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Grinnell Mutual Tests Home Fire Sprinkler Systems

Oct 16, 2013

Two living rooms, two fires, one sprinkler system – Grinnell Mutual shows how quickly home fires grow if not contained by a residential sprinkler system.  Join Grinnell Mutual’s Special Investigations Unit as they talk about home fire safety and test the effectiveness of a home sprinkler system in this Grinnell Mutual Talks about Safety videocast.

"What we hope to show is that a sprinkler system within your home buys you and your family time to get out safely if there’s a fire," said Alan Clark, assistant vice president of Special Investigations.

Grinnell Mutual’s test was conducted using 8 by 10 foot burn cells, each identically furnished as a living room, to simulate a typical residential fire caused by a candle, cigarette, or overheated electrical unit. Sensors were placed in both cells to monitor room temperatures during the test. In the first cell a residential sprinkler was installed at ceiling level.  Following ignition, the sprinkler activates when temperatures reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit at the ceiling level.  Within five minutes the fire is contained to the couch.

"Damage to this room is fairly minor compared to what will happen in the next," said Clark.  "Although we had fire damage at the end of the couch, there was no damage to the plastic window blinds hanging above the couch. This indicates just how well the residential sprinkler system contained the fire and reduced heat in this room."

In the second burn cell, a living room without a residential sprinkler was ignited in the same location.  In less than five minutes the room reached flashover – the point at which nearly all exposed combustible materials in the room simultaneously ignite – with temperatures nearing 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

"The difference between these two burns is obvious. One room is totally gutted by fire.  The smoke alarm has been destroyed, all the glass in the room is destroyed, the couch is gone, the chair is gone, and the carpet is burned. Comparing that to the first cell, you can see the difference that one residential sprinkler head in this room would have made," said Clark.

This test was conducted By Grinnell Mutual Special Investigations in conjunction with the Grinnell Fire Department in fall 2012.  The results of this test align with current research.

About burn cell demonstrations

Grinnell Mutual’s Special Investigations Unit has held burn cell demonstrations for more than five years as an educational and research tool for fire personnel, insurance professionals, and the public to demonstrate burn patterns, test materials, and show the effectiveness of residential sprinkler systems.

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