fire sprinkler

History of Fire Protection Systems: The Evolution of the Modern Fire Sprinkler

Planning to start a business in fire protection systems? This industry is probably one of the most rewarding ones out there. Sometimes business owners can get too caught up running their companies that they forget the importance of having a fire system to protect their physical assets. Now, it is your job to help these people and provide firefighting systems to have them installed in buildings and businesses.

From fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, fire suits, and fire sprinklers, these are just some firefighting systems you can offer to ensure your customers receive the most appropriate fire safety equipment. But before you lay out your business plan, you might want to take a step back and learn more about fire systems.

In this article, you will get to know one of the most popular commercial fire systems: the fire sprinkler. Here, you will discover its brief history and the series of its developments. The information you will find will help you establish a better foundation when starting a fire protection systems business.

Early history

The fire sprinkler system, which we know today, had a very long history that began in the 15th century. While Leonardo da Vinci is known for his legendary artworks, such as the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, he was also the first inventor of the fire sprinkler system.

His invention began when he designed a conveyor belt to transfer food from his new oven. At first, the conveyor belt produced plenty of burnt food since it wasn’t functioning correctly. It eventually led to a fire, which activated the sprinkler system installed in his kitchen.

The sprinkler system carried out its job perfectly according to Da Vinci’s plans. But the sprinkler produced too much water, submerging his kitchen that washed away all the food. Although the rest of the guests went hungry, Da Vinci’s sprinkler system prevented a huge fire from arising.

fire sprinkler

The automated sprinkler system

By 1723, chemist Ambrose Godfrey released the first model for the automated sprinkler system. His design uses gunpowder to release vast amounts of water to put off a fire. The system works when a fire triggers the fuses connected to gunpowder, causing an explosion to release the water that will extinguish the fire. Godfrey’s invention led to the development of another important piece of firefighting equipment: the fire extinguisher.

Hundred years later, the Theatre Royal had its initial installation of the first modern sprinkler system made by English inventor William Congreve. The system features airtight storage that contains 10 tons of water. During a fire, the reservoir feeds into a network of smaller pipes that contain tiny holes, producing a sprinkle effect.

The main issue with Congreve’s designs is that it doesn’t function automatically. Thus, from 1860 onwards, more inventors designed fire sprinkler systems that will activate by themselves. After 12 years, it was only then when Philip W. Pratt released his version of the automatic sprinkler system.

Two years after Pratt’s great discovery, Henry S. Parmelee worked on Pratt’s patent, leading to a newly-developed fire sprinkler. In fact, Parmalee’s invention was the first suppression system that uses a sprinkler head. The system had sprinkler heads that run individually. When triggered by heat, the bulb inside the heads will shatter, prompting to release the water. Back then, Parmalee had so much trust in his sprinkler system, allowing him to install it inside his own piano factory.

The modern fire sprinkler system

Within seven years, the manufacturer of Parmalee’s fire sprinkler, Frederick Grinnell, enhanced the system’s design and patented his own version of the fire suppression system, called the Grinnell Sprinkler. His continuous inventions paved the way for the glass disc sprinkler that functions almost the same as today’s fire systems. It took him 63 more years until Grinnell perfected his design.

After the world war, Factory Mutual researched the advantages of changing the traditional pattern sprinkler, which led to the invention of the spray sprinkler with a standard design. By 1954, the sprinkler system remained untouched as companies focused on improving the entire fire safety system.

In 2000, a group of fire sprinkler system organizations worked together to promote fire sprinklers in newly constructed buildings. By 2011, Wales became the first country to require the installation of fire sprinklers in new homes. Following the Grenfell tower fire in 2017, Scotland stepped up its fire safety efforts by passing a law that requires fire sprinklers in new flats.

While fire sprinkler systems have been around for centuries and have proven themselves in saving lives and properties, they still have plenty of potential to expand their use across all types of physical structures. Until then, business owners should make sure that their fire sprinklers remain updated and maintained.

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