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3/25/2016 - Fire Sprinkler Floods Condo Unit

Last night a resident hung a coat hanger on a fire sprinkler head and broke the sprinkler glass, the result being a flooded unit with water in the units below.

That said, here is what you need to know about fire sprinklers and how to deal with the aftermath of a broken sprinkler head.

1. 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.

Fire Sprinkler Facts

  • 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.
  • 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 unit and 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.

2. Only the Fire Department is authorized to turn the water off to the sprinklers once they have been activated,  because the cause of the sprinkler activation needs to be verified by the Fire Department to ensure that the cause is not fire related, before the water is turned off.

Note: Turning the main water supply to the building off will not turn the water to the sprinklers off, since the sprinklers are supplied by a separate water line.

3. As for damage to individual units, per Florida Statute 718 each unit owner is responsible for any damage to the contents of their unit including "floor, wall, and ceiling coverings, electrical fixtures, appliances, water heaters, water filters, built-in cabinets and countertops, and window treatments, including curtains, drapes, blinds, hardware, and similar window treatment components, or replacements of any of the foregoing which are located within the boundaries of the unit and serve only such unit. Such property and any insurance thereupon is the responsibility of the unit owner."

However, if the source of the water is from another unit and the cause of the leak is negligence, your insurance agent may file a claim against the unit that caused the leak. For details, consult your insurance agent.

Peter Schulz - Editor - Email CR

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