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Fire Prevention Week


Home fire sprinklers save lives



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September 23, 2009 - The following information on fire safety was provided by Orion Township Fire Inspector Michael T. Martin.

As fire safety educators, we do our best to educate Orion Township and Lake Orion Village residents about ways to prevent fires in our community. But as we all know, the highest level of vigilance regarding home fire safety may not be enough. According to the latest statistics from the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there were an estimated 396,000 reported home structure fires in the United States in 2006, resulting in 2,580 civilian deaths, 12,500 civilian injuries and $6.8 billion in direct damage.

Working smoke alarms and fire escape planning and practice are integral to keeping our families safe, but there is another element that you may want to add to your safety system – home fire sprinklers. In less time than it typically takes the fire department to arrive on the scene, properly installed sprinklers can contain and even extinguish a home fire. That not only reduces property damage, it saves lives.

Because fire sprinkler systems react so quickly, they can dramatically reduce the heat, flames and smoke produced in a fire. Fire sprinklers have been around for more than a century, protecting commercial and industrial properties and public buildings, such as hotels, hospitals and high-rises. What most people don't realize is that the same lifesaving technology that protects these buildings is also available for homes, where 80 percent of all fire deaths occur. When sprinklers are present, the chances of dying in a fire are reduced by more than one-half and the average property loss per fire is cut by one-third to two-thirds, compared to fires where sprinklers are not present.

Sprinklers can be installed by specially trained contractors. The best time to install sprinklers is when you are building a new home or remodeling an existing home. Nationally, installing sprinklers adds between 1 and 1.5 percent to the total cost of construction. Installing sprinklers during remodeling, known as "retrofitting," generally costs more and the cost depends on the existing structure. Many insurance companies offer a range of discounts for homeowners with sprinkler systems, making comparison-shopping worthwhile.

Unfortunately, there are many stubborn misconceptions about home fire sprinklers that make some homeowners reluctant to install sprinklers in their homes. These are the facts:

•It is extremely rare for sprinklers to operate accidentally. In a typical home, water damage will be considerably less from unwanted sprinkler discharges than from other plumbing mishaps.

•Cigar smoke and burned toast cannot cause a sprinkler to operate. Only the high temperature that results from a fire will activate the sprinkler.

•All the sprinklers do not activate at once. This scenario may be common in movies and TV shows, but it just isn't true for residential fire sprinkler systems. Only the sprinkler closest to the fire activates. Ninety percent of the time, one sprinkler contains the fire.

Home fire sprinklers give added protection from fire and peace of mind. Free info is available online at www.homefiresprinkler.org.

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