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Fire sprinkler heads deliver a high-pressure flow of water or dry chemicals to a fire. They are usually are heat-activated and part of a larger fire prevention and safety system. Most fire sprinkler heads attach to a network of pipes that terminate at a pressure regulator which controls distribution from the fire suppression reservoir. This reservoir contains water or some other fire suppression agent such as carbon dioxide (CO2), argon (Ar), or high-expansion foam. The heat-activation features of fire sprinkler heads are implemented through the use of heat-sensitive seals. These seals are used with thin, liquid-filled tubules that are designed to burst and permit the discharge of the fire suppressant at a specific temperature. Typically, these tubules are color-coded to indicate the maximum allowable temperature.

Some fire sprinkler heads are used in dry sprinkler systems that are designed to operate in low-temperature areas. These fire suppression systems maintain a constant air pressure at very low rates within the pipes of the dry sprinkler system. When heating occurs and fuses cause a sudden drop in air pressure, the sprinkler system opens each fire sprinkler valve and permits water to flow. Typically, these fire sprinkler valves are attached to the fire alerting system (e.g., smoke detector or smoke alarm) so that water is not dispersed to areas that are free of fire. Control valves, heat-activated sprinkler heads, and regulators are important components of an automatic fire sprinkler system.

Fire sprinkler heads are covered by various National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards for a larger fire sprinkler system. Major standards include NFPA-13, NFPA-13D, and NFPA-13R. There are also a number of secondary standards for a fire sprinkler head that are covered by the overall requirements of fire protection and prevention in homes, commercial buildings, and high-occupancy dwellings. Most suppliers of fire sprinkler heads provide an entire range of fire suppression services and products designed to significantly reduce loss of life and property, secure buildings, reduce costs related to fire suppression operations, and maximize protection.