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National Fire Sprinkler Association Debunks Passive Protection Myths

September 10, 2003 From American Institute of Steel Construction, Inc.

For the past few months, groups led by the Alliance for Fire Safety (AFS) and the Alliance for Fire and Smoke Containment and Control (AFSCC) have printed misleading statements on sprinkler performance. Their paid spokesperson, W. Gene Corley, has stated that: “Sprinklers actually failed to operate about 16.4% of the time, according to NFPA data.” However, according to the NFPA, this statement is unfair and inaccurate.

According to John Hall, the NFPA’s Assistant Vice President for Fire Analysis and Research: “One-sixth is a statistical summary measure of how often sprinklers do not activate, which involves a wide range of circumstances, many of which cannot be fairly called ‘failure’. For example, sprinklers may not activate because the fire is not near the sprinklers in a partially sprinklered property. Not all the fires too small to activate sprinklers are coded ‘fire too small’. And even most of the real ‘failures’ are due to human error, including closing the valves in advance of the fire and changing the hazard under the sprinklers without changing the sprinklers to match.”

The AFS has also stated that fire safety is declining due to a greater emphasis on active fire protection. But the facts show this statement also to be false. In reality, fires and civilian fire deaths have declined over the past two decades. And a report published in the Journal of Fire Protection Engineering by I.R. Thomas from the Victoria Institute of Technology concludes that: “It is generally significantly better (and never significantly worse) to have sprinklers alone that to have both detectors and protected construction.”

To read the NFSA’s complete rebuttal of passive protection myths, click HERE or for even more information, visit www.aisc.org/fire.

For more information contact:

Scott Melnick
VP of Communications
(312) 670-8314
[email protected]

American Institute of Steel Construction
The American Institute of Steel Construction, headquartered in Chicago, is a not-for-profit technical institute and trade association established in 1921 to serve the structural steel design community and construction industry. AISC’s mission is to make structural steel the material of choice by being the leader in structural steel-related technical and market-building activities, including: specification and code development, research, education, technical assistance, quality certification, standardization, and market development. AISC has a long tradition of service to the steel construction industry of providing timely and reliable information. 

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