Sprinkler Recalls Cause Fire Safety Concern

Sprinkler Recalls Cause Fire Safety Concern

The recall of 4 types of fire prevention sprinkles, comprising one-tenth of all devices installed since 1991, is causing unrest among safety officials nationwide. The concern that these sprinkler devices may fail in the event of a fire accident has prompted major companies like Tyco Fire and Building Products to offer free replacements to those affected by the recall.

Beginning in the 1970s, laws and regulations allowed increasing leeway for property owners installing fire accident safeguards. The fire sprinkler was then thought to be a reliable and effective means, permitting building and property owners to choose minimal other safeguards such as fire resistant building materials and smoke detectors.

Fire safety officials and consumer activists groups are now motioning for a change to those regulations, alleging that the necessary measure is to have more backup protection in addition to the fire sprinkler. Maine State Fire Marshal John Dean commented on the need for more backup fire accident protection, “There’s no question that a sprinkler system provides great, great protection,” but, “we don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket.”

The largest company affected by the fire sprinkler recall is Tyco Fire and Building Products, who is estimated to be replacing 35 million sprinkler heads. Tyco Fire has spent $2 million dollars publicizing their recall and will continue efforts to distribute replacement sprinklers as long as the claims are present.

The common problem with all recalled fire sprinklers has been with the valve. In these outdated models, the valve is sealed with a rubber O-ring, which deteriorates over time, and fails to open in the event of a fire accident.

Despite the four fire sprinkler recalls, John Viniello, president of the National Fire Sprinkler Association, believes that the recalls may be an overreaction that will cause exorbitant construction cost and reduce the likelihood of builders installing a very necessary safety measure.

“ Trade-offs have been in the codes for 50 years-it’s nothing new,” commented Viniello, “So why should you have the belt and suspenders approach to fire safety, which is what (fire marshals) are asking for, when you haven’t had the loss of life.”

Fire Marshall Dean commented, “We can encourage the use of sprinklers by allowing some (trade-offs). We just want to make sure we have some backup.”

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