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6/7/2010 - How Things Work - Fire Sprinklers

Besides prevention, there is no more effective way than sprinklers to avoid the property loss, injuries, and fatalities that result from fires. Studies have shown that 95-99 percent of all fires are extinguished or controlled by sprinkler systems in structures equipped with them. The success rate of sprinklers preventing fire-related fatalities is near 100 percent.

 Sprinkler Head


  • Fire sprinklers are individually heat-activated devices. When heated to its operating point (approximately 165°F), a liquid-filled glass bulb will shatter to open a single sprinkler head, releasing water directly over the source of the heat.
  • Only the sprinkler head(s) in the area of the fire will discharge water, not the entire system.
  • When a sprinkler head is activated, the central alarm system automatically notifies the fire department that there is a fire in the unit. However, a 911 call is recommended as a backup to the central alarm system.
  • When a sprinkler head is activated, the sprinkler sprays about 20- 25 gallons of water per minute in a uniform pattern throughout the room.
  • Turning off the water to the sprinkler system should only be done by the fire department or authorized maintenance personnel.

    Note: Unofficially, in the event of an accidentally broken sprinkler head, the water to the buildings sprinklers can be turned off by closing either of the sprinkler water supply valves located between or in front of the condo and apartment buildings. This should only be done to stop the flooding of a unit, in the case where a sprinkler head is accidentally broken, until the fire truck arrives.

Sprinkler Water Supply Valves

Prevent False Sprinkler Activations!

  • The glass bulbs inside each sprinkler head are easily broken. Therefore, fire sprinklers should never be used to hang clothing, decorations, etc.
  • Frisbees, footballs, and other objects that could cause a sprinkler head to activate when hit by them should never be thrown in the vicinity of fire sprinklers.
  • A significant amount of water damage to your room, personal property, as well as the property of your neighbors, may result from a single false sprinkler activation. Between 100-200 gallons of water can be discharged before the system is shut off.
  • The water in sprinkler pipes may be dark and have a foul odor when first released from the system.
  • Residents are personally liable for any expenses associated with the damage and clean up from a sprinkler activation caused by negligence.

Following these guidelines could save your life or another's. Ignoring them could be dangerous and costly!

As for the smoke detectors in the individual units, they do not activate the sprinklers nor do they set off the building alarm or notify the fire department of a fire. Instead only the effected detectors beep within the unit to indicate the presence of smoke.

Peter Schulz - Editor - Email CR

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