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Green Living

Building a new home? Protect yourself against today's faster, scarier fires

(BPT) - If your new home is among the one million or so being built in the U.S. this year, congratulations! You’ll have the chance to customize it to your dream home preferences.

One feature that should be at the top of your priority list is the best possible fire protection for yourself and your loved ones: home fire sprinklers. While choosing household systems may not be as fun as picking paint colors and carpeting, it’s even more important. And asking for fire sprinklers could literally save your life.

That’s because home fires today are hotter and faster than fires of the past. Homes with unprotected lightweight building material and flooring burn faster, failing quicker (often collapsing in a fire). Common synthetic furnishings and belongings burn hot and fast and produce toxic smoke. Larger, more open layouts enable faster flashover. That means they can become deadly to people and pets in as little as two minutes.

The tragic facts are that seven people die in U.S. home fires each day, while another 12,300 are injured. The residents aren’t the only ones in harm’s way; firefighters are constantly in danger of injury or death. Studies show they're being diagnosed with cancer as a result of their occupation.

Home fire sprinklers are dependable. They not only save lives; they protect property and possessions (reducing fire damage by as much as 81 percent). Most insurers offer sprinkler discounts that lower your homeowners’ premiums.

“New homeowners have a great opportunity to ensure their houses are optimized for fire protection,” notes Lorraine Carli, HFSC president and vice president of outreach and advocacy for the National Fire Protection Association. “Start with working smoke alarms on every level, and prepare and practice a home escape plan. Create a complete system of fire safety by asking for home fire sprinklers.

Here are the basics:

* Your sprinklers will be customized for your home, ensuring proper protection for your unique layout. Usually the sprinklers are connected to the household water main. In areas where there is not a city water supply or well water, a tank and pump are typically used for water supply. Piping is hidden behind the walls and ceilings.

* There are several kinds of sprinklers made just for homes. Some can be hidden behind round plates. Some sprinkler companies offer custom painted sprinklers to match your décor.

* Each sprinkler is individually activated by heat, so the entire system does not activate. Each sprinkler has a temperature-sensitive glass bulb. If a fire starts, the high heat from it breaks the glass, allowing the water to flow onto the fire. That controls or even puts out the fire, allowing you and your family to escape.

* You need not worry about your sprinklers being set off by smoke alarms operating, burnt toast or cigarette smoke. They’re designed to operate from the high heat of a fire, usually between 135-165 F.

Your family’s fire safety is in your hands! Ask your builder for home fire sprinklers. The best time to install fire sprinklers is when the home is being built, while walls and ceilings are open and accessible.

Learn the facts about home fire sprinklers from the nonprofit Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, a non-commercial educational organization that offers free information and resources. Follow HFSC on Facebook and Twitter.

 
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