Everything you need to know about fire sprinklers

Everything you need to know about fire sprinklers

Millions of rands are lost due to fire damages in South Africa each year. So what can you do to stop it happening to you? Look out for ways to proactively fight fire risk, get the right insurance cover for your home or business, and consider installing an automatic fire sprinkler system

A fire sprinkler system can save lives as well as significant damage to your property. Compared to the damages fire can cause – such as having to replace furniture and electronics completely – a bit of water damage is relatively minimal. Let’s look at how sprinkler systems work and what their benefits are. 

What is an automatic fire sprinkler system?

An automatic fire sprinkler system is a pressurised water supply and distribution system that is designed and built around the specific fire risks of your home or office. It will also adhere to specific fire design codes and standards. A fire sprinkler system will typically comprise a water supply pipework and a network of sprinkler heads that activate in the event of a fire, releasing water from the system to extinguish the fire below. 

Water can come from a public or municipal water supply for small installations like a home, or more reliable, independent water tanks and dedicated fire pumps for larger installations such as an office or factory. 

Advantages of fire sprinkler systems 

Fire sprinkler systems are designed to react promptly and automatically in the event of a fire – much faster than any human. It works 24/7 so you are always protected even if you’re not home or if a fire starts outside of working hours.

Here are more benefits of a fire sprinkler system:

  • Sprinkler systems are automatic and respond at all times. Fire control is therefore rapid and no human intervention is needed. 
  • Sprinkler systems are fitted with water flow ‘gong’ alarms and will alert a homeowner /security guards of a developing fire. 
  • Significantly less heat and smoke are generated if the fire is extinguished at inception – this is what sprinklers are designed to do. 
  • Property damage is reduced. A well-designed system will control a fire and fire/water damage will generally be localised. 
  • Occupants and firefighters are exposed to much less danger if the fire is kept in check by a sprinkler system. 
  • Savings on insurance premiums because sprinkler controlled fires are in the overall majority of instances less damaging than fires that are not kept in check by sprinklers. 
  • Sprinkler controlled fires reduce the demand for security as it minimises intrusion opportunities.
  • Sprinkler systems use significantly less firewater than hydrants, hydraulic hose reels or the fire brigade. 

Fire sprinkler regulations businesses should know

If you own a business, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with global best practice for what is called ‘passive fire protection’, such as smoke detectors in buildings and automatic sprinklers in structures with a high fire load or where such buildings or structures house high-risk exposures. These systems are designed and installed in accordance with proven standards, codes and rules that are based on actual fire tests. 

A fire load is a measurement used by fire-fighters to determine the potential severity of a fire in a given space. In terms of Section 17 of the South African Building Act, the National Building Regulations and Directives, provide “for the requirements with which buildings shall comply in so far as precautionary measures against fires or other emergencies are concerned, including the resistance of buildings against the outbreak and spreading of fires, the protection of the occupants or users of buildings or other persons against fires, the aids or other installations to be in buildings for the combating or prevention of fires and for the vacating of such buildings in cases of fires or other emergencies”.

Therefore, installing a fire sprinkler system is not just a good idea to save yourself money but could also be a legal requirement. Speak to your broker if you’re uncertain of your responsibilities as a business owner. It’s also important to always check that your system is well maintained, tested and serviced regularly to ensure its functionality and reliability.

Review insurance policies before a loss occurs 

The best time to review a fire insurance policy and understand the scope of coverage is before a disaster happens. Again, work with your broker to do this at least once a year. If you’d like to know more about home or commercial insurance, speak to your broker or call us on 0860 444 444.

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