Fifty single-family homes converted to student dwellings, located just off the Lindenwood University’s Belleville, Illinois campus, have been retrofitted with home fire sprinklers.
Belleville Fire Department assistant chief, JP Penet, said “the ‘change of use’ from private homes to university-owned student dwellings triggered the installation of fire sprinklers, in order to comply with Illinois’ adoption of the 2000 NFPA 101 Life Safety Code. Fire sprinkler system installation followed NFPA 13D, with guidelines specific to residential dwelling fire protection.
The design and installation work proved to be quite a challenge, as the buildings range in age from 40 to 100 years old. Self-contained tank and pump systems were installed in all but three of the homes. The project began in 2014 with initial research and conversations, and was completed in spring of 2018
Penet said there was a striking safety gap between the students living in fully-sprinklered on-campus dorms, and students living unprotected in these off-campus, university-owned student dwellings.
“We had to help bridge the knowledge gap between life safety code requirements and how to get these homes sprinklered,” Penet said. “We worked closely with the university and city leadership, to ensure the safety of the off-campus student community.”
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 94% of fatal fires occur in off-campus housing. “Protecting off-campus student housing provides peace-of-mind,” Penet said. “More than 260 students are now protected from fire in these 50 homes. Those are numbers everyone can live with.”
According to Penet, support from the fire service community was essential, including the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal, the St Louis Metropolitan Fire Marshals Association, the Illinois Fire Inspectors Association and the Illinois Chapter of the National Fire Sprinkler Association.
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