Tactical Considerations for Residential Sprinkler Activations

Sprinklers in single and multi-family dwellings require several duties to take place on the fireground. Since human beings have learned to extinguish fires by using water and began to form bucket brigades to shuttle water from a water source to a...


Sprinklers in single and multi-family dwellings require several duties to take place on the fireground.

Since human beings have learned to extinguish fires by using water and began to form bucket brigades to shuttle water from a water source to a fire, fire suppression methods have been constantly evolving. Methods employed by today's fire service utilize trucks, personnel, strategy and tactics and modern technology to provide fire protection. As the fire service proceeds into the future, new methods will be developed and employed.

Through the years the fire service has begun to realize that in order to offer a complete fire protection program, fire prevention strategies must be implemented. Community fire problems must be identified and programs must be developed and implemented.

One particular fire problem identified by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is the majority of structure fires occur in residential structures. In the year 2000, 73 percent of structure fires occurred in residential structures. Additionally, 85 percent of civilian deaths occurred in residential fires with two-thirds of these fatalities occurring in one- and two-family dwellings. According to NFPA, the majority of fires occur in the kitchen area of the home and half of the fatalities occurred in rooms beyond the room of fire origin. Cooking and heating were found to be the leading causes of fires.

To reduce these losses, code making organizations have come to realize that residential fire sprinklers save lives. Residential building codes have been updated to require residential fire sprinkler systems be installed in certain types of residential occupancies. Exceptions are given to one- and two-family dwellings. The exclusion of these dwellings in the code falls far short of reducing the number of fatalities in residential dwelling fires. In order to close this short fall, municipal governments such as San Clemente, CA; Sarasota, FL; Chapel Hill, NC; and Scottsdale, AZ have enacted residential fire sprinkler ordinances to further reduce the number of fatalities and property damage resulting from residential structure fires.

Another issue that directly affects fire protection are current trends in residential building projects. Common types of developments being proposed and built are projects with structures built close together in an effort to maximize lot spaces and increase profit margins. One particular type of development concept is known as Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND). This type of development embraces the concept of traditional neighborhoods built during the 1950's and earlier years. The socio-logical concept behind this type of development is that people living in close-knit fashion with a mixture of business and residential development will gladly walk to neighborhood stores and activities rather than drive to other areas of the city. This design concept instills a sense of neighborhood and belonging to the occupants of the neighborhood.

 

Characteristics of this type of development include houses and structures that are built on narrow lots with minor separation from other buildings. Structures are placed on lots using short set back requirements from the street and sidewalks extend throughout the development. Modern trend items such as traffic calming devices are installed. These devices include narrow street width; curbing restrictions; speed humps and offset road intersections are employed. These methods are instituted in an effort to slow motorist and encourage occupants to park vehicles on neighborhood streets. Beautification and esthetics are issues. These are employed with tree and shrub lined streets and utilities placed underground.

Problems facing fire department response and operations in these areas coincide with the advantages of this type of development. Structures built close to the street as well as other structures provide for rapid fire advancement from structure to structure. Traffic calming devices used will hamper and slow fire department response allowing for fire growth. Narrow, tree-lined streets discourage use of truck company tower ladders and limit ground ladder maneuverability.

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