Annual campaign highlights benefits of sprinklers

Mon 20 May, 2019

Picture: Five years ago, fire destroyed a warehouse in Newport Pagnell which did not have a sprinkler system. Thankfully no-one was hurt. Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service and Milton Keynes Council recommended the installation of sprinklers when plans for the warehouse were originally submitted for building regulation consultation in 2001, but the developers were under no obligation to install them.

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service has joined with fire and rescue services across the UK to support Sprinkler Week, which runs until Friday 24 May. 

This is an annual awareness campaign organised by the National Fire Chiefs Council which aims to dispel the myths around sprinklers and show how they can help home owners, businesses and education providers protect life, property and the environment.

It is also calling for for sprinkler legislation in England and Northern Ireland to be brought in line with Scotland and Wales.

In Scotland, all new enclosed shopping centres, residential care buildings, high-rise domestic buildings above 18 metres, sheltered housing complexes, new schools and some warehouses must be fitted with sprinkler systems. 

In Wales, sprinklers are now a legislative requirement in all new residential premises including care premises.

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service's Chief Fire Officer, Jason Thelwell, said: “Controlling a fire as it starts is better than repairing the damage after it has spread. Insurance covers some of the financial burden, but the impact from fire loss is far-reaching, and tackling a fire at its earliest stages is vital for the well-being of people, properties, the environment and the economy.

"In the absence of legislation, it is our responsibility to prove the case for them."

Analysis of more than 2,000 fires in the UK carried out by the NFCC and the National Fire Sprinkler Network showed that sprinklers operated as intended on 94 per cent of occasions, and extinguished or contained the fire on 99 per cent of occasions

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service has a small stock of portable domestic sprinkler systems, that can be used to protect people with mobility issues or other vulnerabilities who may be at risk of a fire in their main living or sleeping area. Contact for details.

Dispelling the myths

Myth: Sprinklers can go off accidentally like smoke detectors.

Truth: Sprinklers only activate from the heat emitted from a fire. They are not activated by smoke in the way the smoke detectors are. The chances of a sprinkler head accidentally activating are one in 16 million.

Myth: All the sprinklers go off together, causing unnecessary water damage.

Truth: Only the sprinkler heads affected by a fire activate. It isn’t true what you see in films and on television. When a sprinkler head does activate it uses a fraction of the water firefighters use to extinguish a fire.

Myth: Sprinklers can't be fitted in a kitchen as they would cause a chip pan to boil over.

Truth: This is a common misconception. We have all seen the demonstration of the fireball that is created when you pour water on a chip pan fire. Sprinklers use fine droplets to cool the oil without it boiling over. They are incredibly efficient and safe in dealing with chip pan fires.

Myth: Sprinklers are expensive to install.

Truth: In a new house it costs about the same as fitting the carpets and flooring to fit a sprinkler system. In bigger projects they usually cost about two to five per cent of the capital cost.