Myths and misconceptions

A fire detection system provides enough protection

Fire detection systems (including domestic smoke alarms) save lives by providing a warning of fire, but can do nothing to control or extinguish a growing fire.

Water damage from a fire sprinkler system will be more extensive than fire damage

Water damage from a fire sprinkler system will be far less severe than the damage caused by water from firefighters’ hoses. Modern sprinklers operate very quickly to release 45 – 200 litres of water per minute, compared to 700 – 4000 litres per minute discharged by fire service hoses and jets.

Sprinkler systems can be connected to an alarm monitoring company, which will contact the fire service immediately, should the alarm go off. On arrival, the fire service will take action to minimise any water damage.

When one sprinkler goes off, won’t they all go off?

Only the sprinkler heads in the immediate vicinity of a fire will operate. Research carried out over 20 years shows that 80% of fires are controlled or extinguished by the operation of fewer than six sprinkler heads.

Sprinkler systems are not practical in cold climates, the pipes will freeze and cause water damage.

The sprinkler installation standards include a range of measures which can be incorporated in systems to prevent low temperatures impacting on the operation of sprinklers should there be a fire.

Fire sprinkler systems are expensive to maintain

Sprinkler systems must be inspected, tested, and maintained to ensure a high degree of reliability. However, sprinkler systems only need two maintenance visits a year by a contractor. This costs around £500/year for larger systems. Small systems require only an annual visit and this will cost between £75 and £100.

The low whole-life costs of a fire sprinkler system make investment attractive. Fire sprinkler systems will last the lifetime of a building without major replacement or refurbishment. The industry claims a service life of around 40 years, but it is well known that there are many sprinkler systems from the 1930s which are still operational.