Firefighters and fire researchers today witnessed demonstrations of prototype fire sprinkler and water mist systems with the potential to suppress home fires with as little as 50 to 100 gallons of water, a better-than-50-percent reduction from conventional devices. Such a reduction could ultimately save lives and protect property from excessive water damage.
The demonstrations highlighted a workshop sponsored by the U.S. Fire Administration, a part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, at the Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md.
The small water tank requirements of the test systems make them especially promising for one and two-family dwellings with limited water supplies. Current fire sprinkler systems for self-contained systems require approximately 275 gallons for fire suppression.
Fire engineers tested the fire protection systems in two full-scale fire demonstrations in NIST's Large Fire Research Facility. They set ablaze identical living room settings with carpeting, wood paneling, sofa, love seat and drapes. The prototype limited-area-dwelling sprinkler system suppressed the flames with water flow rates of 10 gallons per minute. The prototype limited-area sprinkler system also meets all requirements for fire protection systems of this type approved as part of the 1994 National Fire Protection Association 13 of the National Fire Code.
The water mist system suppressed the fire with flow rates of 3.5 gallons per minute. This system will be addressed by the new NFPA 750 Water Mist Fire Suppression System Standard, which is expected to be voted on during the NFPA annual convention in May 1996.
Daniel Madrzykowski, an engineer for NIST's Building and Fire Research Laboratory, said, "Based on tests conducted to date, these fire protection systems appear to be more effective than conventional residential sprinkler systems. Work remains to be done testing this new technology. However, we have seen water tank requirements shrink from 275 gallons to 100 gallons for the new sprinkler system. In the water mist system, we potentially can expect this to fall to 50 gallons, about the capacity of the average water heater tank. The commercialization of these systems should save lives as well as benefit the residential protection and manufactured home industry."
Donald Bathurst, deputy administrator of the USFA, said, "Our data shows that fires killed approximately 4,200 people in 1994 and injured an additional 27,000 others. Residential fires were responsible for about 75 percent of these totals. Also, approximately 100 firefighters die in the line of duty each year. We must do everything we can to reduce these tragic statistics. The USFA is committed to this partnership with NIST's Building and Fire Research Laboratory. These demonstrations show our research and development work can help make a difference."
Research and development collaborators on the demonstration of fire protection systems research and development include NIST, NFPA, Factory Mutual Research Corp., Hughes Associates Inc. and Underwriters Laboratories.
A non-regulatory agency of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration, NIST promotes U.S. economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards.