Whether building or buying a newly constructed home, making it safe and secure for the inhabitants should be a priority. Today’s homeowners often ask for alarm systems, carbon monoxide detectors, deadbolt locks, egress windows and other features that protect their families from danger.

Fire prevention should also be a priority. Each year, approximately 358,500 homes have a structural fire and 3,000 Americans die in those fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association key findings of 2020, 75% of all fire deaths occurred in home fires. The top causes of home fires are cooking, and heating and electrical malfunctions.

The elderly, very young and disabled are the most vulnerable populations to fire deaths and injuries because many of them will have difficulty escaping the blaze on their own.

Residential fire sprinkler systems provide the solution.

When considering fire sprinklers, many homeowners are concerned about water damage and aesthetics. Keep in mind that unlike those shown in movies, home fire sprinklers only activate when a room temperature reaches 150 degrees. The sprinklers flow about 22 gallons of water a minute — a far cry from the 250 gallons a minute discharged by a fire hose. Another advantage to fire sprinklers — they act quickly to keep a fire small or even completely extinguish it, which means less water is needed to contain the blaze. And unlike the movies, not all the sprinklers in the building will activate — only those closest to the fire that reach the activation temperature will flow water.

Residential fire sprinklers can be installed flush with ceilings, covered by a small disk that can match a home’s interior. Today’s home fire sprinklers are as unintrusive as many other home electronic features.

A home still needs smoke detectors, which alert anyone inside the home that there might be a fire. However, a fire sprinkler system adds an additional layer of safety by immediately dispensing water to the fire, keeping heat, toxic gases and smoke at bay. This allows time for all the inhabitants to safely exit the home and wait for fire department assistance. Sprinklers provide vital protection for those with mobility issues, including the elderly and young children, and even pets.

“The idea is to protect life,” says Suzanne Mayr, Northwest Regional Manager of the National Fire Sprinkler Association. “Fire sprinklers cool down the room, providing valuable time for the occupants to escape.”

Today’s homes are particularly vulnerable to quick-burning fires that emit deadly smoke. Many furnishings and other objects inside today’s homes are made from synthetics and flammable materials, which burn hotter and faster than natural substances. Synthetic carpets, plastic electronics, and artificial materials produce toxic smoke which can be more dangerous than the flames.

At least 10 jurisdictions in Washington require automatic residential fire sprinkler systems in newly constructed homes. Those include Bonney Lake, Camas, Dupont, Kenmore, Mercer Island, Olympia, Redmond, Shoreline, Tukwila and Washougal. Most newer apartments, townhomes and other residences across the state are now built with fire sprinklers.

“Even if you do everything in your power to prevent a fire, you have no control over your neighbors on the other side of the wall,” Mayr says. “Be sure to add fire sprinklers to your list of requirements when shopping for an apartment or townhome.”

Aside from protecting the lives of occupants and pets, sprinklers can also help prevent irreversible damage to property. While fire and smoke destroy your possessions, many items can be saved if your fire is quickly doused by sprinklers. Water damage may also be covered by your homeowner’s insurance.

“You can dry things out,” Mayr says. “But you can’t unburn them.”

For over a century, the National Fire Sprinkler Association has advocated to protect lives and property through the widespread acceptance of fire sprinklers. Our Puget Sound area contractor members add their skills and experience to this effort.