Today we continue our Mythblaster Monday series, where we explore the myths and misconceptions that surround home fire sprinklers, setting the record straight and providing resources that share their many benefits. Last week we exposed the superstition that home fire sprinkler installation is expensive, finding the costs to be much lower than imagined. This week, we turn to a myth that leads to complacency around safety.
Myth: The fire department will be able to put out the fire and save my things.
Fact: Fire departments may not be able to get to your home for 9-12 minutes—plenty of time for a fire to grow to be deadly and cause massive damages.
Firefighters are highly trained, dedicated professionals that possess the skills and equipment necessary for our first line defense against the ravages of fire. However, arriving at the scene of an emergency and completing the necessary preparations takes time. This fact sheet shows that with unprotected lightweight construction common in new homes and modern, often synthetic furnishings, a home fire today can burn more quickly and create a highly toxic environment very fast. Without fire sprinklers, flames can grow unhindered, heat and gasses can spread, and flashover can occur—igniting everything. It can take less than two minutes for a fire to become deadly, as shown in this video. In the 9-12 minutes fire departments may need to respond, depending on the presence of home fire sprinklers, they would face a very different scene.
Home fire sprinklers, once activated by the high temperature, begin suppressing the fire immediately. This early response proves vital in saving lives and property, but also creates a safer environment for first responders. In deciding to protect his own home with fire sprinklers, Chief Brower highlighted the increased health and suppression risks associated with exposure that responders face. A fateful fire in 2008 went to flashover, trapping four firefighters and burning one severely enough to force retirement. By suppressing fires before they can reach that point, home fire sprinklers help firefighters contain a fire and keep them safer.
Of the 1,318,500 fires that US fire departments responded to in 2018, 73 percent of the 3,655 fires resulting in civilian deaths happened in the home. In 2019, an NFPA report found that of the ten firefighter deaths at structure fires, three involved one- and two-family homes. Instead of placing resident and property safety on the back-burner for those 9-12 minutes, installing home fire sprinklers actively increases the chance that lives and possessions can be saved.
For a quick rundown of the facts surrounding home fire sprinklers in an easy-to-share format, check out these fact sheets. More information on the home fire threat and how home fire sprinklers are a vital part of alleviating that threat can be found at the Fire Sprinkler Initiative and Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition.