Sprinklers protect lives and jobs and reduce repair costs

Mon 12 Mar, 2018

Picture: In 2014, a fire destroyed this warehouse in Newport Pagnell which did not have a sprinkler system. Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service and Milton Keynes Council recommended the installation of sprinklers when plans for the warehouse were submitted for building regulation consultation in 2001, but the developers were under no obligation to install them.

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service is joining with fire and rescue services across the UK to support Sprinkler Week, which starts today. 

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.

In the home: Sprinklers will protect lives and property, particularly if there are people in the home who are elderly or have mobility issues. Your chances of surviving a fire in the home if you have sprinklers fitted are increased by more than 90 per cent. It’s like having a firefighter in every room 24/7.

In high-rise buildings: After the tragedy of last year's Grenfell Tower fire, many tower block owners and operators have decided to fit sprinklers. The National Fire Chiefs Council and Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service wholeheartedly support these initiatives. Sprinklers in tower blocks will protect the occupants and also firefighters.

Businesses: Many do not recover after a major fire, and this has a knock-on impact on the people who work for it, customers and suppliers.

Education providers: The National Fire Chiefs Council is calling on the Government to make it mandatory to fit sprinklers in all new schools. Not only can fire damage facilities and equipment, but it can also disrupt classes, destroy important coursework and have a negative effect on the wider community.

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.

"We believe that more could and should be done to protect businesses and education providers against the devastating effects of fire. Sprinklers are easier and cheaper to fit than many people think, representing between one and two per cent of the cost of a new build. They save lives and jobs and reduce repair costs. In the absence of legislation, it is our responsibility to prove the case for them."

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 14 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.

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service can provide match funding for those interested in fitting sprinkler systems to protect vulnerable people. It also has a small stock of portable systems that can be used to protect people with mobility issues who may be at risk of a fire in their main living or sleeping area. Contact info@bucksfire.gov.uk for details.

The National Fire Chiefs Council has issued a detailed statement calling for a greater inclusion of sprinklers in the built environment in the UK. You can read it in full here.