Residential Fire Sprinkler Activation Report

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The Residential Fire Sprinkler Activation project, completed by the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) and the Residential Fire Sprinkler Institute (RFSI), was made possible by a grant from the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). The purpose was to gather current and relevant data pertaining to the activation of residential fire sprinklers and information necessary to assess the performance of these systems in real-life, nonlaboratory conditions.

It should be noted clearly that this data collection system is the only system to collect detailed fire sprinkler activation information. When analyzed, these data can provide a clear and detailed justification for the growing presence and effectiveness of residential fire sprinklers.

The reporting system is an online, Web-based system, located on the NASFM website and consists of a forced-choice, drop-down menu that includes 18 data fields, with menu choices as listed below:

  1. Type of residential occupancy (apartment, 1- or 2-family residence, condo, townhouse, or dormitory).
  2. Number of stories (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, more than 6, or unknown).
  3. Story of origin (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, more than 6, basement, or unknown).
  4. Room of origin (kitchen, bedroom, living room, garage, bathroom, family room, work room, basement, dining room, other, or unknown).
  5. Area of room of origin (0-100 sq ft, 101-150 sq ft, 151-200 sq ft, 201-250 sq ft, 251-300 sq ft, 301-350 sq ft, 351-400 sq ft).
  6. Width of room of origin (1 thru 20 feet in 1-foot increments or, unknown).
  7. Length of room of origin (1 thru 20 feet in 1-foot increments or, unknown).
  8. Number of sprinkler heads in room of origin (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or more, or unknown).
  9. Number of sprinkler heads activated (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or more, or unknown).
  10. Type of sprinkler head activated #1 (exposed, concealed, or unknown).
  11. Type of sprinkler head activated #2 (fast response, standard, or unknown).
  12. Type of sprinkler head activated #3 (pendent, sidewall, or unknown).
  13. Reason for activation (fire, system malfunction, vandalism, or unknown).
  14. Smoke detector present (yes, no, or unknown).
  15. Did smoke detector operate (yes, no, or unknown).
  16. Estimated number of lives saved by activation (numerical amount to be entered).
  17. Incident dollar-loss range (0-1,000, 1,001-5,000, 5001-10,000, 10,001-50,000, 50,001-100,000, 100,001-250,000, more than 250,000, or unknown).
  18. Estimated range of dollars saved by activation (0-1,000, 1,001-5,000, 5,001-10,000, 10,001-50,000. 50,001-100,000, 100,001-250,000, more than 250,000, or unknown).

Any fire department experiencing a residential fire sprinkler activation was invited to participate Because it was apparent that the most activations and, therefore, the greatest amount of data, would come from areas having the largest number of residential sprinklers, efforts to solicit project participants were focused primarily on political subdivisions having residential fire sprinkler ordinances.

The RFSI's listing of communities with sprinkler ordinances was used for this purpose, with assistance in identifying additional subdivisions provided by the NASFM, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), and numerous associations of State fire prevention officers. Without their assistance in identifying users, this project could not have been successful.

In this phase of the project (2006-2007), 89 additional fire departments participated in the reporting of more than 150 additional activations when compared to the earlier phase of the project 2003-2005.

The graphs in the report depict the data gathered from January 1, 2003 through August 31, 2007. While these graphs represent the compilation of all 556 incidents, the program is designed to enable each user and each State to obtain individual or specialized reports of incidents organized by State, or by any of the data elements captured by the system.

The initial grant was extended for a period of 1 year to continue gathering residential sprinkler activations to expand the base of data collected. That base now can be used to identify what information is documented and retrievable and what is not, from fire department records. With the knowledge gained from the project, we now can modify the database to make the data-entering process more user-friendly, resulting in increased reported activations.