Fire sprinkler and fire suppression systems are similar, but not the same. Here’s what you need to know about both, and how to decide if you need a fire sprinkler system as a component of your comprehensive fire suppression system.

What is a fire sprinkler system?

A fire sprinkler system is a system of sprinklers that release water to control and extinguish fires. These systems are activated by heat or smoke (or both). For many types of fires, water is an effective or the most effective fire suppression agent.

Additionally, sprinklers can be less expensive to operate than other fire suppression systems, as they use water, a relatively inexpensive commodity, which most facilities already have access to. However, water can damage certain types of property, and it can be ineffective against certain types of fires, like grease fires, so a fire sprinkler system may not be the right choice in these applications.

Types of Fire Sprinkler Systems

There are several different types of sprinkler systems, depending on the application. These include
Deluge sprinklers—sprinkler heads are always open and the pipes fill with water when activated. Good for hazardous material storage or other areas with high hazards, like aircraft hangars.
Dry pipe sprinklers—pipes fill with water when the system is activated. Since the pipes are dry, this system works well for unheated buildings, like warehouses, where full pipes might burst in cold temperatures.

  • Wet pipe sprinklers—pipes are constantly full. These systems are used in high-traffic, high-occupancy buildings like hotels, office buildings, and high-rises.
  • Pre-action sprinklers—activated by supplemental fire detection system. Used to mitigate damage of sensitive areas that could be caused by accidental activation. This includes museums, libraries, and the like.

What is a fire suppression system?

A fire suppression system, like a fire sprinkler system, is used to extinguish or control fires, and is activated by heat, smoke, or a combination of the two. However, a fire suppression system uses gaseous, chemical, or foam fire suppression agents to suppress the fire, rather than water.

Because water can damage some types of property, such as electronics, areas like server rooms or semiconductor manufacturing facilities would benefit from a fire suppression system rather than a sprinkler system. For facilities that deal with highly combustible substances or oil and gas, a fire suppression system is also necessary, since water is not effective as a fire suppression agent when oil and certain other substances are combusted.

Types of Fire Suppression Systems

As mentioned previously, there are chemical, gaseous, and foam fire suppression agents, all of which have specific applications. These include:

  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – a gaseous agent that works quickly and efficiently, but can be dangerous to human health. Best for unmanned, unoccupied facilities.
  • Dry Chemical Suppression – which quickly extinguishes fires caused by combustible/flammable liquids. Good for furnace rooms, flammable liquid storage areas, and mechanical rooms.
  • Wet Chemical Suppression – which utilizes liquid substances and prevents re-ignition. Works well for kitchens.
  • Clean Agent Fire Suppression – which leaves no residue, making it ideal for sensitive applications like museums, archives, libraries, computer or server rooms, etc.

Not sure what your fire suppression system has or needs? Vanguard can help! Our experienced team is qualified to inspect, maintenance, and even upgrade your existing fire suppression system to ensure your building, your assets, and your employees are protected in the event of a fire.

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