Grinnell Mutual Answers Questions about Home Fire Sprinkler Systems

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Grinnell Mutual’s Special Investigations Unit releases a video in which investigators describe how home sprinkler systems work to protect lives and property. This video follows a home fire safety burn cell demonstration released in March that showed the effectiveness of residential sprinkler systems.

Sprinkler systems absolutely save lives...I’ve never heard of any fire deaths reported in a residential structure in which sprinklers were installed and a fire occurred. ~ Alan Clark, Grinnell Mutual Special Investigations assistant vice president

Grinnell Mutual’s Special Investigations Unit releases a video in which fire investigators Alan Clark and Paul Knobloch answer questions about home fire sprinkler systems and how they protect lives and property. Find out more in this Grinnell Mutual Talks about Safety videocast. (This video follows one released in March 2013 in which investigators demonstrated the effectiveness of sprinkler systems in a home fire safety burn cell demonstration.)

“Sprinkler systems absolutely save lives. I’m not aware of any fire fatalities in a commercial building that had a sprinkler system installed in which someone died from a normal fire. An event such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks are an exception,” said Clark, assistant vice president of Grinnell Mutual’s Special Investigations Unit. “Beyond that, I’ve never heard of any fire deaths reported in a residential structure in which sprinklers were installed and a fire occurred.”

According to Knobloch, wet systems are commonly used for home sprinkler systems. In a wet system, water runs into the pipes from the water meter to the sprinkler head.

“The sprinkler head is mounted into either the ceiling or wall as determined by the specs for the home,” explained Knobloch, Special Investigations manager. “If a fire occurs, the heat generated from the fire activates the sprinkler head. Water is released into the room, suppressing the fire until fire personnel arrive to do the complete extinguish.”

While home sprinkler systems do not extinguish fires, they do allow time for people to evacuate – time that is critical in allowing people to escape a burning building. Temperatures in a room without a sprinkler system are estimated to reach flashover – the point at which all combustible materials in a room simultaneously ignite – within just five minutes of a small fire beginning.

“Once the sprinkler system activates, it will suppress the fire long enough for anyone in the building to get out,” said Knobloch.

Can sprinklers be installed in existing homes?
While it’s easier to install a home sprinkler system in the course of construction, it is possible to install a system in an existing home.

“With new construction you can lay out the sprinkler system in the blueprints and have everything installed before drywall or carpets are put in. But, you can retrofit an existing home using ceiling and wall mounts,” said Clark. “In fact, you can cover most of the areas in existing homes at a fairly modest expense and without a lot of interruption to your daily life.”

This video was filmed in January 2013. The discussion aligns with the position of the U.S. Fire Administration that all homes should be equipped with both smoke alarms and automatic fire sprinklers, and that all families should have and practice and emergency escape plan.

About Grinnell Mutual’s Special Investigations Unit
Handling over 600 investigations each year, the Special Investigations Unit conducts fire investigations across the Midwest for Grinnell Mutual and its affiliated farm mutual insurance companies. They also conduct annual burn cell trainings for insurance professionals and fire service personnel.

About Grinnell Mutual
In business since 1909, Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company provides reinsurance for mutual insurance companies and property and casualty insurance products through nearly 1,600 independent agents in 12 Midwestern states. Grinnell Mutual is one of the largest primary reinsurers of farm mutual companies in North America.

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Mallory Bradshaw
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Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company, reinsurer, fire prevention