Domestic Fire Sprinkler Systems are the most efficient way of ensuring the safety of all the inhabitants of a house, flat, apartment, shared accommodation or indeed a care home. Domestic fire sprinklers or ‘Home Fire Sprinkler Systems’ as they are sometimes referred to have been in use for a long time.
In fact, the first recognisable fire sprinkler system was installed in the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1812!
Domestic Sprinkler Systems History
These systems have come a long way since then, and nowadays, domestic fire sprinkler systems employ a ‘Fast Response’ fire sprinkler head which operates at a very early stage in the development of a fire. This ensures that a smaller fire is knocked back by using a minimum amount of water – thus causing a minimal amount of disruption.
These systems are very efficient, and a well-documented incident involving a domestic fire sprinkler in the UK emphasises this very well: The incident in question involved someone pouring petrol over another person who was asleep in a bedroom and then setting light to the bed while the person remained asleep.
The Domestic Fire Sprinkler System activated very promptly, extinguishing the fire and not only saved the life of the hapless victim of the assault but reduced the severity of the injuries sustained.
How To Test A Sprinkler System
So, how is a fire sprinkler system tested? Of course, a sprinkler system once installed, couldn’t be tested without causing a large amount of water damage from the domestic fire sprinklers themselves. In fact, the system is ‘Equivalence Tested’ by the following means: Firstly, the installed system is carefully designed and documented with calculations made for the head which is furthest away from the supply source.
These calculations take into consideration the pipe diameter and length and the number and type of fittings used in the installation The resulting calculated requirement is then compared with the actual flow and dynamic pressure which has been measured at a given point in the system known as the ‘test point’ which is usually situated at a point close to where the supply for the system starts. The two readings are then compared, and the supply is considered to be adequate if the measured volume of water and dynamic pressure reading at the ‘test point’ equals the calculated flow and pressure readings for the system.
It may be surprising to know that the residential and domestic fire sprinkler industry is unregulated. Whereas gas installers are required to be Corgi registered and electrical installers are required to be qualified to Part P level, there is no requirement for the installers of a fire sprinkler system to have anything more than to attend a short course for a couple of days!
Thankfully, some companies have have registered on the FIRAS scheme of accredited installers. This means that the accredited company is required to pass a 3 step assessment process which covers design, installation and office processes. Unfortunately, all unregulated industries will have a rogue element associated with it and the domestic fire sprinkler industry is no exception. It is easy for anyone to attend a short course and pass themselves off as a domestic fire sprinkler designer and installer.
Now, if a central heating system were to be installed badly it may leak, and the rooms may not reach the correct temperature. Similarly, if an electrical system has been installed badly, it may blow fuses or not work at all. However, who would know whether or not a fire sprinkler system has been installed correctly until it fails to activate in the event of a fire? By that time it is too late!
That is why anyone considering having a domestic fire sprinkler system installed should employ the services of a reputable, well-established company which specialises in these systems with an abundant list of references.
But if the sprinklers must work off a typical domestic water supply, opening several heads at once reduces water pressure so much that the sprays may be ineffective. Home fires may smoulder for an hour or more before bursting into full flame. Then, because today’s typically small, low-ceiling rooms confine hot gases, temperatures can rocket hundreds of degrees in just seconds after flaming occurs. Flashover follows almost instantly. To fight this kind of fire you need a super-fast sprinkler, one that reacts speedily to swiftly rising temperatures. To cool down the burning gases the sprinkler spray should discharge as high on walls as possible. And the sprinkler should quickly control the fire in one area, so heated gases don’t turn on a nearby sprinkler and lower the water pressure.
Therefore, Domestic Fire Sprinklers could provide safety and protection from fire and could save both people and their belongings.