Imagine having 24-hour fire protection in your home.
Sprinkler systems save lives and reduce fire damages by more than 80 percent.
When coupled with smoke alarms, they provide early warning and extinguishment.
Sprinklers are so effective because they react quickly, allowing people the time to evacuate the home.
Sprinkler systems have been used in commercial buildings for many years.
However, their use in residential settings is increasing.
Several factors have contributed to this trend including new technology quick-response sprinkler heads, reduced installation and water supply connection costs, the use of plastic pipe, and the ability to blend the sprinkler heads into the decor of the room.
Homeowners' most common concerns about fire sprinkler systems such as accidental discharge, water damage, and activation as a result of kitchen cooking are unfounded.
The National Fire Protection Association's records indicate the probability of a sprinkler discharging accidentally because of a manufacturing defect is one in 16 million.
And, in a typical home, water damage will be considerably less from unwanted sprinkler discharges than from plumbing mishaps.
Lastly, smoke resulting from burned toast or other food preparations cannot cause a sprinkler to operate.
Only the high temperatures that result from a fire will activate the sprinkler.
Even then, all the sprinklers will not activate at the same time. They work independently.
Only the sprinkler closest to the fire activates and, 90 percent of the time, one sprinkler contains the fire.
Sprinklers are installed by specially trained and certified contractors.
The best time to install a system is when you are building a new or remodeling an existing home.
Installing sprinklers can add about 1 to 1.5 percent to the total cost of construction. Retrofitting an existing home with sprinklers generally costs more and the cost varies depending on the structure in which they are installed. Many insurance companies offer a range of discounts for homeowners with home fire sprinkler systems.
So if you will be building a new home or embarking on a renovation or remodel in the future, consider installing sprinklers in part or all of your home.
Washington Township Fire Department Fire Marshal Alan Perkins submitted the Smoke Signals column.