Take a moment to look around you. Do you see a smoke detector? A fire alarm? Sprinklers? An exit sign? Every day, you are surrounded by components of life safety systems. These small devices have the power to save your life, so it is crucial to keep them up and running. Learn more about the importance of life safety systems and their origins below.
The Importance of Life Safety Systems
Types of Life Safety Systems
Each life safety system consists of a variety of components that work together to save lives during an emergency. Here is a look at some of these components and their purposes:
- Sprinklers: These handy building components are on the ceilings of commercial buildings and even apartment buildings. Most single-family homes don’t require sprinkler systems to meet safety codes. When sprinklers sense an overload of rising heat, they release water to help douse the fire. If a smoke detector fails to go off, sprinklers will definitely let you know there is a fire present.
- Pull Station: You most likely know the classic look of a fire alarm pull station. Perhaps you even went to school with a prankster who liked to pull it. Pull stations trigger fire alarm systems.
- Smoke Detectors: Smoke detectors are one of the most common life safety system components. Hopefully, you have several smoke detectors in your own home. Sometimes smoke detectors can go off if you are cooking something that produces a lot of smoke or if your home is extra dusty.
- Fire Alarms: Fire alarms sound when the components of a life safety system sense a fire. When you hear a fire alarm go off, it means it is time to evacuate the building.
- Emergency Exits and Lights: In the case of a fire or a dangerous intruder, emergency exits and lights can help guide you out of the building safely. It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the emergency exits when you go to see a movie, attend class, or even go out to eat.
- Elevator Alert Systems: If you ever get stuck in an elevator, simply press the emergency call button to get help quickly.
- Medical Alert Systems: These systems help seniors and other people with health or mobility issues in case of a fall.
History of Life Safety Systems
Looking back at tragic events in history teaches us the importance of life safety systems. Unfortunately, the first smoke detector wasn’t patented until 1890, and the first modern sprinkler system wasn’t installed until 1812. In the early 1900’s, these systems were still being installed and perfected, and not every commercial building had one in place.
The owners of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory refused to install sprinkler systems and take other safety measures. In fact, they had a history of intentionally scorching their other buildings during after hours to collect insurance settlements. So when a fire started in a rag bin on March 25, 1911, a total of 145 people died in the tragic, famous fire (source). This tragedy sparked political change. Now, the International Code Council (ICC) oversees laws about everything from locked doors to fire escape signs. For example, ICC code regulates where smoke detectors should be placed and reevaluates the laws each year to enhance safety. According to the code, fire alarms should be located at least 20 feet away from a cooking appliance to prevent false alarms.