More feedback from sprinkler debate

21 March 2019

The British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA) and Business Sprinkler Alliance (BSA) noted that the debate ‘confirms the need to legislate for sprinklers to protect communities’.

Earlier this month, the debate was held in Westminster Hall, and saw the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) all back changes to laws to see more sprinklers fitted or retrofitted. BAFSA and the BSA noted that the debate had ‘confirmed’, via a ‘wealth of experts’, that sprinklers ‘work and make complete sense as an important layer of safety’.
 
Both organisations asked however ‘why are we not making use of them? Is now not the time to finally act on this?’, with the debate itself requested by MPs Sir David Amess and Jim Fitzpatrick, the latter being the chairman and secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group in government.
 
The debate was said to have made it ‘abundantly clear that sprinklers should be part of overall fire safety solutions in both new and existing buildings’, with a ‘unified voice’ across members in the chamber. Both organisations noted that they ‘wholeheartedly agree’ with those experts, including those from the NFCC, RIBA, RICS and CIOB as well as from the Building Research Establishment and London’s borough councils, to ‘act and legislate now’.
 
Those attending emphasised the ‘need to listen to the experts and not the myths’, with fire and rescue services tackling fires ‘across the country every day’, meaning that they ‘understand the challenges of those fires and the need to control them quickly to avoid loss of life and damage to property’, not to mention the ‘danger they are exposed to when firefighting’.
 
Evidence shows that sprinkler systems have an ‘operational reliability’ of 94%, and in these cases ‘extinguished or contained the fire on 99% of occasions across a wide range of building types’, while there are ‘no cases on record of multiple fire deaths occurring in buildings with appropriately designed, and properly installed and maintained, sprinkler systems’.
 
Mr Fitzpatrick added that the Association of British Insurers had stated ‘that in the UK no one has ever died from a fire in a fully sprinklered building’, while Sir David added: ‘Wales and Scotland are much further ahead in regulating for automatic fire sprinklers in their built environment. This nonsense can no longer go on and we will not accept it. We want action on this, and we want sprinklers to be installed retrospectively, particularly in new school buildings.’
 
Both organisations concluded by noting that the nation ‘will benefit if more are fitted because sprinklers save lives, save businesses, save jobs and protect the environment. If we act now, we can make a difference’.
 
The BSA’s secretary, Tom Roche, added that the debate ‘once again highlighted the consensus of opinion amongst a wealth of experts - sprinklers protect life, protect buildings and keep firefighters safer’. He stated that the NFCC ‘makes it abundantly clear that building standards in England must be enhanced and brought in line with national policy in Scotland and Wales.
 
‘Sprinklers are essential for building safety and public safety, and should be installed on a mandatory basis to appropriate buildings, not just high rise residential. The evidence also shows that no lives have been lost in the UK due to fire in homes fitted with working domestic sprinkler systems. Furthermore, mistaken perceptions about cost can be dispelled. Sprinklers are not expensive – as little as 1% of the total build if they are included at design stage – and there is overwhelming public support for their use’.
 
He added that the debate ‘only served to highlight that we have been kicking the can down the road for far too long and with devastating consequences. Clearly we need to pick the can up and act. There is a strong body of evidence that tells us that fire sprinklers are an important layer of safety. They are not being utilised, through ignorance or misunderstanding. We should be seriously considering a much wider deployment of sprinklers, using them right across the built environment whether it is a hospital, school, retail or leisure facility or commercial and industrial building’.
More feedback from sprinkler debate