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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Home Fire Sprinkler Systems

Scottsdale has had a progressive policy on fire prevention for a number of years.  In 1986, the City passed an ordinance that required single family residences to be equipped with a home fire sprinkler system.  At this time of year as we watch the evening news, I often wonder why more cities across America haven’t followed Scottsdale’s lead. 

America is burning up.  As I write this, across the country, 57,419 wild fires have been reported so far this year destroying over 3.1 million acres.  According to the US Fire Administration, in 2009, 377,000 residential fires were reported.  These fires claimed the lives of 2,590 people and injured another 13,000.  Scottsdale has been recognized across the country as one of the most progressive and diligent cities in terms of fire prevention.

People often wonder about home fire sprinklers.  Some even remember something about a recall.

Yes, in the ‘90’s, there was a recall on certain fire sprinkler heads – there known as Omega heads – and they were recalled due to system failure. 

Beginning in 1982, hospitals, prisons, schools, hotels, offices and homes across the country were being fitted with the Omega fire sprinkler heads manufactured by Central Sprinkler Company.  In the day, it was not uncommon to see them in many Scottsdale homes. Heck, they were in some of the most prestigious buildings across the country.  Then Smithsonian.  The US Capitol building. Even the White House.

In 1990, reports were being made that Omega heads were failing.  In some structures, only 40% of the heads would perform.  In others, none of the heads proved to be operational.  People were injured and millions of dollars in property damaged occurred.  When Central got word their heads were failing, they immediately took responsibility and announced a nationwide recall.  Over 8 million heads were to be replaced.

Photo from Consumer Product Safety Commission
Central launched an aggressive campaign to ensure all affected knew of the recall.  They provided replacement heads and even a cash settlement to get the heads replaced.  For homeowners, many did as they were instructed: called a licensed fire sprinkler contractor and had the heads replaced. 

Unfortunately, others put the box of new replacement heads in the garage, took the cash and headed to the casino. 

By now, most homes with a fire sprinkler system with heads that meet guidelines and pass muster.  From time to time, a home inspector will identify Omega heads that need to be corrected.  Call a licensed fire sprinkler contractor to get them changed out.  It’s a relatively easy correction and you’ll appreciate the peace of mind.

If you’re not sure about the type of heads your home has, contact your local fire department.  They’ll be happy to come out to your home, check the heads and run a system check to make sure your sprinkler system is operating correctly.

Other valuable resources on Fire Prevention and Fire Sprinklers:
©2010 Tom Weiskopf, PLLC. Tom Weiskopf, PLLC is an AZ licensed real estate agent with John Hall & Associates serving the Phoenix area. For more information, Tom can be reached at (602) 953-4000 or via e-mail at

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