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Home Fire Sprinkler Systems
Fire sprinkler systems are installed in a home to attack a fire in its early stages by spraying enough water to put out the fire or keep it from spreading, allowing occupants more time to escape. Before residential systems were introduced, fire sprinklers had been used for years in commercial and industrial buildings with excellent success.
Home fire sprinkler systems are practical. They are attractively designed so as to blend into modern décor, and yet so effective that most of the time, fires are contained by the operation of just one sprinkler. They have been proven to save property and the lives of you and your loved ones.
Currently, more than 3,000 people die in fires in the United States each year, and 84% of these deaths occur in residential homes. Not only does the risk of dying in a fire decrease by about 80% when sprinklers are present, sprinklers provide significant property protection, reducing the average loss by 71% per fire (information from the National Fire Protection Association).
The following are several actions you should take to ensure your residential fire sprinkler system is working correctly:
- Checking to see if the cover plates over the sprinkler heads are in place - These are decorative covers designed to conceal some styles of sprinkler heads.
- Contacting a licensed fire sprinkler contractor prior to remodeling your home.
- Knowing the location of the shut-off valve - In most cases, the system shut-off valve will be the water meter that controls the domestic water.
- Making certain the system valve is open at all times.
- Testing your system every six months - If your system is monitored by a fire service company, be sure to notify them before testing the system.
The following are actions that could impair your sprinkler system's ability to work correctly and should be avoided:
- Damaging the sprinkler heads - Damaged sprinkler heads may not activate in the event of a fire.
- Hanging objects from sprinkler heads (e.g. plants, decorations, clothes hangers).
- Painting over the sprinkler heads or decorative cover plates - The added paint will absorb heat and can delay the operation of the sprinkler heads.
- Removing sprinkler heads.
- Turning off or disconnecting the sprinkler system.
The City of Fontana has required fire sprinklers in residential homes since 1987. On October 14, 1998, the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Central Sprinkler announced a nationwide recall of approximately 8.4 million Omega brand fire sprinklers manufactured since 1982.
The recall was announced after receiving reports of Omega sprinklers not functioning in several fires, resulting in millions of dollars in damages as well as injuries. As of 2009, there have been several such failures documented within the City of Fontana, indicating that there are potentially many of these Omega sprinkler heads in homes just like yours.
The Fontana Fire District recently sent out a letter on October 19, 2009, notifying all residents who may not be aware of this issue. View the letter online in English (PDF) or en Español (PDF).
Why Omega Sprinkler Heads Are Defective
Central Omega heads are one of several models of sprinkler heads in which the design includes a rubber O-ring seal that has been shown to degrade over time. This in turn prevents a plug in the sprinkler head from being pushed out and allowing water to spray out. In some cases, these sprinkler heads were directly above a fire and still failed to operate.
How to Know if You Have Omega Sprinkler Heads
The Central Omega sprinkler can be distinguished from most other fire sprinklers because of its three discs that protrude from the bottom. However, other models may look similar, so you should verify that the model is indeed a Central Omega sprinkler.
You can also visually inspect your sprinkler heads and note the model number on the deflector, which is the piece of metal that is visible by looking at the sprinkler head from bottom. The model number can also be found on the body of the sprinkler head itself. Because removing sprinkler heads takes special tools and knowledge, it is recommended that you contact a licensed sprinkler contractor.
What to Do if You Have Omega Sprinkler Heads
As a homeowner or occupant, you no doubt want to protect yourself and make sure that your vital life safety system is in proper working order. Replacing your sprinkler heads is the best way to ensure that your system will function properly in the event of a fire.
After reviewing this information, please contact a licensed C-16 fire protection contractor and explain what you need done. Most contractors give free estimates for replacing sprinkler heads - be sure to get several in order to get a competitive price. View a list of contractors (PDF).
Test Every Six Months
It 's recommended that you inspect and test your fire sprinkler system every six months. Fire sprinkler systems actually need little care and should last for the lifetime of your home.
Important: If your fire sprinkler system is monitored by a fire alarm service company, be sure to notify them before testing the system.
Five-Step Testing System
Step One - Main System Control Shut-Off Valve
|Locate the main system control shut-off valve. The shut-off valve is normally the domestic water supply line, located in or near the garage.|
Step Two - Main Riser Location
|Locate the main riser for the sprinkler system. The riser is normally in a cabinet on the wall of the garage.|
Step Three - Main Riser Inspection
|Inspect the main riser to assure that there is a water pressure. The pressure gauge should read between 50 psi and 100 psi. If the gauge reads either very low or no pressure at all, you should contact a licensed sprinkler contractor about repair.|
Step Four - Inspector's Test Valve
Locate the inspector's test valve, which is usually outside on the rear wall of the house. Open the test valve slowly - water should come out. Listen for the alarm bell. Once the alarm bell sounds, turn off the valve. If the alarm bell does not sound, look to see if there is any obstruction in the bell. If there is no obstruction and the alarm still does not sound, contact a licensed fire sprinkler contractor.
Step Five - Interior Inspection
|An interior inspection of your home should be conducted by looking at all the sprinkler heads. Look for any signs of leakage, items being hung from sprinkler heads, or damage to the sprinkler heads. If you have concealed sprinkler heads, check to ensure that the decorative cover plates are in place. If you find any damage or leakage, call a sprinkler contractor. If you find any objects being hung from the heads, remove them immediately. |
You should contact the Fire Department when any activation occurs by dialing 9-1-1.
In the event of a fire, always remember to be calm and leave your house immediately. Go straight to a neighbor's house and dial 9-1-1.
For more information, please call our Fire Prevention Office at (909)428-8890.