Sprinkler system, in fire control, a means of protecting a building against fire by causing an automatic discharge of water, usually from pipes near the ceiling. The prototype, developed in England about 1800, consisted of a pipe with a number of valves held closed by counterweights on strings; when a fire burned the strings, the valves were opened. Many manually operated systems were installed in 19th-century buildings; in these, a number of perforated pipes were fed by the main riser that could be turned on in an adjoining area. Because this system resulted in frequent water damage in parts of a room or building untouched by fire, an improvement was sought and found in the Parmelee sprinkler head, introduced in the United States in the 1870s. In this, the normally closed orifice is opened by heat from a fire. Modern versions use a fusible link or a bulb containing chemicals, which breaks at about 160° F (70° C) to open the orifice. Modern sprinkler heads are designed to direct a spray downward. Most sprinkler systems are wet-head—i.e., they use pipes filled with water. Where there is a danger of freezing, however, dry-head sprinklers are used in which the pipes are filled with air under moderate pressure; when the system is activated, the air escapes, opening the water-feeder valves. An improved version has air under only atmospheric pressure and is activated by heat-sensing devices. Another special type, used in high-hazard locations, is the deluge system, which delivers a large volume of water quickly.

With Fire Sprinklers
The sprinkler closest to the fire activates
Water contains or extinguishes the fire
Residents have time to safely escape
Surrounding rooms are protected from fire, heat and smoke damage

Without Fire Sprinklers
Flames grow and spread
Heat and toxic gases spread room to room
In as few as three minutes, the fire becomes deadly
Flashover occurs and the gases and combustible materials burst into flames

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