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Study: Home Fire Sprinklers Offer Environmental Benefits and Reduce Water Infrastructure Demand

In a new report titled, “Residential Fire Sprinklers – Water Usage and Water Meter Performance Study,” the Fire Protection Research Foundation, which is an affiliate of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), finds that the amount of water used in fighting fires in homes without fire sprinkler systems can be many times higher than the amount discharged by a fire sprinkler system with a 10-minute operation. In addition to saving lives and property, sprinklers have added environmental benefits, including water conservation and the potential to reduce water infrastructure demands in communities, according to this study.

“We have always known that because sprinklers operate early in fires and don’t give them time to grow, the amount of resources needed to extinguish them is much less,” said Kathleen Almand, executive director of the Foundation. “This research provides an analysis of how residential sprinklers reduce the need for a specific resource, water, and the infrastructure it requires. This data is extremely useful for communities as they evaluate the big picture when assessing the benefits that come with implementing residential fire sprinklers.”

Fire services from 25 communities were selected for participation in the water usage survey and data was collected from eight that responded to residential fires within the four-month timeframe of the project. The eight fire departments that responded to fires and provided water consumption information are:  Anne Arundel County Fire Department, Maryland, Austin Fire Department, Texas; Billings Fire Department, Montana; Columbia Fire Department, South Carolina; El Paso Fire Department, Texas; Lexington Fire Department, Kentucky; Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department, Florida; and Portland Fire and Rescue, Oregon.

“Members of the fire service and others who are passionate about saving lives have been working hard to get home fire sprinklers mandated in one- and two-family homes across the country, as is recommended by all model safety codes,” said James M. Shannon, NFPA’s president. “Historically, water supply requirements have been cited as a reason not to mandate sprinklers, yet findings from this study clearly show that communities protected by home fire sprinklers are likely to see notable reduction demands on their water infrastructure.”

According to the report, in the eight incidents reported by the fire departments, an average of 3,524 gallons of water was discharged for firefighting at homes that did not have a residential fire sprinkler system. Assuming ten minutes of operation, typically designed home fire sprinkler systems discharge 280 gallons of water per fire.

About the Fire Protection Research Foundation
The Fire Protection Research Foundation plans, manages, and communicates consortium-funded research on a broad range of fire safety issues in collaboration with scientists and laboratories around the world. The Foundation is an affiliate of NFPA.

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