The Delaware State Fire School and local fire departments announced May 17-23 is National Home Fire Sprinkler Week across the U.S.

The fire problem in the U.S. is overwhelmingly a home fire problem. According to the National Fire Protection Association’s U.S. data, 92% of all civilian structure fire deaths and 86% of all civilian structure fire injuries resulted from home fires. Any improvements in overall fire safety must be improvements in home fire safety, and no strategy has as much documented life safety effectiveness as installed fire sprinklers. Fires today “Burn Faster and Kill Quicker.”

Research conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology has shown that home fires become deadly in as few as three minutes.

“Fires today seem to burn faster and kill quicker, because the contents of modern homes — such as furnishings — can burn faster and more intensely,” said NIST senior engineer Richard Bukowski. “New and old homes alike are filled with these newer contents and furnishings, which provide less margin for success for smoke alarms and add to the need for fire sprinklers. Modern lightweight home construction products, especially wood joists, can rapidly fail under fire conditions, an extreme risk to firefighters responding to a fire.”

Working smoke alarms provide valuable early warning in dwellings. The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition recommends every home have smoke alarms installed on each level. For smoke alarms to be effective, occupants must react quickly and escape immediately when the alarm warns of a fire. Every household should hold regular fire drills to practice how to properly respond to a fire alarm.

Smoke alarms are designed only to signal a warning, which gives residents time to put their escape plan into action. Many high-risk populations — infants, children, people with disabilities, older adults — can have difficulty hearing and waking to smoke alarms and difficulty reacting quickly and effectively enough for a safe escape. Their lives depend on stopping the fire early in its development; their lives depend on fire sprinklers.

A national report from the Fire Protection Research Foundation found that the average cost to builders to install sprinklers in new homes was $1.35 per sprinklered square foot. Reduced labor costs and municipal trade-up incentives have made fire sprinklers a valuable way for homebuilders to protect their bottom line. Options vary by jurisdiction, but typical trade ups for a sprinklered residential development or sub-division include street width reduction, additional units and increased hydrant spacing.

Fire sprinklers are paid for over the life of a mortgage, just as is the home’s electrical or plumbing system. In a national Harris Poll survey conducted for HFSC, seven in 10 U.S. homeowners said a sprinklered house has more value. In fact, 74% of them said they would be more likely to buy a home with fire sprinklers than one without fire sprinklers. Paralleling the results of the Harris Poll survey, a Johns Hopkins study of homeowners reported that 75% of homeowners were more likely to buy a sprinklered home than an unsprinklered one in the future.

For more, visit nfpa.org.