The next time you enter an office building, shopping mall, hospital, airport, warehouse-type store, library, apartment and even some single-family homes — just about any building — look up at the ceiling. You’ll see a network of sprinklers that represents a water-filled fire control and suppression system designed to save lives and protect property. Chances are one in two that the sprinklers are made by Tyco Fire Products.
An established industry leader in the major fire-protection markets — commercial buildings such as offices and stores; storage facilities such as warehouses and distribution centers; special hazard facilities such as refineries and chemical plants; and single and multiple family residences — Tyco continually develops technology that controls or extinguishes fires. The manufacturer’s diverse product line includes sprinklers, sprinkler nozzles, valves, fittings and post-chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) pipe, fittings, hangers and many other sprinkler system accessories.
Robert Brinkman, Tyco’s president, comments on the company’s leading position in the fire-protection industry: “Tyco Fire Products is the recognized leader in the industry through its breadth of line product offering and its commitment to furthering fire-protection technology through product innovation. Our entire worldwide organization is fully committed to product quality and servicing our customers. No one commits the amount of resources to the fire-protection industry as does Tyco Fire Products, and the results are obvious.”
Referring to Tyco’s research and development facility in Cranston, R.I., Thomas Prymak, vice president of marketing, adds, “We make the finest quality product in the market, and we do more research and development than anyone to advance fire protection to a higher state. One important result is that Tyco has advanced the response time for fires and improved hazard control and suppression.” In addition to housing the largest research, design and development staff and facilities in the industry, the site has training centers and classrooms for instructing customers, representatives of insurance companies and fire departments and government officials in using fire-protection technology. Classes are held on a monthly basis and are available to just about anyone with an interest.
Kindled by Invention
From its start in 1871, Tyco has been fueled by innovation. Back then, Frederick Grinnell licensed a sprinkler designed by Henry S. Parmelee and soon started working to improve it. In 1881, Grinnell was awarded the first of his 41 patents for sprinkler technology. The new sprinkler design addressed thermal sensitivity, clogging, tightness and the function of the solder joint. This was the first “sensitive sprinkler” on the market and the starting point for today’s thermosensitive sprinkler designs. In 1890, Grinnell invented the glass disc sprinkler, a basic design still in use.
Today, Tyco Fire Products is part of the Tyco Flow Control Division of Tyco International Ltd., the world’s largest manufacturer, installer and provider of fire-protection and electronic-security systems. In North America, Tyco Fire Products provides water-based sprinkler system components throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and Central and South America. Tyco Fire and Building Products Europe serves the United Kingdom, Europe and the Middle East with manufacturing locations that produce fire-protection equipment, metal-framing and support products and construction fixings systems. Tyco Fire and Building Products Asia, headquartered in Singapore, produces fire-protection equipment, metal-framing and support products for distribution throughout Southeast Asia, China, Japan and Korea.
Tyco’s U.S.-based operations include ISO 9001-certified facilities in Huntsville and Anniston, Ala., Lansdale, Pa., and Lubbock, Texas. The company employs more than 1,300 people.
Tyco now markets three brands: Gem, the original Grinnell line; Star, purchased in the early 1990s; and Central, acquired three years ago. Central, Gem and Star offer the broadest line of water-based fire-protection system components with worldwide availability — more than 250 fire-protection products and more than 1,200 items used in making fire-protection systems, including sprinklers, nozzles, valves, CPVC pipe and fittings, grooved piping products, hangers and accessories. These branded products are sold through independent distributors and/or to fire-protection contractors using Tyco’s own network of warehouse locations across the United States.
Commenting on Tyco’s ever-evolving product line, James Golinveaux, senior vice president of research and development, states, “It’s fair to say that Tyco Fire Products and all of its units overseas are innovators in the field. We are a technological leader in the manufacturing of new products for specific applications.”
Among Tyco’s milestones are the introductions of the first early-suppression fast-response (ESFR) sprinkler for rack storage applications, residential and quick-response sprinklers, extended coverage sprinklers, the first low-pressure water mist nozzles for installation per National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 750 and the fire-protection industry’s most advanced offering of computer software to support the design and installation of fire-sprinkler systems. Other Tyco innovations include: a new type of sprinkler for storage areas; a dry pipe valve that has an external reset mechanism, weighs two-thirds less than older valves and has few moving parts; the first EPA-friendly fire-protection system for freezer areas that allows the use of ESFR sprinklers; an ESFR upright sprinkler for rack storage that reduces the pressure required for adequate flow; and the first extended-coverage sprinkler of the area/density type that is suitable for all types of hazards.
One of Tyco’s most advanced products is the K-25™ ESFR sprinkler. Use of this product reduces the pressure required to 15 pounds per square inch — a 70 percent reduction from other products — so it makes use of municipal water supply without requiring a fire pump. The K-25™ is approved in building heights up to 45 feet that contain rack storage to a maximum height of 40 feet. When installed within the published parameters for the sprinkler, all previous requirements for additional sprinklers within the racks are eliminated.
Another Tyco product innovation is its window sprinkler that can protect a window and allow it to maintain an equivalent fire rating for up to two hours. This sprinkler underwent the same fire tests as rated walls and doors, including the hose stream test — 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours.
Reinforcing Tyco’s commitment to quality, the company introduced the first sprinkler manufacturer’s 10-year warranty in February 2001. The warranty extends to all Tyco products across the three brands. The 10-year warranty program added nine years to the one-year warranty that had been an industry standard.
Tyco’s technological prowess extends to software programs marketed as independent products to architects, contractors, insurance companies and authorities such as fire marshals. The software suite comprises: SprinkCAD fire-sprinkler design system, SprinkCALC advanced hydraulic calculations, SprinkCODE interactive NFPA 13® code selector and SprinkSLIC complete fire sprinkler stock listing. Each program is marketed independently, but in combination form the most powerful software offering in the industry.
Supporting the changing technology, Tyco has created a centralized staff to assist its customers with questions relating to product applications, codes and service. The technical support staff is located at the company’s research and development facility in Rhode Island, and the staff currently fields more than 2,000 calls per month. Incoming calls cover a spectrum that ranges from installing contractors to fire and building officials. Tyco’s technical support staff has evolved into the strongest support group in the business and has earned a reputation of being a sound source for assistance and information.
Tyco’s commitment to the industry extends well beyond its offices, research, manufacturing and sales efforts. Tyco Fire Products is represented in nearly every segment of the industry through its memberships and activities in industry associations, associated trade organizations and participation on engineering and standards committees that are influential in the fire code making process. Tyco supports educational programs in fire protection throughout North America through material and software contributions. Given Tyco’s high profile in the industry, the company believes that it has an obligation to set the standard for others with respect to involvement and support.
Prymak sums up Tyco’s philosophy, “We are the leading manufacturer in the world and we are working to offer products that advance technology and ultimately provide better fire protection for everyone. We are doing everything we can to help ensure compliance with newer, stricter codes and ordinances. We make the best quality product, package and ship it to the contractor in the best way so that it works the way it was designed. Twenty years from now, I expect Tyco Fire Products to continue its pursuit of excellence and to be maintaining its leadership position.”