Did you know that the first specialty union for the installation of fire sprinklers was based out of St. Louis?
Sprinkler Fitters and Helpers Union #268 was formed after three specialty contractors met in St. Louis in order to establish the National Automatic Sprinkler Contractors Association in 1905. This meeting was 29 years after Henry Parmalee filed the original patent for the automatic sprinkler.
Henry Parmalee’s design was considered the first “practical” system; however, there were other attempts throughout history to design fire sprinklers. In the 15th Century, Leonardo da Vinci designed one of these systems, but it was quickly met with disaster. During a large banquet a fire broke out and the sprinkler system activated; however the flow of water was too large thus washing part of the kitchen and all of the food away.
Several attempts and in history were made to construct automatic extinguishing systems, some of which were rather comical in their construction. I can think of several items one would not want around during a fire, much less as part of a sprinkler system, one of them being gun powder. This system was installed in the 1720s and the gun powder was used to release a tank filled with fluids used to extinguish the fire.
The United Kingdom saw a system used in the early 1800s that utilized several hundred hogsheads (a large cask of liquid). These hogsheads were fed by a water main followed by a series of pipes throughout the building that had holes drilled into them, in the event of a fire these holes would pour water onto the flame.
The sprinkler heads seen today have not changed much since the creation of the glass disk sprinkler in the 1890s by Frederick Grinnell. The movies will make you believe that either the alarm system activates all the sprinkler heads or smoke will. This misconception make people believe that the water damage they create is nearly as bad as the fire itself.  Sprinkler heads are activated by heat, usually between temperatures of 135-165 degrees. The glass “trigger” is filled with a glycerin based liquid that expands based on temperature. When the temperature reaches a set level the liquid expands thus breaking the glass bulb and allowing pressurized water to flow and extinguish the fire. Therefore, for a sprinkler head to go off the heat must be significant enough to activate that single head, most fires activate only one or two heads.
Want to save money on your homeowners insurance? Want to sleep better at night knowing that you, your family, and your belongings are safe from fire? Consider installing a residential sprinkler system in a home your building. The system can be designed off of your plumbing and recessed so that it is not seen, until needed. With an average cost of $1.35 per square foot it won’t take long to recoup your investment while keeping your family safe.
For more information visit http://www.firesprinklerinitiative.org/sprinkler-coalitions/missouri.aspx