According to a recent report issued from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), automatic sprinkler systems can significantly increase the chances of survival for individuals during a dormitory fire.
Three experiments were conducted by NIST and supported by a U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) initiative for fire safety in college housing. The studies compared the hazards of fires in smoke detector-equipped dormitories with and without fire sprinklers in the room of fire origin. Researchers started fires in a day room or lounge area open to the corridor of a dormitory. They used the temperature of 120 degrees C. (248 degrees F.) as the cut-off mark for human survival. For comparison, the temperature of boiling water is 100 degrees C.
Potentially fatal temperatures exceeding 120 degrees C. (as well as toxic gases) reached a remote corridor 75 feet away within 3 minutes, and in another 3 minutes spread throughout the corridor, in two of the experiments without sprinklers. Conversely, in an experiment with sprinklers, temperatures at the 5-feet level and below in the room where the fire began never exceeded 120 degrees C. No significant increase in heat was measured in the corridor during the experiment, allowing adequate time for residents to escape.
NIST conducted the experiments at a barracks donated by the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base Redevelopment Authority in Myrtle Beach, SC. The USFA incorporated footage of NIST sprinkler tests into a fire safety video for college administrators and students.
This information was provided by NIST. The NIST report Impact of Sprinklers on the Fire Hazard in Dormitories: Day Room Fire Experiments (NISTIR 7120) by D. Madrzykowski, D. Stroup, and W.D. Walton is available, with video showing the experiments in progress in DVD format. Send requests to (firstname.lastname@example.org).