History of Automatic Fire Sprinklers

Fire Sprinkler History

Henry S. Parmalee of New Haven, Connecticut is considered the inventor of the first automatic sprinkler head. Parmalee improved upon the Pratt patent and created a better sprinkler system. In 1874, he installed his fire sprinkler system into the piano factory that he owned.

Frederick Grinnell improved Parmalee’s design and in 1881 patented the automatic sprinkler that bears his name. He continued to improve the device and in 1890 invented the glass disc sprinkler, essentially the same as that in use today.

Until recent times automatic fire suppression systems were mainly installed for the protection of commercial buildings and often a requirement of the insurance companies.

Sprinklers are now commonly installed in other buildings including schools and residential premises. This is largely as a result of lobbying by the National Fire Sprinkler Network, the European Fire Sprinkler Network and the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association.

Building Regulations in Scotland and England often require automatic fire sprinkler systems to be installed in certain types of properties to ensure safety of occupants.

  • In Scotland, all new schools are sprinkler protected, as are new care homes, sheltered housing and high rise flats.
  • In England all high rise buildings over 30m must have sprinkler protection.

In 2011 Wales became the first country in the world to make installation of fire suppression systems in new homes compulsory. The law will apply to newly built houses and blocks of flats, as well as care homes and university halls of residence.

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