Welcome to Fire Safe Life,
Fire Safe Life came about as a place for Fire Protection Professionals to come together and discuss fire prevention. We searched the Internet for a website that was open to everyone and after a thorough search we did not find it. We found many fire sprinkler sites that were run by big companies and governing bodies, but nothing for the rest of us.
Fire Safe Life wants all Fire Protection businesses and Fire Fighter’s to take part. Without your help this venture will not be possible. We would like readers to send in questions and have the pros answer them. This is a place to share and help each other.
Fire Safe Life is not here to change the world, but to spread the word on how important fire protection is to your community.
Fire Safe Life is open to all. If you have something to say, a question to ask, a story to tell, we would like to hear it. Let’s be helpful to the designer, the engineer and others that might need a little inspiration. We would like advice from our more experienced practitioners to make Fire Safe Life a pool of knowledge for all.
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We want to welcome all to try our new Fire Safe Life forum. The link is to the right at the top of the page and marked FSL Forum. We hope this is a place for all to share and help each other. For now it is a place to ask us questions. We will make every effort to help. If we don’t know, we have lots of friends in the industry to ask. If you have ideas for an article you would like to see post it in the forum. We are always looking for items of interest.
Thanks and Enjoy
The FSL Team
The History of Automatic Sprinkler Protection
Part 3 – Henry Pamelee
Henry S. Parmelee is credited with inventing the first practical automatic sprinkler. Objecting to the high insurance rates he determined there had be a way to protect his piano factory that would reduce the rates.
His first attempt was not practical as it used a cord holding a spring mechanism which, when burned would release the device. Upon showing the head to an acquaintance it was suggested to him that the device should operate by heat as well. His first patent was for a perforated head with a spring holding am internal valve shut and released by a fusible link. It was complicated and never known to have been used.
Are we victims of government regulation? What happened to our independence?
When I started in the fire sprinkler industry 33 years ago as a designer I had no idea who the fire marshal was. I seldom if ever submitted any drawings to the local government. When I did it was usually to the fire department and all they wanted to know was where the fire dept connection and alarm bells were.
Prior to that time the fire protection industry was self regulating. Now days it seems that not a news broadcast goes by without some call for more government regulation. But it was not always so. And without the development of a system of self regulation, there would be nothing available for today’s government to use to regulate us. There were many important developments that paved the way for government.
The History of Automatic Sprinkler Protection
Part 2 – The First Automatic Sprinklers
Inventors first began experimenting with automatic sprinklers around 1860 when Barnabas Wood of Nashville, Tennessee patented the first basic sprinkler. It featured a fusible solder link and operated at 165°F, still a standard temperature rating to this day. And in England, a Major Stewart Harrison of the 1st Engineer London Volunteers, developed an automatic sprinkler that apparently was a good design at the time, But neither had any success.
Henry S. Parmelee of New Haven, Connecticut is considered the inventor of the first practical automatic sprinkler head and took out his first patent in 1874. It was his third sprinkler design, in 1875, that became the one first installed commercially. It consisted of a cap, held in place by solder, covering a perforated distributor. He continued to improve this design. In 1878 it was further modified with a rotating slotted distributor which was less prone to clogging by sediment. The final version of the Parmelee sprinkler was actually done by Frederick Grinnell. He changed the thread to a ½” male fitting, and hollowed the base to separate the solder joint from contact with the water in the pipes.
Frederick Grinnell, President of The Providence Steam and Gas Pipe Company, entered in to an agreement with Henry Parmelee to manufacture his sprinklers on a royalty basis. Thousands of these sprinklers would be installed over the next few years. In 1882 he patented the automatic sprinkler that bears his name. This is considered to be the first sensitive automatic sprinkler. The Glass Disk Sprinkler came in 1890. It had a ½” orifice and a fixed deflector. It was modified in 1903 and manufactured for many years. It is probably the most common old Grinnell sprinkler to be found by collectors.