Effectiveness of Automatic Fire Sprinklers for College Dormitory Fires

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As part of a USFA initiative to improve fire safety in college housing, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) conducted two series of full-scale fire experiments in abandoned dormitory buildings. The objective of the study is to compare the levels of hazard created by room fires in a dormitory building with and without automatic fire sprinklers in the room of fire origin.

Day Room Fire Experiments

This report describes a series of experiments where fires are initiated in a day room area open to the corridor of the dormitory. These experiments were conducted by NIST in cooperation with the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base Redevelopment Authority, the Myrtle Beach Fire Department, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). This report provides a description of the experimental conditions including a description of the building construction, the fuel load in the day rooms, and the location of the instrumentation used to measure temperature and heat flux in the day room and the adjacent corridor. Smoke alarm activation and sprinkler activation times are also reported. The results from the experiments comparing the sprinklered and non-sprinklered day room are presented. The results from these experiments demonstrate the life safety benefits of smoke alarms and automatic fire sprinkler systems in college dormitories.

Sleeping Room Fire Experiments

As part of the initiative to demonstrate how fire sprinklers can improve fire safety in college housing, and in cooperation with the Fayetteville Fire Department, fire tests were conducted in a scheduled-for-demolition residence hall at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR.

In this experiment, a fire was set in four fully-furnished dorm rooms, two of which had sprinklers installed beforehand. The experiment examined rooms with both closed and open doors. Data on temperature, carbon monoxide and oxygen readings were collected from sensors both inside and outside of the rooms. The data developed from this experiment helped to define the hazards created during a dorm room fire, determine how rapidly a fire spreads when unchecked and reveal how effectively sprinkler protection lessens the threat. The results of these experiments will be provided in a published report.