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.

 

The issue, however, is not just in residential buildings. Fires in Industrial and Commercial premises can have a serious impact on both the national and local economy. There are also significant risks of job losses from such fires which subsequently causes social and economic impacts on the community, as well as environmental damage. Furthermore, fires in schools are an increasing problem causing many millions of pounds worth of damage. Installation of sprinklers into school premises will reduce the massive cost to society and ensure less disruption to students following fires.

One of the biggest barriers to mass sprinkler adoption today is the many myths believed by the public. Some people worry that the water damage caused by a sprinkler system can be as damaging as the fire itself. However, a residential sprinkler system is designed to use just enough water to control the fire. Typically, one sprinkler head discharges 38-40 litres of water a minute compared to a firefighter's hose at 1000 litres a minute. This minimises water damage and a room protected by sprinklers can often be back in use within a couple of hours.

You can expect a fire sprinkler to discharge less than 5% of the water used by the fire service. Statistics show that widespread use of sprinklers could save up to 96% of the 5.6 billion litres of water used annually in the UK to fight large fires. This is equivalent to three months’ supply of water for the entire population of a city the size of Leeds.

Another huge barrier to businesses and house builders installing sprinklers is their perceived costs. Contrary to popular opinion they only cost around £1/sq. ft in new homes which comes to approximately £1500 for a three-bedroom house; typically how much is spent on the carpets.

Sprinklers can also save on building costs because, under the UK Building Regulations larger compartment sizes, reduced boundary’s and extended distances to fire exists are permitted. Insurance companies may also offer large discounts for buildings that are protected by sprinklers.

Retrofitting sprinkler systems can be fitted into existing buildings. One company installed sprinklers into a major London Hotel whilst the hotel was over 95% occupied, proving that disruption can be minimal.

It is obviously key then, that we continue to push for fire sprinklers to be installed not only in residential buildings but also in commercial and governmental buildings as well. Additionally, this is a manageable goal that could be achieved and potentially save innumerable lives.

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