How Movies Are Lying to You About Fire Sprinklers
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.
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