Contrary to what many Americans think, we are not at greatest risk from fire in hotels or other public places; it is at home, where most of us feel the safest, that we are actually at highest risk of fire. Hotels, in fact, are among the places that are safest from fire, and that is due in large part to the fire protection technology required for them. That technology typically includes automatic fire sprinklers.
Fire sprinklers include a network of piping filled with water under pressure that are installed behind the walls and ceilings, and individual sprinklers are placed along the piping to protect the areas beneath them. Because the water is always in the piping, fire sprinklers are always “on call.” If fire breaks out, the air temperature above the fire rises and the sprinkler activates when the air temperature gets high enough. The sprinkler sprays water forcefully over the flames, extinguishing them completely in most cases, or at least controlling the heat and limiting the development of toxic smoke until the fire department arrives. Only the sprinkler nearest the fire activates. Smoke will not activate sprinklers.