In just 11 days, four major fires have drawn the nation's attention to the dangers associated with older residential properties that do not have fire sprinkler systems. The fires included three in apartment buildings and one in an extended living hotel. Although all the incidents involved low-rise buildings, the fires spread quickly, trapping many occupants on upper floors and forcing many of the survivors to jump from windows in desperate attempts to stay alive.
Three of the fires involved multiple fatalities; five lives were lost in an off-campus apartment fire in San Marcos, Texas, two were lost in a Westminster, Colorado apartment fire, and six were lost in a Berrien County, Michigan hotel, five of which were children. A student who survived the Texas incident remains in the hospital with 3rd degree burns over 70% of his body. Officials believe that the fourth fire, which destroyed an apartment building in Prospect Heights, Illinois, would also have involved fatalities if the fire had occurred at night.
Because these buildings all lacked fire sprinklers, they were engulfed in fire before the fire department arrived, endangering not only occupants, but firefighters as well.
When purchasing a home, renting an apartment or selecting a hotel, choosing a property with a fire sprinkler system is the best way to protect yourself and your family from fire
Importance of fire sprinklers
"Most people don't realize how quickly fires spread in real life," says Shane Ray, President of the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA). "Smoke is so thick that you can't see, and flames can engulf a room in seconds. Fires on TV and in movies don't show the real danger and they create myths about fire sprinklers, they don't all go off, only the one closest to the fire. Fire sprinklers buy time and time buys life."
The latest national codes recognise fire sprinklers as a proven technology for preventing deadly fires, and that's why these codes require all new residential properties to have fire sprinklers. But, there are no requirements to install fire sprinklers in existing properties unless they undergo extensive renovation.
Selecting a property having fire sprinkler system
When purchasing a home, renting an apartment or selecting a hotel, especially when that decision involves children or younger and older adults, choosing a property with a fire sprinkler system is the best way to protect yourself and your family from fire.
For people living in properties that lack fire sprinklers, NFSA recommends having: 1) Interconnected smoke alarms in common areas on each level and in all bedrooms, 2) An escape plan that includes two ways out from each bedroom, and 3) A portable escape ladder next to a window in each bedroom located above the ground floor.