NFPA Journal - September/October 2012 - (Page 85)

>> FIREANALYSIS +RESEARCH NFPA RESEARCH REPORTS IN BRIEF U.S. Experience with Sprinklers By JOhn R. hall, JR. Automatic sprinklers are highly effective and reliable elements of total system designs for fire protection in buildings. According to the 2009 American Housing Survey, 4.6 percent of occupied homes, including multiunit homes, had sprinklers in 2009, up from 3.9 percent in 2007, and 18.5 percent of occupied home built in the previous four years had sprinklers. Sprinklers were present in an estimated 9 percent of reported structure fires between 2006 and 2010. They were reported as present in 55 percent of reported fires in health care properties and in at least half of reported structure fires in manufacturing facilities, hotels and motels, prisons and jails, and dormitories and barracks. In most other property types, at least two-thirds of all reported fires were reported as not having sprinklers present. Sprinklers operated in 91 percent of all reported structure fires large enough to activate sprinklers, excluding buildings under construction and buildings in which there were no sprinklers in the fire area. When sprinklers operated, they were effective 96 percent of the time, resulting in a combined performance of operating effectively in 88 percent of all reported fires where sprinklers were present in the fire area and the fire was large enough to activate them. The more widely used wet-pipe sprinklers operated effectively 89 percent of the time, while dry-pipe sprinklers operated effectively in 76 percent of cases. With wet-pipe sprinklers, the fire death rate per 1,000 reported home structure fires was lower by 83 percent, and the rate of property damage per reported home structure fire was lower by 69 percent. For more on NFPA’s Home Fire Sprinkler Initiative, go to When sprinklers fail to operate, the reason most often given was that the system had been shut off before the fire began, as may occur in the course of routine inspection or maintenance. Other leading reasons included manual intervention that defeated the system, lack of maintenance, and inappropriate system for the type of fire. Only 8 percent of sprinkler failures were attributed to component damage. When sprinklers operate but are ineffective, the reason usually had to do with an insufficient amount of water applied to the fire, either because water did not reach the fire or because not enough water was released. Other leading reasons were manual intervention that defeated the system, system component damage, lack of maintenance, and inappropriate system for the type of fire. The Smoking-Material Fire Problem By JOhn R. hall, JR. In 2010, fire departments responded to an estimated 90,800 smokingmaterial fires in the United States, a number largely unchanged from 89,500 in 2009. These fires resulted in an estimated 610 civilian deaths, down from the year before, as well as 1,570 civilian injuries and $663 million in direct property damage. In 2010, an estimated 17,500 smoking-material home structure fires caused 540 civilian deaths (21 percent of all home structure fire deaths), 1,320 civilian injuries, and $535 million in property damage. The long-term trend in smokingmaterial fires has been down, by 73 percent from 1980 to 2010, helped by the decline in smoking, the effect of standards and regulations that have made mattresses and upholstered furniture more resistant to cigarette ignition, and, more recently, the adoption of fire-safe cigarette requirements throughout the country. Canada and all U.S. states have passed laws or other requirements that all cigarettes sold must be “fire safe.” That is, they must have sharply reduced ignition strength, as determined by ASTM Standard E2187-04. A simple projection linking the percentage decline in fires or fire deaths to the percentage of smokers covered would suggest that when the law is fully effective across the entire country, the reduction in fire deaths should reach 30 percent relative to levels in 2003, the last year before the fire-safe cigarette law was effective in any state. Trash, mattresses and bedding, and upholstered furniture are the items most commonly ignited in smokingmaterial home fires. Excluding trash, these items also account for most associated fire deaths. Roughly equal shares of deaths due to smokingmaterial fires involved fires that started in living rooms, family rooms, and dens, as they did in bedrooms. The risk of dying in a home structure fire caused by smoking materials rises with age. Nearly half of fatal home smoking-material fire victims were 65 or older, compared to their 13 percent share of the population. Because adults age 65 and over are less likely to smoke than younger adults, their high rates of smoking-material fire deaths per million people are even more noteworthy. One out of four victims of smoking-material fires is not the smoker whose cigarette started the fire. High-Rise Building Fires By JOhn R. hall, JR. In 2005–2009, an estimated 15,700 reported high-rise structure fires per year resulted in 53 civilian deaths, 546 civilian injuries, and $235 million in direct property damage annually. An estimated 2.6 percent of all reported structure fires from 2005 to 2009 were in high-rise buildings. The trends in high-rise fires and associated losses, inflation-adjusted SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2012 NFPA JOURNAL 85

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of NFPA Journal - September/October 2012

NFPA Journal - September/October 2012
First Word
Mail Call
In a Flash
Heads Up
Structural Ops
In Compliance
Electrical Safety
Wildfire Watch
Lessons of Comayagua
After Waldo Canyon
Catastrophic Multiple-Death Fires in 2011
Fire Loss in the United States in 2011
Section Spotlight
Research + Analysis
What’s Hot
Looking Back

NFPA Journal - September/October 2012