In 2018, an average of one person died each week — a total of 52 people — as the result of residential fires in New Jersey. These fires occurred in single family homes, multifamily homes, apartments, condos and townhouses. 

The one thing that all these homes had in common was that none of them were equipped with fire sprinkler systems.

“When fire sprinklers are installed, they have been proven to reduce the risk of dying in a fire by 80 percent and to reduce the amount of property damage caused by fire by 70 percent,” explained David Kurasz, executive director of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NJFSAB)

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So why don’t more homes have fire sprinklers? According to Kurasz, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about fire sprinklers, such as affordability and that people think a smoke alarm is enough to keep their family safe, that often discourage consumers from pursuing these lifesaving tools. 

“You can’t put a price tag on a life, and those who have lost a family member to a home fire would agree they would give any amount of money to get their loved one back,” said Kurasz. “We want people to know the facts, so that they can make informed decisions about the best ways to protect the lives of loved ones and protect their homes if a fire does break out.”

Here are some factsfrom the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to counter some of the most common myths and misconceptions about fire sprinklers.

Myth: A smoke alarm provides enough protection.

Fact: Smoke alarms alert occupants to the presence of danger, but do nothing to extinguish the fire. In a fire, sprinklers can control and may even extinguish a fire in less time than it would take the fire department to arrive.

Other important facts to note about smoke alarms:

  • The elderly, people with disabilities or those under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medications may not be able to react to the smoke alarm fast enough or evacuate the home in a timely manner.
  • Nuisance alarms are the leading reason for disabling smoke alarms (which means they may not be operational when needed).
  • Three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or alarms that did not work.

Myth:  Fire sprinklers are too expensive.

Fact:  Fire sprinklers are actually cost-effective when compared to other home amenities; in fact, the cost is similar to what you would pay per square foot to install a new granite counter top.  In addition, you may be able to save money on your homeowner’s insurance.  

Myth: When a fire occurs, every sprinkler will activate and everything in the house will be ruined.

Fact: In the event of a fire, typically only the sprinkler closest to the fire will activate, spraying water directly on the fire, leaving the rest of the house dry and secure. Roughly 85 percent of the time, just one sprinkler operates.

Myth: Home fire sprinklers often leak or activate accidentally.

Fact: Leaks are very rare and are no more likely than leaks from a home’s plumbing system. A sprinkler is calibrated to activate when it senses a significant heat change, They don’t operate in response to smoke, cooking vapors, steam or the sound of a smoke alarm.

Myth: The water damage caused by sprinklers will be more extensive than fire damage.

Fact:  In a fire, sprinklers quickly control heat and smoke. Any water damage from the sprinkler will be much less severe than the damage caused by water from firefighting hose lines.  A single residential fire sprinkler head will release 20 gallons of water per minute, while a fire hose can spray up to 150 to 200 gallons per minute, which is 10 times as much water to extinguish a home fire as fire sprinklers would use to extinguish the same fire.

Myth: Newer homes are safer homes.

Fact:  In a fire, lightweight construction materials used in many modern homes burn quicker and fail faster. New homes often contain modern furnishings made of synthetic materials which, in a fire, can create a highly toxic environment, greater fuel load and faster fire propagation.

According to Kurasz, fire sprinklers are a proven effective method for helping homeowners reduce the impact of home fires.  “A home is a huge investment, and while updated bathrooms and kitchen countertops look great, they can’t protect you and your family from the devastating impact of fire which can result in injuries, death and the destruction and loss of your property.”

Assembly Bill A3974, known as the New Home Fire Safety Act, would require that fire sprinklers be installed during the construction of new one and two-family homes in New Jersey.  The bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, was unanimously voted on January 17 to be moved from the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee to the full assembly for further review.

“The New Home Fire Safety act is a great step forward towards ensuring the fire safety of more New Jersey residents in the future,” said Kurasz. 

To learn more about the bill and the coalition of supporters behind this legislation please visit www.StopFireSaveLives.com.