A fire hydrant is a connection point by which fire-fighters can tap into a water supply. It is a component of active fire protection.
The user attaches a hose to the fire hydrant, then opens a valve on the hydrant to provide a powerful flow of water, on the order of 350 kPa (50 lbf/in²) (this pressure varies according to region and depends on various factors including the size and location of the attached water main). This user can attach this hose to a fire engine, which can use a powerful pump to boost the water pressure and possibly split it into multiple streams. One may connect the hose with a threaded connection, instantaneous "quick connector" or a Storz connector. A user should take care not to open or close a fire hydrant too quickly, as this can cause a water hammer, which can damage nearby pipes and equipment. The water inside a charged hose line causes it to be very heavy and high water pressure causes it to be stiff and unable to make a tight turn while pressurized. When a fire hydrant is unobstructed, this is not a problem, as there is enough room to adequately position the hose.
A fire sprinkler system is an active fire protection method, consisting of a water supply system, providing adequate pressure and flow rate to a water distribution piping system, onto which fire sprinklers are connected. Although historically only used in factories and large commercial buildings, systems for homes and small buildings are now available at a cost-effective price. Fire sprinkler systems are extensively used worldwide, with over 40 million sprinkler heads fitted each year. In buildings completely protected by fire sprinkler systems, over 96% of fires were controlled by fire sprinklers alone.
Each closed-head sprinkler is held closed by either a heat-sensitive glass bulb or a two-part metal link held together with fusible alloy. The glass bulb or link applies pressure to a pipe cap which acts as a plug which prevents water from flowing until the ambient temperature around the sprinkler reaches the design activation temperature of the individual sprinkler head. In a standard wet-pipe sprinkler system, each sprinkler activates independently when the predetermined heat level is reached. Thus, only sprinklers near the fire will operate, normally just one or two. This maximizes water pressure over the point of fire origin, and minimizes water damage to the building.
Sprinkler activation will do less water damage than a fire department hose stream, which provides approximately 900 liters/min (250 US gallons/min). A typical sprinkler used for industrial manufacturing occupancies discharge about 75-150 litres/min (20-40 US gallons/min). However, a typical Early Suppression Fast Response (ESFR) sprinkler at a pressure of 50 psi (340 kPa) will discharge approximately 100 US gallons per minute (380 l/min). In addition, a sprinkler will usually activate within one to four minutes of the fire's start, whereas it typically takes at least five minutes for a fire department to register an alarm and drive to the fire site, and an additional ten minutes to set up equipment and apply hose streams to the fire. This additional time can result in a much larger fire, requiring much more water to extinguish.