In 2010, FM Global, the international insurer and fire research organization, released a study that highlighted the fact that residential fire sprinklers were an important element of green technology for modern homes. The study analyzed the results of full-scale burns of a typical North American home that was protected with fire sprinklers and without. The results were edifying:
- Greenhouse gas emissions were cut by 97.8 per cent
- Water used in fire fighting was reduced between 50 per cent and 91 per cent
- Fewer persistent pollutants, such as heavy metals, were found in sprinkler wastewater versus fire hose water
- The high pH level and pollutant load of non-sprinkler wastewater are an environmental concern
- Less materials going to landfill
In 2021, FM Global revisited its earlier report and confirmed no new research has been brought forward to counter the earlier findings. The company then reviewed the fire losses in the United States for the period of 2009 through 2019. FM Global deduced that during this period, more than 816,564,163 kilograms (1,800,215,826 pounds) of greenhouse gases had been released into the environment due to fires in homes that could have been protected with fire sprinklers.
The report also addressed water used in fire fighting; it estimates more than 36 billion litres (9.5 billion gallons) of water was used to extinguish these fires – water, now contaminated, that in most cases is not captured or treated and is discharged into the soil, storm drains, or watercourses. Sprinklers are proven to reduce the flows by between 50 per cent and 91 per cent and the runoff had fewer contaminants. You can learn about this at Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition Water Usage Demonstration. As the report states, “Each home built without fire sprinklers is a lost opportunity and a fire tragedy waiting to happen.”
As we consider changes to our national housing strategy in Canada to look at reducing environmental impacts, it is now clearer that residential fire sprinklers need to be a component of this strategy: while protecting the lives of our families, we also protect the environment. Sprinklers just make sense.
Read the update and the original report here: Environmental Impact of Fire Sprinklers