Downers Grove Fire Chief Jim Jackson prepares fire crews for the burn in the unsprinklered dorm room. Downers Grove Fire Chief Jim Jackson prepares fire crews for the burn in the unsprinklered dorm room.[/caption] With the school year fast approaching, the Downers Grove Fire Department and nonprofit Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB) recently conducted a fire demonstration in a Midwestern University dormitory to emphasize the importance of fire sprinklers in college housing. The fire sprinkler demonstration was one of many evolutions of fire training completed by the fire department in the soon-to-be demolished, 1960s-era dorm. It simulated the difference between fires in sprinkler-protected and unprotected dorm rooms. “We were fortunate to use the dormitory to illustrate the quick spread of deadly flames and smoke in a college dorm versus the fast response of fire sprinklers,” says Downers Grove Fire Department Public Information & Education Officer Marsha Geisler. The demonstration featured two identically furnished dorm rooms but only one had fire sprinkler protection. Within three minutes the unprotected room had fully ignited in flames. NIFSAB Executive Director Tom Lia notes that the unprotected fire was hot enough to set off sprinklers well down the hallway from the room. Fire Chief Jim Jackson, who coordinated the simulated fires, noted the drastic difference between the two fires. “The fire developed rapidly in both rooms. In the room without fire sprinklers, fire and toxic smoke quickly traveled down the dorm hallway. The fire sprinkler system in the other room extinguished the fire, keeping it small and contained.” “The sprinklers made a significant difference between the two fires and would be the difference between life and death. They controlled the fire, resulting in minimal damage. If these were real situations, we would have a high life loss in the unprotected fire,” adds Jackson. In Illinois, all dorms at post-secondary educational institutions were required to have fire sprinklers installed by 2013 in accordance with the Fire Sprinkler Dormitory Act. In addition, all Greek housing must have fire sprinklers installed by 2019. Similar measures to Illinois’ legislation have been proposed in the United States Congress but have not passed. Some states such as Wisconsin have similar fire sprinkler requirements for campus and Greek housing, but there are many states that do not have such requirements. “If your child is going to college out of state, there is a possibility they may be living in an unprotected dorm or house,” states Lia. “At the beginning of each school year, it’s important that parents review dorm fire safety features and escape routes with their children before they leave their children at college for approximately eight to nine months.” Each year, September is designated as Campus Fire Safety Month to raise awareness about fire and life safety on college campuses across the U.S.]]>