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2.1 History of Fire Sprinkler Systems

The modern fire sprinkler system, as we know it today, had its start in 1812.
Architect William Congreve installed the first one in the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
in London. It consisted of a series of pierced pipes, which led to a large container of
water that was released in the event of a fire. In the 1870’s, Philip Pratt invented the
first automatic sprinkler system. The automatic fire sprinkler was then improved by
Henry Parmalee and later perfected by Frederick Grinnell in the 1890’s.

Figure 2.1. History of Fire Sprinkler Heads

Source: [1]

While originally used to protect commercial buildings, fire sprinkler systems

are now found in almost every building. They have even started to be installed most

recently in residential homes. Today, buildings in our country are required by local
code to have properly working fire sprinkler systems installed in them [2].

2.2 The System and Operation of a Fire Sprinkler

Surprisingly, fire sprinkler systems were not designed to put out fires, but to
contain them. When a fire occurs, the heat from the flames increases causing a heat-
sensitive glass bulb or metal link in the fire sprinkler head above the fire to break.
Once the bulb or link is broken, water then flows from the sprinkler head suppressing
the fire until the authorities arrive to extinguish it. In many instances though, the
sprinkler system is able to extinguish the fire completely.

Figure 2.2. System and Operation of a Fire Sprinkler

Source: [3]

Another misconception about fire sprinkler systems is that when a fire

happens, all the sprinkler heads are activated throughout the building. While you may

have seen this occur in movies, this is not how most fire sprinkler systems operate. In
a real fire, the heat from the fire rises, which activates the sprinkler heads above the
In most modern installations, you’ll notice that the sprinkler heads use a heat-
sensitive glass bulb rather than a metal link. The glass bulbs contain a liquid that has a
precise boiling point. The bulb breaks from the liquid inside it boiling and bursting
the glass bulb. Since the ambient temperature can vary depending on the space, there
are different bulbs with different boiling points. In a standard office building, the
temperature has to reach 155 degrees Fahrenheit for the bulb to break and the
sprinkler head to activate [2].

2.3 Definition of Sprinkler System Effectiveness

The definition of what constitutes an effective sprinkler system operation in a
fire event is not consistent between studies. Marryat defines "satisfactory" sprinkler
operation as limiting the damage to the building and contents to 20% of the total value
involved. He defines "controlled" fires as "those which are extinguished by the
sprinkler system by the time the fire brigade arrives, or which would be extinguished
eventually without supplementary action by fire brigades or others." This definition is
slightly misleading as all fires will eventually extinguish once they have exhausted all
available fuel supply. (Hall 2010) states that sprinkler effectiveness should be
measured relative to the design objectives of the system, in most cases limiting fire
spread to the room of origin [4].

2.4 Changes to Fire Sprinkler Systems

A fire sprinkler system is a pretty simple system that has changed very little
from its beginnings over a century ago. Still, some advancements have been made to
improve its effectiveness over the years. As stated earlier, modern sprinkler heads use
glass bulbs instead of metal or solder links. The bulbs themselves have variances now.
For instance, in office buildings and schools, you will typically find quick response
sprinkler heads rather than the standard response sprinkler heads.
The newer quick response sprinkler head uses a smaller glass bulb which has a
slightly faster response time over the standard response sprinkler. The quick response
sprinkler also discharges the water higher up the walls to keep the fire from climbing
and to reduce the ceiling temperatures.

Fire pumps are another recent addition over the past half-century, which
deliver pressurized water to high rises. Also, the recent integration of sprinkler
systems with fire alarm panels has resulted in quicker responses from authorities. The
overall infrastructure of the public water system has also helped improve fire sprinkler
systems. Cities and towns now have much more reliable water pressure than in
decades past, allowing sprinkler systems to operate effectively [2].

2.5 The Benefits of Sprinklers

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fire sprinklers
have been found to greatly reduce damage from fires in restaurants, schools, health
care facilities, offices, and stores. Damages from fires cost on average $53,000 in
restaurants without sprinkler systems, compared to $13,000 in restaurants with
sprinkler systems.

Figure 2.3. Assumed Heat Release Rate Curve for Sprinkler Fire Control.

While fire sprinklers have been proven to reduce property damages, they are
still rare in certain buildings. From 2007-2011, they were found in only 36% of
schools that experienced fires and in only 24% of stores and offices that experienced
fires. They were only present in 6% of homes that had fires, which is where most fire
deaths occur. The recent push for fire sprinklers in homes has been led by the NFPA’s
Fire Sprinkler Initiative. According to the NFPA, the fire death rate per 1,000 reported
home structure fires was lower by 82% in homes with fire sprinklers installed.

