Think Sprinklers: The Benefits of Sprinkler Systems

A new campaign launched this month by Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service is promoting the use of sprinkler systems and, in particular, the huge benefits they offer in the event of a fire. ‘Think Sprinklers’ – backed by local housing authority Yarlington House Group – has been developed to support the use of sprinkler and suppression systems in both commercial and domestic environments.

An important and often life-saving fire safety method, they are capable of reducing the devastating economic and environmental cost of fire and can significantly protect the lives of anyone working or living within the property they are installed.

Ian Haim, a Call Reduction Officer from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, recommends the use of sprinklers as they can “control and stop the spread of fires”, suggesting they provide “precious extra minutes to escape in the event of a blaze”.

There are various types of sprinkler system available depending on your premises, individual requirements and specific fire risks, and a fire safety professional will be able to advise you on the ideal system for your environment. The most commonly used sprinkler and suppression systems are:

Wet pipe systems

Wet pipe systems are one of the most commonly installed types of sprinkler and, because water is always held in the pipes they release water extremely quickly. Used in multi-storey buildings where the pipes are unlikely to freeze they are a crucial aspect of comprehensive fire safety.

Dry pipe systems

Usually installed in locations where the ambient temperature may be cold enough to freeze the pipes, dry pipe systems do not hold water. Instead, they are filled with pressured air and the water is stored at a control valve below, only being released once the pipe is activated.

Alternate systems

Alternate systems combine the functions of both wet pipe systems and dry pipe systems and alternate between the two depending on the seasons and the weather. Ideal for un-heated buildings, the pipes will only store water when there is no risk of freezing.

Pre-Action systems

Developed for environments where accidental activation is hugely detrimental (such as museums with rare art works and data centres with expensive technological equipment) pre-action systems require a preceding fire detection event – such as an alarm going off – before water is released.

Deluge systems

Deluge systems don’t use an operating element, meaning the valves are always open and connected to the water supply. This makes them ideal for premises with a high risk of fire, such as chemical and industrial environments, as water is released immediately upon activation.

Foam systems

A foam sprinkler system uses a mixture of water and low expansion foam concentrate, resulting in a foam spray being released once the sprinkler has been activated. This makes them great for environments which use flammable liquids as the foam will suppress the fire.

Whatever environment you own or manage, as the ‘responsible person’ you have an obligation to protect the people within it from the threat of fire. The installation of a sprinkler system can greatly enhance your property’s fire safety and, in some cases, is a legal requirement which must be undertaken in order to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order.