So many movies and TV shows are guilty of highlighting myths that pertain to fire protection systems. I saw one of the most common myths when I recently watched the movie “White House Down” with Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx. In one scene, Tatum started a fire in the Lincoln Bedroom to distract the terrorists that had taken over the White House. Sure enough, the fire immediately set off just about every sprinkler in the White House, creating the distraction that Tatum needed to go about saving the day.

I’m sure you’ve seen similar examples in movies or on TV. Someone lights a match and the room suddenly fills with water from every sprinkler head in the room, or building, for that matter. But, in real life, that typically would not be the case. If it were, think of all the water we would waste and the unnecessary water damage we would create!

How Are Sprinklers Activated?

The most common fire sprinklers installed in residential properties, offices, and stores are heat-activated at a pre-determined, specified temperature by a link fuse or glass bulb. Look up at your nearest sprinkler. Do you see that red glass located in the middle? That’s the heat-activated bulb.

When there is a fire, heat will rise to the ceiling. Once the heat reaches a sprinkler head at the pre-determined, specified temperature, the fuse or glass bulb will break, and water will start flowing from that particular sprinkler. Usually, the sprinkler that is located closest to the fire will be the first one to activate. Additional sprinklers may activate if the fire continues to produce the amount of heat needed to do so. It is likely that one or two sprinklers will suppress the fire enough until firefighters are on scene to extinguish it.

So, the next time you’re watching a movie or a TV show and a small fire causes the fire sprinklers to flood an entire room, or building, smile to yourself because you know the truth.  Hollywood, find a new way for the hero to save the day, and try to be more truthful about it!

By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.