T.J. Marshall is credited with improving the design of the fire extinguisher, with a patent issued on March 26, 1872. He invented a system in which water is pumped through pipes in buildings to individual sprinkler heads. The system can be activated by manually turning a valve in the building.
Marshall's fire-extinguishing sprinkler system has been in use in the United States since 1874. It was commonly used in large factories as an effective means of putting out large and potentially catastrophic fires. Today, sprinkler systems are required by code in the United States in buildings more than 75 feet tall.
The systems are generally commended for the relatively small amount of water damage they cause to property; they are much more effective than fire hoses at salvaging property. The activation of this kind of system can occur in as little as four seconds. These systems can effectively control a fire before the fire department is able to arrive, resulting in much smaller and more manageable fires. In some systems, heat sensors determine which sprinklers activate, resulting in a much more exact delivery of water and in fewer instances of water damage overall. Systems generally spray water from nozzles mounted in the ceiling of buildings, but some discharge a combination of water and flame-retardant foam.