By Katy Tomasulo In 2000, there were 379,500 residential fires in the United States, about one every 83 seconds, according to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA). The fires added up to roughly $4.75 billion in damages.

For homes, the No. 1 necessity for fire protection is smoke detectors. But if your clients are looking for more peace of mind, there are a number of products that can help reduce the spread of fire, potentially saving lives and decreasing the amount of damage.

Sprinklers, which are widely used in multifamily units and in commercial spaces, are becoming more accepted in single-family homes. Builders are slowly warming up to the idea, but a lack of awareness and fear of complicated installations are keeping the systems out of most remodeling projects.

But installing sprinklers in an existing home is not as difficult as you might think, and most sprinklers listed for residential use can be used in remodels. Many residential sprinkler systems can be hooked up to existing water lines, and, thanks to new designs and products, installation is easier and less intrusive. "The advent of sidewall sprinklers has opened the door," says Jim Dalton, director of public fire protection for the National Fire Sprinkler Association. "Now we can use sidewall sprinklers that can keep us out of the attic area and give us the opportunity to retrofit without some of the complications."

But even with easier installation, sprinklers can be pricey, and product performance depends greatly on the delivery pressure of the existing water supply.

The Home Fireman cabinet holds a fire extinguisher and a hose that hooks up to the existing water supply. [Photo: Courtesy SafeHome Industries]

For homes where sprinkler systems aren't an option or as a supplement to existing systems, Safe Home Industries offers the Home Fireman, a cabinet that houses a fire extinguisher, a 40-foot hose that hooks up to the home's water line, and a concentrator nozzle that will shoot water an additional 40 to 50 feet. While not intended for fighting out-of-control whole-house fires, the company says the hose may be able to stop a small, confined fire. A growing number of new products are designed to slow down or stop the spread of fire without human intervention. Traditionally used for commercial applications, fire-blocking caulks such as Fomo Products' Handi-Seal FR 136 fireblock/draft sealant, which installs around openings like pipes to hold off the spread of smoke and flames into the next room, are becoming more readily available for residential use.

Introduced this year, Contego Fire Barrier latex paint coats framework and wall surfaces to prevent the spread of fire. The formulation expands to form a char barrier, cutting off the fire's source of fuel.

While no one product is guaranteed to stop a fire, these and other options may give homeowners more time to get out and more chance to save part of the home. Smoke detectors remain the most important line of defense, but there are plenty of opportunities to make your projects more valuable and more secure.