Two years on from Grenfell fire

Two years on from the tragedy of Grenfell where 72 people died, the law still states that in England only new residential properties above 30 m in height must be fitted with sprinklers. In commercial buildings such as warehouses, only those over 20,000 sqm must have sprinklers. Last year 334 people died as a result of fires and over 80% of these are from single occupancy dwellings such as houses, flats and maisonettes. Is it not time to change the law and fit all new residential properties with sprinklers?

The Grenfell fire was similar to one that broke out in Dubai in 2016 - the difference is that "the building [in Dubai] had sprinklers and nobody was killed", according to Alan Brinson of the European Fire Sprinkler Network. The need for change is apparent which is why Scotland and Wales have both updated their laws regarding fire safety and sprinklers. In Wales, sprinklers have had to be fitted in all new residential properties since 2016 and in Scotland they have to be fitted in buildings of six storeys or more.

Furthermore, the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has frequently called for changes to sprinkler regulations, notably during their campaign week in May 2019. Their research showed that sprinkler systems are highly effective when they operate; extinguishing or containing the fire on 99% of occasions. This research also demonstrated that in both converted and purpose-built flats, sprinklers are 100% effective in controlling fires when they function correctly.

The case for new sprinkler legislation, particularly in England & Wales is undoubtedly strong. In almost any other industry, regulations would have already been updated and perhaps the time has finally come. On the 6th of September, the government has proposed plans that all new housing blocks of 6 stories or more would require sprinklers. Moreover, a ‘protection board’ is being set up to identify new risks with the Home Office and National Fire Chiefs Association; £10m a year is being earmarked to support the board.

Sprinkler System Saves Potential Grenfell 2.0

On the 8th June 2019 a fire in Eunice Kelly’s flat in Greater Manchester was contained before it could spread to the other 57 homes in her block. The building is run by For­Housing group which spent £5million on sprinklers in its 17 tower blocks after Grenfell. Assets director Mark Lowe said: “This single situation has made the investment worthwhile.” This is yet another example of countless numbers of lives being saved by the simple installation of a sprinkler system.

Another example of such success comes from the 6th of January 2019. A fire which started just after midnight on 6 January in the kitchen of a flat on the 11th floor of Tamar House was contained and fully extinguished by the retrospectively installed sprinkler system. Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service promotes the installation of sprinklers in high rise and many other types of residential premises as there is clear evidence that sprinklers can rapidly control the spread of fires.

Sprinklers would have Contained Liverpool Arena Blaze

car park fire liverpool arenaA car park at Kings Dock, close to the Echo Arena in Liverpool, went up in flames on New Year’s Eve. The final event of the Liverpool International Horse Show had to be cancelled as fire crews tackled the inferno and people were evacuated from the area. Witnesses described abandoning their vehicles and running for their lives as the fire broke out.

Fire investigators believe the blaze started at 4.30pm on Sunday when the engine of an old Land Rover accidentally ignited. The fire spread rapidly through the seven-storey car park, destroying 1,600 vehicles and seriously damaging the building. It’s currently unknown whether the building will have to be demolished.

Luckily no people or animals were seriously injured in the blaze. Six dogs were rescued from cars. Two people were treated for smoke inhalation and one woman injured her hand whilst trying to escape. Local people offered lifts and accommodation to those left stranded.



Grenfell Tower fire disaster, could fire sprinkler help

Grenfell Tower fire disaster can fire sprinkler help?It was devastating watching the news coverage of the Grenfell fire disaster on 14th June 2017 and to hear that so many have lost their lives in this devastating fire and our deepest sympathies go to the victims and families of this tragedy.  Undoubtedly a public enquiry is required help us find and understand the failings in the fire safety precautions for this building and to learn for the future.  I suspect before this enquiry can start the criminal investigation and a coroner’s hearing will have to be completed or at least before it can report and given the complexity, this could be considerable time away.  Time which we do not have, we need to ensure the safety of others who live in high-rise accommodation, action needs to be taken now.

Grenfell Tower was a high-rise building which stood 67.3 m (220ft) with 24 floors, 120 flats and if it had been constructed under the current building regulations would have had a fire sprinkler system installed to BS 9251, which if it been retrofitted (at an estimated cost of £200,000) into the tower would have controlled or extinguished the fire saving many lives.  We are still hearing many negative comments regarding fire sprinkler systems and they use in such buildings despite the wealth of evidence to the contrary.

Hydraulic calculations and the slide rule

hydraulic calculations silde ruleBefore the scientific calculators and computers, we still produced hydraulic calculations for High Hazard sprinkler systems but this was a long-winded and time-consuming process and prone to error. I say High Hazard sprinkler systems as these were the only systems you would consider producing hydraulic calculations for as the production of the calculations by hand took so long that we were content in using pre-calculated pipe table for Light hazard and Ordinary hazard sprinkler systems and no one had ever thought of installing sprinklers into a house or care facility.

Even with a scientific calculator you still have a lot of buttons which need to be press to solve the Hayes William pressure loss formula, after all, each time we need to enter the pipe diameter, the flow rate and the C factor of the pipe. Of course, we can simplify the Hayes and William pressure loss formula for any pipe by producing a k-factor for each pipe size and pipe type, this certainly simplifies the input when using a calculate but we then need to look it up in a table so it is still quite laborious. If this was not enough we have not even considered the K-Factor formula for working out the flow through the sprinkler head or balancing the junction points at each tee or cross which needed yet another adjustment calculation. As an aside who thought it was a good idea to have “K” and “k” as two different formulas in fire sprinkler calculations, did someone not think that this may be confusing!

Fortunately, we had an answer the hydraulic calculator slide rule and no self-respecting sprinkler engineer would be without one. I seem to remember there were not that easy to get hold of. Some of the larger sprinkler companies produce their own such as Matter and Platt and others like the one shown was produced by an insurance company for their own fire sprinkler inspection engineers.

Fire Sprinkler to Philosophy in 23 steps

Philosophy to fire sprinklersHow can you get from fire sprinklers to philosophy well apparently you can in 23 steps, all you need to do is to type fire sprinklers into Wikipedia and then click on the first link which appears in each article and continue doing this until you get to philosophy. 

FHC Training at Yarnfield

Yarnfield park webI was delighted to meet 11 students this week on our last FHC training course at Yarnfield Park. I am always delighted to be able to show old hands who have been using our software for many years to new tricks and shortcuts which they have not tried or discovered. On the other hand we had a number of students just started using to use the FHC software and hopefully, we have a equipped them with skills which they will need to complete their own projects. 




EN 12845 : 2015 Automatic Sprinkler Systems

or to give it its full title EN 12845:2015 Fixed firefighting systems - Automatic sprinkler systems -  Design, installation and maintenance  

EN 12845 automatic sprinkler systems

We have just received our copy of EN 12845 I'm sure in the coming months we will write some observations. The revised standard is an extremely long document with over 200 pages but something which is worth noting is that it states that this standard suppresses EN 12845:2004:A2:2009 which will be withdrawn on 31 December, 2015, so we don't have long to get used just its contents.

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