More than 80 percent of all fire deaths occur in the home, according to the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition. But a residential sprinkler system can prevent many of those deaths.
"Ninety-five percent of house fires are put out by the first (sprinkler) head that's set off," said Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, speaking at the open house Wednesday.
"It's not like Hollywood," Lia added. "They don't all go off at the same time. Your house isn't going to get flooded."
The educational open house in the Brookmeadow Estates subdivision was hosted by the coalition and Quantum Building & Design, the local builder who constructed the American With Disabilities Act-compliant, fire-sprinkler protected home for Frankfort resident Dan Turner and his family. Turner was paralyzed in an automobile accident, and the sprinkler system will give his family peace of mind, along with the necessary time to escape a house fire.
In the fire sprinkler demo trailer present at the open house, a staged fire in a trash can ignited a cotton curtain. At 12 seconds, the smoke alarm went off. At 15 seconds, the first sprinkler head was triggered, spraying the fire with water. A few seconds later, the fire was completely extinguished, and the second head, just a few feet away, never went off.
Peg Paul, communications director for the HFSC, said each sprinkler head covers about 400 square feet (or a 20-feet-by-20-feet room). A bulb in the head senses when the room temperature is raised to 155 degrees, which triggers the sprinkler system.
While Turner had been planning to build an accessible ranch home in Frankfort, he said that he hadn't planned to install sprinklers. But his stepfather-in-law, John Raiger, is in the security business with friends in local fire departments, and through his contacts, he helped connect Turner with Paul and the coalition.
The HFSC recently received a grant from State Farm Insurance to install sprinkler systems in 15 needs-based homes across the United States, mainly working with Habitat for Humanity and Homes for Our Troops. When Paul was contacted, she knew that Turner's home was the perfect fit for the grant.
"Almost everything (for the sprinkler system) was donated ... the pipes from Lubrisol, the backflow device, the labor," Paul said, explaining that contractors often gave up their weekends to get the equipment installed.
"And Todd Groskreutz, who owns Quantum, he's been so accommodating. This sprinkler system project was started in the middle of the building process, but he just kept saying OK to all our requests," she added.
Unlike a commercial sprinkler system's purpose of protecting property, a home-sprinkler system is designed to protect people first and property second.
"Fire sprinklers are especially powerful technology for those who are most vulnerable, such as individuals living with physical limitations," Paul said.
The Turners should be able to move into their new home by Thanksgiving.