NU Online News Service, April 13, 1:12 p.m. EST

Besides preventing the risk of spreading flames, automatic sprinkler systems have an environmental benefit, according to research by an insurer and a charity group, which set a few fires to discover this.

Johnston, R.I.-based property insurer FM Global said a study done with the nonprofit Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition found that greenhouse gases released by burning buildings can be reduced by 98 percent when automatic fire sprinklers are installed.

The company said the findings also reveal that a single fire in a building without sprinklers can negate the typical environmental benefits of “green” construction.

In conducting the study at FM Global’s Research Campus in West Glocester, R.I., the company said researchers sought to identify, analyze and evaluate the environmental impact of fires, as well as determine the effectiveness of preventive measures in minimizing their effect on the environment.

According to the insurer, its 1,600 acre, $125 million research campus “is one of the largest and most innovative fire and natural hazards research and testing centers in the world.”

The firm said that to perform their study researchers constructed two identical living rooms to represent a setting any homeowner or business owner could relate to. One of the two rooms was protected with a sprinkler and a fire was ignited in each room.

Among their findings that resulted concerning automatic sprinkler systems:

oThey reduce fire damage by up to 97 percent.

oWater usage to fight a home fire is cut by upwards of 90 percent.

oWater pollution released into the environment is reduced.

“For most of its 175 years in business, FM Global has conducted scientific fire research to develop solutions that help commercial organizations protect their property and operations,” said Louis Gritzo, vice president and manager of research at FM Global.

“Fire sprinklers perform the same way, no matter the kind of building, and now we see conclusively that they not only prevent the devastating impact of fires but also negate significant environmental risks. This is especially important as more businesses seek to design and build energy-efficient, environmentally sustainable facilities,” Mr. Gritzo explained.

Gary Keith, HFSC chair, said when sprinklers activate, they control the heat, flames and smoke released by a fire, effectively mitigating the products of combustion.

“The fire safety community’s efforts to increase awareness of all aspects of fire sprinkler technology will benefit from this new environmental data. Consumers, builders, the fire service, code officials and water purveyors now have a new and important way to view sprinkler protection,” Mr. Keith noted.

The complete report, “The Environmental Impact of Automatic Fire Sprinklers” is online at www.fmglobal.com/researchreports.

A video about the research also can be viewed on YouTube.

The nonprofit Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition www.homefiresprinkler.org is a national, charitable organization focused solely on educational outreach. It is the leading resource for independent, noncommercial information about residential fire sprinklers.

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