While fire sprinklers have been around for over a century and have proven
themselves time and time again in saving property and lives, they still have more
potential as their use is expanded across all types of structures, from commercial to
residential [2].

2.6 Reporting of Fires That Do Not Activate Sprinklers

A major source of discrepancy when comparing sprinkler effectiveness values
between studies is how fires where the sprinkler system is not activated is handled. A
sprinkler system may not activate in a fire for one of the following reasons:
1. the heat released by the fire was insufficient to activate the sprinkler system
(whether or not the sprinkler system was present in the area of origin),
2. the fire was large enough to activate a sprinkler system but a partial sprinkler
system was installed and was not present in the area of fire origin,
3. the fire was large enough to activate the sprinkler system and one or more
sprinklers were present but failed to operate [4].

2.7 Reasons for Sprinkler Systems to Fail to Operate

The reported reasons why sprinkler systems failed to operate in the studies
where this information was available. For studies that combined failures with
ineffective operation, the reported percentage has been normalized to the total number
of failures for comparison. The most frequent reason for sprinkler system failure,
ranging from 33% to 100% of the reported failures, is that the system was shut off.
Inappropriate systems, lack of maintenance, and manual intervention are reported at
similar frequencies from 5% to 33%. Damaged components and frozen systems
provide the minority of failures, generally near 2% with one outlier in Power’s study
damaged components comprised 2 out of 6 failures, which is likely a reflection of the
small sample size of failures [4].

2.8 Reasons for Ineffective Sprinkler System Operation

The reported reasons why sprinkler systems that operated were ineffective
normalized to the total number of ineffective operations. The most common reason
for sprinkler systems to operate ineffectively was that the water did not reach the fire,
ranging from 19% to 55% of the reported cases. An inappropriate system for the fire

was the second most commonly reported reason, followed by not enough water
released. These reasons are inter-related, and could have different root causes. For
example, a partial coverage system may result in any of these outcomes. A change in
occupancy or hazard could also result in all three outcomes: for example, a change in
fuel package configuration could result in a portion of the fire being shielded, or a
system designed for a light commercial occupancy could be insufficient if the use of
the building is changed to storage of high-hazard materials [4].

2.9 Estimates of Reduction in Fatalities and Property Damage

Several system-based studies estimate the effect of sprinklers on general life
safety and property protection objectives such as the number of fatalities or amount of
property damage reported in fire incident data. Marryatt’s study included eleven fires
where fatalities occurred with an operating sprinkler system, only one of which
occurred in a fire where the performance of the sprinkler system was considered
ineffective, where an explosion occurred and broke the supply main to the system
(Marryatt 1988). Of the fires with fatalities in sprinkler buildings, eight were a result
of an explosion or flash fire and the remaining three were victims who were intimate
with the point of ignition.
(Thomas 2002) estimated effects of fire safety systems on four objectives
including the reduction in fire spread, civilian fatalities, and firefighter losses in fires
where various combinations of detectors, sprinklers, and protected construction were
present, from historical US NFIRS data. The effects of the systems were compared to
a "Base Case" where none of the systems were present. Effectiveness of sprinkler
systems was found to vary between -2.46 for the fire spread objective (reported
average estimated monetary loss was approximately 2.5 times higher when sprinklers
were present compared to the base case)for Storage occupancy buildings and 1.00 for
civilian fatalities in Hotels and Motels (reported civilian fatalities were reduced to
zero). Negative effectiveness values were also calculated for detectors and protected
construction. Thomas concluded that sprinklers were generally better than detectors
and fire-rated construction combined, while there was a measurable but sometimes
small advantage with all three measures compared with instances where sprinklers
were the only system installed.
NFPA data from 2003-2007 indicated that sprinklers increased the probability
that flame damage was confined to the room of origin to 95% compared with 74% for

fires in buildings with no sprinkler systems. The fatality rate was 83% lower in fires
in properties protected by sprinkler systems, and total property damage was reduced
by 40%-70% depending on occupancy (Hall 2010). The 2010 NFPA report also
indicates that the "NFPA has no record of a fire killing three or more people in a
completely sprinkler building where the system was properly operating". Twenty-five
fire s are listed where three or more people have been killed in fully sprinkler
properties in the US since 1970. Twenty-two involved an explosion or flash fire and
three were a result of firefighting activities [4].

