costs of 25 homes) = 0.01553

If we look at the average cost of our last 25 homes ($5,637.20) in regard to financing, on a 5 year closed mortgage at 3.59% (Grant Mortgage-December 3rd 2010 rates), the annual servicing cost of the system is $314.16.   Six dollars a week to protect your family and your belongings.  This does not take into account annual insurance reductions of 15-40% / year.

Six dollars a week to protect your family and your belongings.

New sprinkler campaign launch

“Faces of Fire” is a new NFPA campaign designed to put a face on the life-saving impact of home sprinklers. With funding from the U.S. Fire Administration, this campaign features real people telling personal stories to demonstrate the need for sprinklers.
NFPA President Jim Shannon welcomes
you to the Faces of Fire campaign.

Each year, about 3,000 people in the United States die in home fires, accounting for 80 percent of all fire deaths. By containing fires before they spread, home fire sprinklers protect lives and property. Sprinkler opponents are spreading misleading information and raising false questions about sprinklers in the minds of consumers and municipal bodies. Such tactics of delay and defeat can cost lives.

NFPA is fighting back by sharing research-based information, advocacy tools and now, personal stories of those affected by home fires.

Princella Lee Bridges
Princella Lee Bridges ran back into her burning home, changing her life forever.
A former operating room nurse, Princella underwent numerous painful and time-consuming surgeries followed by frequent hospital stays following a devastating home fire. She believes it all could have been avoided had her home been equipped with fire sprinklers. Read Princella’s story.
Joe Brower One of Chief W. Keith Brower’s firefighters was severely burned and forced to retire.
A fireball eruption on the first floor of a home fire trapped four of Chief Brower’s firefighters upstairs. All four escaped, but one firefighter sustained serious burns. “He’s partially incapacitated,” says the Chief. “He can’t do the job he loves.” Read Chief Brower’s story.
Jo Brinkley Jo Brinkley-Chaudoir lost her fire department partner while responding to a home fire.
Jo and her partner Arnie Wolff were searching for residents of a home fire when the floor beneath them collapsed into the basement. Jo suffered a few burns, a rib fracture, and a broken hip, but Arnie was trapped under debris and did not survive. Read Jo’s story.

Myth #2: Sprinklers increase house damage

sprinkler facts

Fire Sprinklers Reduce Water Damage

Fire hoses, on average, use more than 8 1/2 times the water that sprinklers do to contain a fire.

According to the Scottsdale Report, a 15-year study of fire sprinkler effectiveness, a fire sprinkler uses, on average, 341 gallons of water to control a fire. Firefighters, on average, use 2,935. Reduced water damage is a major source of savings for homeowners.
HFSC has an interactive demonstration of water usage :.

The likelihood that a sprinkler will accidently discharge because of a manufacturing defect is extremely rare.

Sprinkler mishaps are generally less likely and less severe than accidents involving home plumbing systems.

myth #1: Smoke detectors are good enough

Check your Smoke Detector

Many Canadians believe that they are adequately protected by their Smoke Detectors.  The early detection of fire and smoke in your home is important, but often times homeowners have not maintained or correctly installed their detectors.  When was the last time you checked your detector?  Is there one on every level?  How old is it?  Is it hardwired into an alarm/security system?  Gold Seal Homes believes in smoke detectors, in fact we install one on each level of the home, they are linked to each other, and will notify our homeowner’s security company of any hazard.  Gold Seal Homes also installs and recommends the use of talking detectors that are more likely to wake children and hearing deficient residents as they sleep.  Like I said yesterday, I was going to stick to the facts,  so here they are regarding smoke detectors:

  • In the U.S., a home fire is reported every 78 seconds1
  • In 2008, home fires caused 83% of civilian fire deaths and $8.5 billion in property loss1
  • In 2003-2006, smoke alarms were present in only two-thirds (69%) of all reported home fires and operated in just under half (47%) of the reported home fires2
  • Working smoke alarms combined with fire sprinklers reduce the chance of death by 80% and average property loss by 71%3
  • No smoke alarms were present in 43% of the homes of fire deaths (4)
  • In 22% of the home fire deaths, smoke alarms were present but did not sound. (4)

1Fire Loss in the United States During 2008, by Michael J. Karter, Jr., NFPA, Quincy, MA, August 2009
2Smoke Alarms in U.S. Home Fires, by Marty Ahrens, NFPA, Quincy, MA, September 2009
3Bringing Safety Home Fact Sheet, Fire Sprinkler Initiative, source: 

(4)2004 NFPA study of US residential Fires

sprinkler Myth-conceptions

sprinkler head

Lately, I have been reading many on-line misconceptions surrounding the issue of residential sprinklers in homes.  There are many common myths and bad information is as easy to find on the internet as good information.  Foer this reason I will stick to the facts.  Over the next few days I will submit verifiable information supporting the arguement for Residential Fire Sprinklers in new homes. 

Let’s lay the groundwork: (Statistics taken from US National Fire Statistics (USFA).  Canadian Fire statistics are not collected in the same manner as US statistics and are therefore not as accessable.  I have found that the Ontario Fire Marshall’s data trends on a parallel path to US numbers.

1. Between 2004-2008 there were  2,036,517 reported fires in US

2. $35,909,000,000 in property losses

3. 69,485 people injured as a result of these fires

4. 14,575 Fatalities

During that same time period in the province of Ontario alone, there were 425 deaths! (statistics from the Ontario Fire Marshall). 

Later this week I will address the following myths:

1. Smoke detectors provide enough protection from fire

2. The damage from sprinklers will be worse that the fire

3. Sprinkler systems are too expensive

Stay tuned-stay safe!

Pole Update: Sprinklers, are they for me?

sprinkler demonstration

Many of you posted your thoughts over the past week regarding Residential Fire Sprinklers in new homes.  Many of my peers in the construction industry argue that they will add too much cost to new homes and that the consumer will not pay for the added protection.  In our poll last week, over 84% of our respondents said they wished they had sprinklers in their home or they would be willing to pay for the upgrade.  0% said that they would rather spend the money on a deck or Granite counter tops for the kitchen.  Gold Seal is committed to providing safer living environments;  please spread the word to any friends considering a new home to ask for sprinklers.  They are easy to install and they will save lives!  The facts are: over 3000 people die each year due to residential fire and over 15000 are injured.  Sprinklers give you and your family the time they need to get out in the event of a fire.