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During National Fire Prevention Week, Live Fire Sprinkler Demonstrations Boost Educational Focus For Many Illinois Fire Departments

ORLAND PARK, Ill., Oct. 4, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- From October 7-13, fire departments across Illinois and the nation will host open houses and fire safety events as part of their national Fire Prevention Week (FPW) activities. Education and prevention are essential because nine out of every 10 structure fire deaths occur in the home. That's according to the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association, the official sponsor of FPW. Last year, the U.S. fire service responded to 370,000 home structure fires, which caused 13,910 civilian injuries, 2,520 civilian deaths, and $6.9 billion in direct damage. Unfortunately, Illinois itself is on pace to reach over 100 fire deaths by the end of this year.

Fire departments throughout Illinois work yearlong to prevent fire injuries and deaths by educating the public about all aspects of fire safety, including prevention; the need for working smoke alarms and escape planning and practice; and the power of early fire suppression. During this year's FPW activities, many northern Illinois fire departments have plans to highlight the life- and property-saving benefits of residential fire sprinkler systems, which automatically flow water on a fire while it is still small.

This year alone, seven jurisdictions in Illinois added residential fire sprinkler ordinances for one- and two-family homes, bringing the total number of Illinois jurisdictions with ordinances to 79. With a large number of ordinances, education is key in helping homeowners understand how fire sprinklers work in their own homes or their future homes. Fire departments are increasingly using two effective methods to inform the public about home fire dangers and dispel common myths about fire sprinklers. These simulate home fires and the distinct differences between sprinklered and unsprinklered homes.

One method uses the demonstration trailers from the Illinois Fire Inspectors Association and Northern Illinois Fire Inspectors Association, both of which are outfitted with a smoke detector and fire sprinkler. Viewers are able to watch through windows as a fire is set in a trashcan. As smoke builds, the smoke detector signals; and as flames generate heat, the quick-response residential fire sprinkler activates, flowing water and quickly controlling the fire.

An even more dramatic method is the side-by-side fire and sprinkler demonstration. This employs two similarly constructed and furnished rooms that each contain a smoke detector, however, only one of the rooms has a fire sprinkler installed. As fires are set in both rooms and smoke builds, the smoke detectors will signal. As the fires grow, the heat from the flames in the sprinklered room activates the fire sprinkler. Audiences see first-hand how fast the fires grow and how quickly and effectively the fire sprinkler responds, before much damage can occur. Meanwhile, the fire in the unsprinklered room continues to grow, melting the smoke detector so that it becomes inaudible and quickly reaching flashover, the point at which everything in the room ignites in flames. The comparison is memorable as well as educational.

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