2.10 Evolution of PLC

The design basis for the first PLC originated in 1968 by the Hydromantic
Division of the General Motors Corporation. At that time, various automotive
production lines were primarily controlled by hard-wired electro-mechanical devices
such as relays, counters, etc.
Whenever control requirements changed, control circuits had to be physically
rewired. This process was costly and time consuming. Also, these devices used large
amount of space and energy and subject to wear and were expensive to install and
The basic design criteria for the first PLC are
• Solid state components
• Flexible computer-based architecture
• Built to sustain industrial environments
• Programmable stored programs
• Perform relay-equivalent functions
• Modular interfaces to standard field voltages
• Easily installed and maintained by plant personnel
• Reusable system
Objectives of the original specifications were to define the basis for a device
that would eliminate the high cost of installation and changes to wiring. As well as the
cost of downtime resulting from mechanical failures.
The first PLC was introduced by Modicon Inc. in 1969. (Modular Digital
Controller). Although the first PLC was primarily a relay replacer, it provided many
more benefits than originally anticipated. The programming language; ladder
diagrams, was an elegantly implemented symbolic language that expressed

instructions using conventional relay symbols widely used by technicians. The first
PLCs met with immediate acceptance. They were easily understood and installed,
used considerably less space and energy, and incorporated self-diagnostic LED
indicators that aided in troubleshooting. By 1972, the application of PLCs had spread
rapidly beyond the automotive and machine tool industries to other areas, including
pulp and paper, food and beverage, mining and metals.
In 1973, major milestones here include the introduction of the Cathode Ray
Tube (CRT) programming devices, expanded memory capacity, remote I/O
capability, analogue modules and peripheral communications. Overall, these
enhancements added greater flexibility to PLC application, improved the operator
interface, and contributed greatly to reducing wiring and installation costs. The CRT
with its large screen offered a tremendous advantage over original programming
devices. With CRT several rungs of relay-like sequences could be entered and
displayed simultaneously. Program monitoring and troubleshooting were simplified
since energized elements in each programmed circuit were highlighted to show actual
logic continuity. Another addition was the expanded memory capacity of the PLC.
This allowed storage of larger programs and amounts of data, and in turn, this allowed
greater control flexibility. In 1976, wiring and labor costs were significantly reduced
with the new ability to locate I/O racks up to 1500 meters. Now, instead of bringing
hundreds or wires back to the CPU, two twisted pairs of conductors would link each
I/O rack to the CPU.
Also in 1976, analogue I/Os were introduced. This opened a new world of
applications for the PLC. Analogue I/O made it possible to measure and control
process variables such as temperature, flow, pressure, and speed which are common
elements in continuous and batch processing. In 1977, the first point-to-point serial
communications modules were available. This allowed communication with host
computers, printers, color graphic CRT displays, and other intelligent devices.
Communications was one of the first steps toward exploiting the computer
capabilities of the PLC.
Significant changes took place during this period – innovations that were
largely the result of the introduction of the microprocessor as the central processing
unit for PLCs in 1978. User demands and competition among vendors also simulated
many advancements. In 1978 and 1979, the first microprocessor-based PLCs were

introduced as what were referred to as mini-PLCs. This class of PLCs began a

decrease in the physical size. They could handle up to 128 discrete I/Os. The
developments in this area led to even smaller PLCs in 1983, referred to as micro-
controllers, that were the six of a shoe box, sold as little as US$400 and cost
effectively replaced as few as ten relays.
In 1979, the first Local Area Network (LAN) were introduced for PLCs.
Before this development, communication between PLCs required point-to-point
connections. LANs allowed controllers to share information over a single
communication bus that also allowed communication with other systems.
Between 1981 and 1983, PLC instruction sets expanded to include computer-
like functions to support many hardware enhancements.
The ladder diagram, which had already expanded to include basic data and
arithmetic and data manipulation operations, now included file manipulation, machine
diagnostics, and program flow instructions. These new enhancements were
implemented using function block instructions.
Function blocks were simple block-formatted instructions in which arithmetic,
data processing and data transfer operations were implemented using a black-box, fill-
in-the-blanks approach.
During this period, advancements were primarily further improvements and
development of trends already started. Areas of focus included programming
languages and instructions, faster and more flexible program processing, LAN, and
intelligent I/O modules. In early 1980s, ladder diagrams the primary PLC language
for nearly 12 years, came under scrutiny from users who felt that more versatile
languages were needed. Arguments claimed that ladder diagrams were too
cumbersome for performing complex calculations, intensive data processing,
communications, and, in general, for solving complex control algorithms. The
scanning method in which the ladder program was processed also cited of
shortcomings in certain sequential applications. In 1986, most PLC vendors offered a
personal based programming device in addition to their proprietary programming
During the 1990s, vendors and users will seek to exploit more of the computer
capabilities of the PLC while at the same time driving more towards open system
architectures. Developments in software, IEC 61131-3. Control strategies can be

distributed instead of centralized. Integration with other control equipment such as

robots [5].