Asa Tuten Memorial – GFSA Essay Contest


The Asa Tuten Memorial – GFSA Essay Contest for 2016 has ended. Thank you to all who participated.

The first place winner of a $1500 scholarship is Timothy at The King’s Academy
The second place winner of a $1000 scholarship is Sydney at Cherokee High School
The third place winner of a $750 scholarship is Samantha at Columbus High School

The scholarship will be paid directly to the educational institution in the student’s account.

The first place essay by Timothy:

The First Line Of Defense: Fire Sprinklers

Fires are a major source of destruction, damage, and death. In 2014, approximately $11.6 billion dollars of damage, 15,775 injuries, and 3,275 deaths were caused by 1,298,000 fires according to a study by the National Fire Protection Association[1]. Often such fires are started in small residences due to accidents and a lack of precaution. Many of those injured or killed in residential fires are asleep when they break out, and are unaware of the danger until the fire is out of control. Fires can spread rapidly, and within just a few crucial minutes the blaze can engulf the entire home. The best way to deal with a fire is to suppress it before it begins to grow, and for this reason sprinkler systems have proven to be crucial in the fight against structure fires. The best way to exemplify the value of sprinklers is to compare two hypothetical house fires, one with sprinklers and one without, using statistical data to reveal that sprinkler systems are not just helpful, but pivotal in the protection of your home.

In the first example, a small fire breaks out in a modern home, this home lacks any automatic extinguishing equipment, and therefore the fire is spread unhindered. This fire begins to spread and consume the room that it originates in. An ABC News article in 2011 found that most modern homes are built primarily with cheaper, petroleum-based building materials and filled with furniture made of similar synthetic materials. As a result, the entire room can be in flames within three minutes. [2] According to Barry Gibson, Fire Marshall for Cherokee County, the average response time for the Fire Department can be between 8-12 minutes, especially in sparsely populated areas. [3] Because of the easily flammable materials in the home, the entire structure will be in flames before the first responders arrive on at the scene. Typically, the fire fighters will then use the “Surround and drown” method to prevent the fire from spreading to other homes, this means that significantly more water will be used on the home and therefore the home will suffer both fire and water damage. [3] A study performed by the National Fire Protection Association from 2007-2011 found that around 6% of residences that had structure fires used had functional sprinkler systems. [4] The study also found that the average damage to a home without sprinklers was almost three times that of a home with a sprinkler system[4]. The conclusion that can be taken from this information, as well as the hypothetical scenario above, is that modern homes are at significant risk for fires, and only a tiny statistical portion of them are protected sufficiently with a sprinkler system.

In the second hypothetical scenario, a fire breaks out in the exact same home, but in this variation the home is equipped with a wet pipe sprinkler system. Modern sprinkler systems are equipped with sensors for detecting rising heat levels. This means that the sprinkler will activate before the fire begins to grow large enough to create large amounts of smoke. The wet pipe sprinkler system will then activate due to the rising temperature levels created by the fire, and will be effective in either extinguishing or at least controlling the fire in 96% of cases[4]. Even in a worst case scenario, where the sprinklers activate prematurely due to a small, manageable fire, the damage that they can cause is minimal compared to the destruction of a large structure fire. Sprinklers are also significantly more sophisticated than in previous years, and it is extremely rare for sprinklers to activate for any reason other than an uncontrolled fire. Even if the sprinkler system fails to extinguish the fire, the system will slow the spread of the flames until the Fire Department can arrive and take control of the situation. According to the same study from the National Fire Protection Association, fires with active sprinkler systems have 82% fewer fire deaths and property damage was 68% lower in homes with sprinkler systems as compared to homes lacking the systems. [4] Based on this information, it is easy to conclude that sprinklers not only lower the cost and damage level of fires, but also protect the lives of homeowners and their families.

Two scenarios have been provided, and each have been supplemented with significant research and personal testimonies from fire officials to back them. The conclusion to be made from these two hypothetical fires is obvious. Sprinkler systems are not just an extra safety precaution. They are the first line of defense against the thousands of structure fires that occur in the United States every year. Modern homes are simply not built to survive fires, and without some form of automatic extinguishing system, they might as well be built with matchsticks. Homeowners need to recognize the need for sprinkler systems to protect homes, businesses, and lives from destructive fires. There is no longer a question of whether or not a sprinkler system is a worthwhile investment. Only when sprinkler systems become a standard in homes can residents be safe from fires. Any responsible person should seriously consider the risk of owning an unprotected structure and ensure that their home, family, and livelihood is protected from fires.

Bibliography Sources:
1.”Fires in the U.S.” Fires in the U.S. National Fire Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.

2. Heussner, Ki Mae. “With Modern Furnishing, Homes Burn Faster.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 02 Feb. 2011. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.

3.Personal Interview with Barry Gibson, Fire Marshall of Cherokee County

4.Hall, John R., Jr. “US Experience with Sprinklers.” US Experience with Sprinklers. National Fire Protection Agency, June 2013. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.