Frequently Asked Questions about Sprinkler Systems and Fire Protection

As with most safety precautions, the more information you have the safer you are. Understanding the risks, functionality, and needs of your fire protection system helps prevent loss of property and life. We at Phoenix Fire Protection view ourselves as your fire protection resource, and so we’ve provided answers to some common concerns and questions you may have with regards to your fire protection system.

How do sprinklers work?

Fire sprinklers are the most visible part of a fire sprinkler system – an integrated array of pumps, piping, and detection devices. Pipes hook into your building’s water supply which is pushed to upper floors in multi-level structures through pumping or pressurization. Sprinkler heads are the distribution device that sprays water over a fire.

High heat activates sprinklers, usually between 165-175 degrees F. When the sprinklers sense temperatures in that range, they release water over the hot area, dousing the fire.

Are sprinklers activated by smoke?

No. Fire sprinklers are activated by high heat, not smoke.

Why are fire sprinklers required in so many buildings?

Many municipalities require fire sprinklers because they are a proven way to limit death and extensive property damage. The key to keeping a fire from reaching potentially dangerous and life-threatening proportions is early detection. Fire sprinklers operate automatically in locations where fires start. By releasing water directly to the source of the heat, fire sprinklers keep fires from growing out of control. One or two sprinkler activations can usually limit or contain an outbreak of fire.

Why can’t we just rely on the fire department?

Fire departments are an irreplaceable ally in fighting fires, but they depend on onsite alarms to notify them after a fire breaks out. By the time they arrive, the fire could have spread and caused considerable damage. With building fires, a bad situation can get worse more quickly than most people realize.

Fire sprinklers should be viewed as an effective first line defense or a “first response” system. A sprinkler system can extinguish a fire in half the average time it takes the fire department to arrive.

Do sprinklers ever activate accidentally?

It is extremely rare that sprinklers ever activate by accident. A sprinkler discharge without a fire event is usually the outcome of freezing or structural damage.

Will sprinklers make my building look unattractive?

Today, there are a wide variety of sprinkler heads considered aesthetically pleasing. Sprinkler heads are made in numerous shapes, colors, and configurations, including some that stay hidden in the ceiling until they are activated.

Are there insurance benefits for installing a fire sprinkler system?

Yes, there are discounts associated with the installation of a rated fire sprinkler system. Ask your contractor for the specific description of your system and then call your insurance agent with the information.

Who invented the fire sprinkler?

In 1872, Philip W. Pratt patented the first fire sprinkler system. However, Henry S. Parmalee is widely credited with developing improvements on the original design. His improvements led to the development of the first practical automatic sprinkler head in 1874. Parmalee was a piano maker from New Haven, Connecticut who was looking for ways to protect his factory. His company, The Mathushek Piano Manufacturing Co, is recognized as the first building in the United States to be equipped with an automatic sprinkler system.