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Evaluating Small Board and Care Homes: Sprinklered vs. Nonsprinklered Fire Protection.

pdf icon Evaluating Small Board and Care Homes: Sprinklered vs. Nonsprinklered Fire Protection. (4373 K)
Deal, S.

NISTIR 5302; 63 p. November 1993.


U.S. Fire Administration, Emmitsburg, MD

Available from:

National Technical Information Service
Order number: PB94-206356


board and care homes; sprinklers; fire protection; computer models; hazard analysis; evacuation time; fire detection; compartmentation; predictive models; safety; toxicity


This report studied the effectiveness of sprinklered and nonsprinklered fire protection options in small Board and Care homes. The tools used to compare the effectiveness of these fire protection options were mathematical fire models, experimental data and documented fire incidents. The mathematical models estimated fire protection effectiveness through a margin of safety analysis. The margin of safety is defined in this report as the excess time an evacuee has to reach a point of safety before that evacuee's exit path becomes untenable. The margin of safety calculations considered fire growth, detection/alarm activation, evacuee egress movement and smoke tenability analysis. Two egress movement plans were simulated; one plan reflected necessary movement in a one-exit home, the second plan reflected movement in a two-exit home. Two fast-growing large flashover fires (with high and low CO production rates) and a small, smoldering fire were modeled. Two sets of full-scale sprinklered and post-flashover fire experiments, as well as 61 documented fire incidents were included in the study of fire protection system effectiveness. The overwhelming majority of B&C fatalities occur to residents who are challenged by some disability. This disability can be mental, developmental or physical. Examination using mathematical modeling supports the use of compartmentation/evacuation in providing the same margin of safety as sprinklers during the first 15 minutes of a ground floor fire when barriers perform according to their fire-resistance ratings. Examination of the historical fire record supports sprinkler effectiveness. To date, sprinklers are more reliable and more effective than compartmentation at preventing fatalities and protecting property in the occupancy. Detection system false alarms, smoke leakage through concealed spaces, fire degradation of wall and ceiling sheathing, and resident injuries which hamper evacuation all contrive to reduce reliability of the compartmentation/evacuation system, even when doors are not chocked open.