Government Technology

Smart Fire Sprinklers Could Prevent Unnecessary Water Damage

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute seniors
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute seniors

May 13, 2009 By

Photo: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute seniors Erik Kauntz, Jake Pyzza, and Ryan Clapp designed and built an early prototype of a new "smart" fire suppression system.

Between 35 and 40 million fire sprinklers are now installed each year in the United States, more than in any other country in the world, according to Russell Fleming, executive vice president of the National Fire Sprinkler Association.

"The traditional use of fire sprinkler systems in the United States, as in other parts of the world, was for property protection and the resulting insurance savings," says Fleming. "However, it was found that sprinkler systems provided a life safety benefit as well. By the 1940s it began to be apparent that fires with large losses of life were taking place only in buildings without sprinkler protection."

Building codes in most jurisdictions now mandate fire sprinkler systems for certain classifications of buildings. That's the good news. However, such systems are not perfect. Indiscriminate soaking an office building, home, or workplace with water can cause tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage in places where there was no immediate threat from fire.

A group of graduating engineers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute set their sights on this problem, and have developed a promising solution. Seniors Jake Pyzza, Erik Kauntz, and Ryan Clapp researched, designed, and built an early prototype of a new "smart" fire suppression system that pinpoints the location of a fire in a building and douses the blaze with flame suppressants.

"Our sensors sweep a room, sense where the fire is, and then deliver a suppressant to just that area, while the sensor is still sweeping the rest of the room to see if the fire spread," says Pyzza. "If it continues to scan and doesn't see any more sources of fire, it turns the suppression system off to help minimize any damage to the room's contents."

The group developed and built their invention last year as their final project for a year-long capstone mechanical engineering course.

The new fire detection and suppression system is hardwired with a battery backup so it can function even if the building's electricity is shut off or unavailable. And the team is now investigating methods for directly transmitting the pinpointed location - down to the specific room - of the fire to the local fire department and/or private home security companies. The system's combination of ultraviolet and infrared sensors can locate and track a lit match up to 25 feet away, according to the group.

"It's a robust system, and we basically built it from the ground up," says Kauntz. "Combined, it took us hundreds of hours to design and put together."

The group's original idea was to develop a "firefighting grenade" that fire safety officials could throw into blaze, which gradually evolved into a home fire suppression system. The second idea stuck, particularly because municipalities are increasingly requiring new homes and home additions to have dedicated sprinkler systems.

"We felt there was a resounding need for an update for home sprinkler systems," said Clapp, a Product Design, and Innovation (PDI) major from Cairo, N.Y. "The original home sprinkler system was invented in 1873, by an RPI alumnus, and it hasn't really changed since then. So we felt it was time for an update, and that this was the perfect place to do it."

The students are currently investigating the possibility of licensing the system, securing a richer set of performance data, and potentially starting the formal process of filing a patent.


| More


Add Your Comment

You are solely responsible for the content of your comments. We reserve the right to remove comments that are considered profane, vulgar, obscene, factually inaccurate, off-topic, or considered a personal attack.

In Our Library

White Papers | Exclusives Reports | Webinar Archives | Best Practices and Case Studies
Fresh Ideas In Online Security for Public Safety Organizations
Lesley Carhart, Senior Information Security Specialist at Motorola Solutions, knows that online and computer security are more challenging than ever. Personal smartphones, removable devices like USB storage drives, and social media have a significant impact on security. In “Fresh Ideas in Online Security for Public Safely Organizations,” Lesley provides recommendations to improve your online security against threats from social networks, removable devices, weak passwords and digital photos.
Meeting Constituents Where They Are With Dynamic, Real-Time Mobile Engagement
Leveraging the proven and open Kofax Mobile Capture Platform, organizations can rapidly integrate powerful mobile engagement solutions across the spectrum of mobile image capture, mobile data capture and complete mobile process integration. Kofax differentiates itself by extending capture to mobility, supporting multiple points of constituent engagement. Kofax solutions dynamically orchestrate the user’s mobile experience from a single platform—reducing time to market, improving process perf
Public Safety 2019
Motorola conducted an industry survey on the latest trends in public safety communications. The results provide an outlook of what technology is in store for your agency in the next five years. Download the results to gain this valuable insight.
View All

Featured Papers