Frequently Asked Questions about Fire Sprinkler Safety Systems:

Q: How effective are fire sprinklers?
A: The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has no record of a fire killing more than two people in a completely sprinklered public assembly, educational, institutional or residential building where the system was working properly. Cases in which fatalities occur in a building equipped with fire sprinklers, the deceased are almost always in intimate contact with the fire and were burned severely before the sprinkler activated (i.e., smoking in bed, explosions, etc.), Sprinklers typically reduce chances of dying in a fire and the average property loss by one-half to two-thirds in any kind of property where they are used.

Q: How much does a fire sprinkler system cost?
A: The cost per square foot can vary widely due to great differences in installation requirements so this question can be answered effectively only after a review of the occupancy. A system installed in a warm-climate area with ample water supply and good water pressure will cost much less than a system installed in a cold-climate area with poor water pressure or an undependable/inadequate water supply. New installations will cost much less than retrofit installations. Generally speaking, most new construction will be in the range of $1-$2/sq.ft., while retrofits will be in the range of $2-$3/sq.ft.

Q: Aren't fire sprinklers required in all high-rise offices, public assemblies, and hotels/motels?
A: No, they are not always required. Many buildings were built prior to modern-day standards are were "grandfathered" so a retrofit was not required. Some local jurisdictions have seen the many advantages of fire sprinklers and required building to be retrofited over a period of years.

Q: Why are fire sprinklers required in some areas, and not in others? Why are there variations in sprinkler requirements?
A: Fire sprinkler systems are installed in accordance with consensus standards developed through the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). These standards are very specific in defining how sprinklers are to be installed in different types of occupancies and different hazard classifications. The three primary standards that define the installation requirements are NFPA-13 (Installation of Sprinkler Systems); NFPA-13R (Installation of Sprinkler Systems in Residential Occupancies Up to and Including Four Stories in Height); and NFPA-13D (Installation of Sprinkler Systems in One and Two-Family Dwellings and Manufactured Homes). The standards adopted by NFPA represent the best recommended practices, but the standards by themselves are not "law." Development of the consensus is a dynamic process and the standard is changed to reflect new technologies, science, and experience. Every three years a new version of the standard is issued that contains changes and updates. The requirements for the installation of fire sprinklers are adopted as law by state or local jurisdictions as a part of their building code or local ordinance. At times jurisdictions may vary some of the requirements contained in the NFPA documents. Differences in requirements will vary from city to city based on local changes made to the NFPA standards, or the year of the standard adopted by the local jurisdiction. For example, if one city adopts the 1999 NFPA 13 standard, and another city adopts the 2002 issue of the same standard, there will be differences.

Basic Glossary of Fire Sprinkler Safety Terms:

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