Exactly how do home fire sprinklers help protect the environment?

Blog Post created by mikehazell Employee on Apr 21, 2012

It’s a fact that home fire sprinklers prevent property loss and save lives. But with the news that the environmental impact of home fire sprinklers is included at the new Green Builder® Media’s VISION House® in INNOVENTIONS at Epcot®, it's a good time to review exactly how sprinklers are good for Mother Earth.

In the fall of 2009, FM Global and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition undertook a revolutionary study to better understand the environmental impact of home fires.

Specifically, the study set out to look at total greenhouse gas production during a fire, the quantity of water required to extinguish the fire, the quality of water runoff, the potential impact of wastewater runoff on groundwater and surface water, and the mass of materials requiring disposal.

At the FM Global Research Center in West Glocester, RI, two living rooms, each furnished with a flat-screen television, comfortable furniture, and bookshelves and family photos, were purposely set on fire. The two rooms were nearly identical. The only difference was that one room was outfitted with a quick-response sprinkler. 

During the test, firefighters ignited a blaze in a magazine rack near the corner of each room. Forty-four seconds after ignition, the single sprinkler head in the protected living room activated and began to fight the fire, while fire raged in the unprotected room.


fire sprinkler impact on the environment
The fire in the first living room, protected by a quick-response sprinkler, was called "all-out" shortly after the arrival of the hose crew.
fire sprinkler impact on the environment
In the second living room, not protected by a sprinkler, flames can be seen in the window near the source of ignition.
fire sprinkler impact on the environment
In the non-sprinklered living room, flashover (when all combustibles in the room ignite) occurred at approximately five minutes after ignition.

See more dramatic photos of the fire test in progress

According to the final FM Global report on this study: “In the sprinklered room, flashover never occurred; however, in the non-sprinklered test, flashover occurred at approximately five minutes after ignition. The occurrence of flashover prior to fire service intervention is an indication that the fire would have propagated to adjacent rooms, resulting in greater production of greenhouse gases, greater water demand to extinguish the fire, and additional materials to be disposed of in landfills.”

 The study also determined that:

  • greenhouse gases released by burning buildings can be reduced by 98% when automatic fire sprinklers are installed.
  • automatic fire sprinklers reduce fire damage by up to 97%.
  • automatic fire sprinklers reduce water usage to fight a home fire by upwards of 90%.
  • automatic fire sprinklers reduce the amount of water pollution released into the environment.

Download "The Environmental Impact of Automatic Fire Sprinklers" study from the FM Global web site.