Scottsdale, Ariz. was ahead of the nation, in regard to residential sprinkler systems. Their testing showed the overwhelming benefit of a home protected by smoke alarms, in conjunction with a residential sprinkler system. The best set up for smoke alarms is the system that has all of the alarms hooked together in series; when one goes off, they all go off. In all of my years on the job, I never found anyone sleeping when all of the smoke alarms in a home were activating. The next piece of the safety equation is the presence of a residential sprinkler system.
Most residential sprinkler systems are supplied from the domestic water supply, with some having a residential connection. When a fire occurs, the smoke alarm activates and the sprinkler head(s), in the vicinity of the fire, activate. Scottsdale passed a city ordinance in 1985 that required all commercial and multi-family dwellings to be outfitted with a fire sprinkler system. The boldest initiative came a year later, when a Scottsdale ordinance required that all houses built after January 1, 1986 had to be outfitted with a residential sprinkler system as well. Go to www.scottsdaleaz.gov/fire/residentialsprinkler.
The most inexpensive time to install a residential sprinkler system is when a house is being built. Retrofitting is possible, but it requires more money and a bit of destruction and reconstruction. Many will not even consider a sprinkler system due to preconceived myths, and the belief that a fire will never occur in their home. Keep in mind, 3.7 out of every 10 residential fires start in the kitchen. If a residential sprinkler system was in place, there is a good chance that the fire will be extinguished with only one operating head. Many will see the water damage as a deterrent, but the ultimate goal is for everyone to escape safely.
Properly operating and placed smoke alarms plus a residential sprinkler system allows the greatest opportunity for survival in a residential fire. A sprinkler system and a smoke alarm represent reactive measures to a fire. There is still a greater need for preventative measures. Each of us would prefer to never experience a residential fire. Home fire safety inspections could very well prevent a fire from ever occurring. There will always be the need for the reactive measures because human nature bears it out. Apathy is not an option. Do everything possible to prevent a fire, but do everything possible to be prepared for the one that occurs.