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watching film fire sprinkler system

How Movies Are Lying to You About Fire Sprinklers

watching film fire sprinkler system

Don’t believe everything you see on TV. Especially when it comes to accurate depictions of sprinklers; more importantly, what sets off a fire sprinkler system. Of course, the accuracy of fire sprinklers is typically overlooked, especially in films that already have fictitious and improbable elements (such as superheroes and a talking bear). And mostly, these scenes are played out for entertainment, comedy and to advance the narrative.


Yet, there are some people that believe these common occurrences. It may even be the reason some are sceptical about installing fire sprinklers within their residential or commercial building. For this, we are here to separate the facts from the fiction and depict the biggest myths films carry on referencing. 

Myth 1: Pulling a Fire Alarm Sets Off Sprinklers

A fire alarm will not activate a fire sprinkler system as they are two independent systems that are not linked. Sprinklers activate when a fire has already started, not to the warning signs such as smoke. The only exception to this is in deluge systems, where an electronic control valve can be connected to a fire alarm to distribute the water in an emergency. However, as both are fire protection systems, typically, the combination of fire alarms and sprinklers is not required in buildings. For more information, read our previous blog here.


But, we’re not here to just shame films. Sometimes, they actually get it right. Whether you believe it is a Christmas film or not, Die Hard depicts facts regarding fire sprinklers and what sets them off. Wanting to attract the police, John McClane examines Nakatomi Plaza’s fire sprinkler system and pulls the fire alarm. Yet, the sprinklers do not go off which reflects the truth. 

Myth 2: All Sprinklers Activate at Once

Though it is entertaining to watch, watching the likes of the Agent Smiths being drenched in a completely different room to the fire in The Matrix, this is not plausible. Movies have us believe that if a sprinkler system detects a fire in one room, every other sprinkler head in the rest of the building also activates. Yet, this is a myth.


Only the individual sprinkler that is closest to the flames will activate. If the fire is not dealt with and starts to spread, only then will any other sprinkler heads go off. Sorry Neo, but the Agents would have stayed dry.


Myth 3: Lighters Set Off Sprinkler Protection Systems

There is some truth behind this one, but only slightly. Temperature does have an effect on a fire sprinkler system as the sprinkler heads detect high heat in the case of a fire. However, they are only activated over a temperature of 56°C. Which, even when held directly underneath, lighters will not be hot enough to automatically set the sprinkler head off. It will take a while for the heat to be detected.


Films like Aliens and Terminator 2 have all included scenes where the main character holds an open flame close to a sprinkler system and is then covered in water. Must be a James Cameron trope.

Myth 4: Sprinklers Can Be Activated via the Internet

We’re just going to skip past this one. So, all you would-be hackers out there; no, you can’t activate a sprinkler system from a computer device. 

Myth 5: Smoke Alone Activates a Fire Sprinkler System

Sprinklers will never go off due to smoke. In residential buildings, smoke can’t be avoided, especially in kitchens. As stated in Myth 3, they are activated by heat, rather than smoke. Instead, devices such as smoke detectors are designed to emit a loud signal to alert occupants of a potential fire. However, these do not stop the spreading or suppression of the fire. For this, fire sprinklers should be considered and installed to help save lives and property damage.

RAD Fire Sprinklers

RAD Fire Sprinklers install commercial and residential sprinkler systems throughout London and the South East area. We understand the importance a fire sprinkler system can have in protecting a building and its occupants and make sure to inform all our clients of the facts. Our portfolio includes a wide range of industries including high-rise complexes, historical buildings and social housing

For more information on our services, fill out our online form and a member of our team will be in touch. Or, follow us on Instagram and get our fire safety guidance direct to your feed!


Liked this blog? Rad another one here.

Mist system was a great solution for our renovation needs and them team at RAD have been great. Always communicated clearly and been on hand to discuss over the phone as needed. Would highly recommend!
09:32 17 Jul 22
I have used RAD for a couple of projects and found them to be good to deal with. They did a pair of 3 storey open plan houses and seven three and four story town houses. The sprinklers were to improve fire safety, allow more flexible space and comply with building regulations. The sprinklers were far more cost effective than the mist type systems and look very discrete when installed.
Paul Jeary
15:50 11 Jul 22
It has been a pleasure to deal with RAD for installation of fire sprinklers at our site is Sevenoaks. They were fast, professional, working to time and quote, which made it easy to work with them.
Katrina Horobin
12:03 29 Jun 22
My requirement was a bit unusual for RAD in that I wanted a mist system in one room of a rented house. I had no drawings or technical back up. RAD were very helpful and repositioned the unit after the initial installation. Luckily with the help of Sonny, the engineer it all worked out very well.
Simon Gurney
16:16 12 May 22
I have used RAD for the last 10 years for all of my housing developments in need of a sprinkler system. Easy process from start to finish and no issues or problems throughout. Always someone at hand to answer a querie and we have a great working relationship with the team at RAD. Would highly recommend.
15:33 12 May 22
Diligent & a very professional team. A joy to deal with. Will certainly be calling on them to help with many more future schemes.
Jason Tema
22:17 08 Jul 19
Great team, fitting sprinklers, saving lives & property... What more could you wish for!!!
Colin P
17:53 01 Jul 17
Excellent company & great service... This company rocks! They sprinkle fires & save lives!!!
Music N Videoz
07:15 16 Dec 16
As somebody who feels that it should be a necessity for all properties to have fire sprinkler systems, I am a big fan of this company. I have used them numerous times to service my home system and they are very knowledgeable. I would highly recommend their service.
Kate Fraser
09:25 30 Mar 15
One look at Rad Fire Sprinkler's website will tell you that these guys know exactly what they are talking about when it comes to Fire Sprinklers and the legislation surrounding fire safety. A very trustworthy company.
Adam Hudson
16:45 15 Nov 13

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