Fire sprinklers mandatory in some states for new home construction

Fire sprinklers mandatory in some states for new home construction

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Arkansas leads the nation in fire deaths based on per-capita numbers, according to the American Red Cross.

We can't always know or predict when a fire will happen, but we can explore ways to fight them.

One option that businesses commonly use, but homeowners almost never consider, are fire sprinklers.

Stay in a hotel or spend time in a commercial building and you'll notice them on the ceiling.

Sprinklers have been a mainstay in construction, but not necessarily for your home.

That is until now.

Fires happen in seconds and seconds can make all the difference.

When time is your lifesaver, how do you get more of it?

"Eight of 10 fire fatalities occur in residential structures," firefighter Daniel Rosenbaum said. "If we had residential sprinklers, we would see a drastic change in that."

Many firefighters would actually like to see sprinklers in more homes.

"There is a lot of misconceptions," said Jim Edmunds, the owner of a business that sells fire sprinklers. "A lot of people think that one head, all the heads go off.  That doesn't happen. They think there's a lot of water damage."

So how much of a difference can sprinklers make?

Firefighters in Virginia put them to the test by building these two rooms.

Each one has a chair, a TV, a desk and book case. There's windows, curtains and pictures on the walls.

Six cameras were placed around the rooms, covering all sorts of angles including the ceiling.

One firefighter suited up with a camera on his helmet.

The rooms are identical, except for the sprinklers; 1 room has them and the other doesn't.

Using a small hole in the back and a flare, the room with the sprinklers was tested first.

The smoke alarm went off in seconds.

The flames start to burn the side of the book case; but don't get far.

One minute 12 seconds in, the sprinklers activate.

The fire is contained and burns out before the hoses arrive. It's a firefighter's dream.

"I love the sprinkler systems," one participating firefighter said. "The room is salvageable. People survived. It actually activated in a very short time frame. The fire never really grew basically from what I could see it only got to be knee high."

It was a much different story when they lit up the room with no sprinkler system.

The first started out small, but 2 minutes in is really growing.

By the 4 minute mark, the flames were everywhere.

The smoke detector explodes and television explode.

At the five minute mark, everything in the room is burning.

Very few homes in Arkansas have fire sprinklers.

It's not mandatory and many people don't think to ask about them.

A 2013 Fire Protection Research Foundation puts the price at around $1.44 per sprinkled space in homes with a basement.

That's about $6,300 on average.

"That's less than a carpet upgrade," Edmunds said.

Your home value goes up with the sprinklers.

Systems are designed to operate for 20 years, but it depends on the type of water system you have.

If you don't have public water, the cost to install them could go up.

You can also retrofit an older home.

Only 2 states in the U.S. have made sprinklers mandatory in new home construction: California and Maryland.

Everyday things like cigarette smoke or burnt toast will not activate a fire sprinkler, only the high temperature of a fire will actually activate the sprinkler.

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