NEWS Sprinkler debate sees industries call for change

A DEBATE was held on sprinklers and fire safety at Westminster Hall in March, with sprinkler associations, building industry bodies and the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) calling for legislative changes. The debate was led by MP Jim

Fitzpatrick, chairman and secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group in government, and had been requested by Mr Fitzpatrick and Sir David Amess. 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’, so 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 ‘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 said: ‘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.’


The British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA) and Business Sprinkler Association (BSA) noted that the debate ‘confirms the need to legislate for sprinklers to protect communities’. Both noted that it had ‘confirmed’, via a ‘wealth of experts’, that sprinklers ‘work and make

10 MAY 2019

complete sense as an important layer of safety’. The two organisations asked, however: ‘Why are we not making use of them? Is now not the time to finally act on this?’, the debate having made it ‘abundantly clear that sprinklers should be part of overall fire safety solutions in both new and existing buildings’ with a ‘unified voice’. Both ‘wholeheartedly agree’ with

the view shared by the NFCC, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), as well as the Building Research Establishment and London’s borough councils, to ‘act and legislate now’. They concluded 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’. BSA 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’. It was ‘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 in 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’. 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’.

Further feedback

The NFCC agreed that England ‘is lagging behind Scotland and Wales’, and called for a change in legislation. The country needs to ‘come into line’ with Scotland and Wales’ reductions in height restrictions for installations, and requirements for mandatory

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