The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) held a live demonstration of the need for home fire sprinklers as part of its 2009 Conference & Expo at McCormick Place in Chicago. The side-by-side room burn highlighted the speed and effectiveness of sprinklers in controlling a residential fire and reinforced NFPA’s new campaign promoting sprinkler advocacy, Fire Sprinkler Initiative: Bringing Safety Home, which was launched earlier this year.

“Home fire sprinklers save lives and this demonstration shows how important they are to keep people safe at home,” said Jim Shannon, president of NFPA. “NFPA is a vocal advocate for home fire sprinklers because too many of the residential fire deaths across this country could have been prevented by this proven technology.”

The live fire demonstration, hosted by the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, ROC Exhibitions and the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, included a side-by-side display with identically furnished rooms. One side of the display had home fire sprinklers installed; the other side of the display did not. One at a time, both rooms were set on fire.

As the room without sprinkler protection was set on fire, thick black smoke quickly filled the enclosure. The fire burned out of control, to the point of flashover, until the Chicago Fire Department stepped in to extinguish the fire. The room with home fire sprinklers was then set on fire. As the heat built up in the display, the sprinklers activated. In stark contrast to the first room, the fire in the sprinklered room was quickly controlled by the overhead sprinklers. Home fire sprinklers are designed to activate when a certain temperature increase is reached and can effectively control smoke, heat and flames. The fire and smoke damage in the sprinklered room was significantly less than in the room without sprinklers.

To view the demo, click here. Currently, all model building codes call for sprinklers in new construction of one- and two-family homes. There are approximately 50 communities in the Chicago area that have such a requirement.

“The Chicago area is one of our national models for providing greater fire protection to its residents and the fire service by requiring sprinklers,” said Shannon. “Communities here are showing the rest of the country how to spare their residents from the devastating effects of fire.”

Approximately 80% of all fire deaths occur in homes and nearly 3,000 people died in house fires in 2007 – that’s nearly eight Americans every day. The chances of dying in a fire decrease by about 80 percent when home fire sprinklers are present. When a house is protected by home fire sprinklers, the fire is contained by the activation of just one sprinkler roughly 90 percent of the time. In homes where sprinklers are not present, the fire can burn for minutes, raging out of control, filling the home with toxic smoke and resulting in far greater losses. A recent report (PDF file, 353 KB) from NFPA shows that sprinklers can reduce the average property loss by 71% per fire.

In addition to featuring one of NFPA’s new campaigns, the Fire Sprinkler Initiative: Bringing Safety Home, the four-day conference included educational sessions, as well as the latest in fire, security and life safety products and technology from across the country.

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