Can Sprinklers Be Used on All Fire Classes?

As you probably already know, not all fires are equal. In fact, there are six different types of fires that can occur in homes and businesses. These fires are categorised under different classifications:

  • Class A: Solid materials
  • Class B: Flammable liquids
  • Class C: Gases
  • Class D: Metals
  • Class E: Electrical equipment
  • Class F: Cooking oils

Each fire class should be tackled using the correct extinguisher: foam, water, wet chemical, CO2, or dry powder. Water-based extinguishers are only recommended for Class A fires. And that raises an interesting question: what happens if sprinkler systems activate for fires caused by something other than solid materials? Can this cause a problem, or can sprinklers be used on all fire classes?

Sprinkler systems & fire types

Firstly, before we delve any further, it’s important to understand that today’s sprinklers don’t just have to be water-based. Sprinkler systems can now be enhanced with foam to better control fires that should ideally be tackled using a foam-based extinguisher, such as Class B flammable liquids fires. However, we want to use this opportunity to look at water-based sprinklers and liquid fires.

Below, we’re going to focus on the three fire types that are most likely to occur in standard homes and businesses: Class B, Class E, and Class F fires. So… are sprinkler systems a safe and effective fire protection solution for fires caused by cooking oils, other liquids, and electricals?

The short answer: yes.

Class B & Class F fires

You may have heard that, if your chip pan catches fire, one of the worst things you can do is to throw a cup of water on it. And that’s 100% true. As the water heats from the fire, it will boil instantly and cause a fireball of oil to spread around the kitchen. Why, then, are water-based sprinklers OK for suppressing fires from cooking oils and flammable liquids? It’s all down to how the water is applied.

Sprinkler systems emit a fine spray or mist of water – delivering little and often – which effectively suppresses the fire without causing more risk or damage. The Lincolnshire Fire & Rescue Service report that sprinklers can reduce the damage from chip pan fires in the home by as much as 50%.

Class E fires

Again, you’ve probably heard that you shouldn’t use water to put out a fire caused by electrical items. This isn’t because water is a poor way to suppress an electrical fire. Instead, it’s a rule that’s been put in place to protect firefighters. Should electricity be conducted upstream from the electrical component back to the firefighter holding the extinguisher, there is the possibility of electric shock.

This isn’t an issue with automatic sprinkler systems which do not require manual operation. According to BAFSA, there have been “instances where fires have started in server rooms but have been extinguished by a single sprinkler head, preventing any fire spread from the room of origin.”

Protecting your home & business

There are a lot of myths out there about sprinkler systems – and about other methods of fire protection such as dry & wet risers. Don’t believe everything you hear. If you’re unsure about what’s true and what’s not, or you want to discover the best way to protect your home and business, get in touch. The Eversafe team can be contacted on 01795 713123, or online here.