Fires Prevented By Fire Sprinklers
Fire sprinklers are important
We have been hearing more and more reports of fires in the UK that have either been stopped in their tracks before having a chance to escalate devouring property, and business assets and causing risk to human life.
Most of these fires have been at commercial or business properties, where there are a lot of electrical systems are in place which does increase the chance for electrical shorts or faults, the sprinklers provide protection at any time of day and night whether or not the building is occupied.
For over a century, sprinkler installations have been successfully safeguarding commercial buildings. They are a combined fire detection and extinguishing system. They provide continuous protection throughout the day and night, irrespective of whether or not the premises are occupied.
And it’s not just the commercial world where sprinklers can have an impact. Nationally, fires in schools are an increasing problem causing many millions of pounds worth of damage. The installation of sprinklers into school premises will reduce the massive cost to society, ensure less disruption to students following fires and offer better protection to students should a fire break out.
Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue Service are looking at the types of buildings where fire sprinklers are usually installed and have written the following to dispel any myths surrounding the use and installation of fire sprinklers.
Myth 1: When there is a fire all the sprinkler heads go off at once.
Wrong. Each head is independent and only the head(s) adjacent to the fire go off.
Myth 2: Water damage is as bad as fire damage.
Wrong. A typical sprinkler discharges 55 litres per minute. A firefighting hose discharges over 600 litres per minute. You can expect a sprinkler to discharge less than five per cent of the water used by the fire service.
Myth 3: Sprinklers can go off accidentally.
Wrong. Records show that the chance of an accidental discharge from a sprinkler is in the region of 16 million to one.
Myth 4: Sprinkler Systems are expensive.
Wrong. It is estimated that the costs of a sprinkler system can be recovered over a period of about 10 years. This is achieved through reduced insurance premiums and in larger organisations through less disruption to business continuity when a fire occurs. Installed in a new building, a sprinkler system should not cost more than one to two per cent of the total build cost.
It is interesting that for a business, the cost of installing a fire sprinkler system can be recovered through insurance premiums over a period of 10 years, we are not sure that is the case with domestic properties.
Here is some more interesting reading from Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service talking about the benefits relating to different building-types.
Hundreds of schools in the UK have a fire each year. The impact of these fires is significant, not just in financial terms, but also in terms of the devastating effect on the communities they serve and the disruption to students, teachers and families. The effects on children’s education are not confined to lost course work but often include longer travelling times, disrupted social groups and poorer facilities. If sprinklers were considered at the design stage of building a new school or the refurbishment of existing buildings, the costs can be kept to a minimum (as low as one per cent of build costs).
- Domestic premises
Fires in the home still account for the greatest number of fire deaths and injuries each year. While it would be ideal for all domestic premises to have sprinklers, it is recognised that this is not practical or realistic. We advocate the fitting of sprinklers in the homes of people most at risk from fire – younger people, older people, people with mental health problems and those who have mobility problems. We work in partnership with developers, local authorities and social housing landlords to encourage the installation of sprinklers in the homes of the most vulnerable people.
- Commercial premises
There is a compelling case to be made for sprinklers in any commercial premises on the basis of loss of production or interruption to business as this is a real impediment to business continuity and productivity. It is a recognised fact that 85 per cent of small and medium businesses that suffer a serious fire either never recover or cease trading within 18 months. The installation of sprinklers in these types of premises could prevent this. Losses due to fire would reduce and fewer businesses would be forced to relocate.
Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service reported on the 21st June 2013 a potentially devastating fire at Fenton business that was avoided with fire sprinklers having been installed. The fire broke out due to an electrical fault next to one of their diesel engines and was put out by the main sprinkler.
Operational Assurance Manager Brian Griffiths said: “This incident demonstrates just how vital sprinkler systems are in minimising the impact that a fire can have on a business. By the time crews arrived at the scene, the fire had been almost completely extinguished and hadn’t had the opportunity to seriously damage the outbuilding or spread to other parts of the site.“It is a recognised fact that 85 per cent of small and medium sized businesses that suffer a serious fire either never recover or cease trading within 18 months. The installation of sprinklers in these types of premises could prevent this. Losses due to fire would reduce and fewer businesses would be forced to relocate.
“They are also an incredibly important safety feature and help to save lives, both in business premises and homes.”
Just a few days previous on the 19th of June another disaster was averted this time at a recycling centre in Stockport, fire fighters from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service helped to finish the job of putting out the fire within the waste but if it hadn’t have been for the sprinkler system helping to contain the fire, it could have spread and been alight for days.
Read More: https://www.fire-magazine.com/sprinklers-save-day-in-stockport-fire
Also this June, a fire started in a printer press unit used for food packaging at the Interflex Group’s factory during the day. The sprinklers were activated manually and the fire alarm notified Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service while 50 staff were safely evacuated from the building.
The sprinkler suppression system positioned over a printer press released a fog mist over the press which reduced it’s size and stopped the fire from spreading to nearby materials and equipment.
The business was able to return to work speedily, with staff back at work within a couple of hours of the fire.
Fire at factory saved by sprinklers: https://www.twfire.gov.uk/news/news-item-1/?entryid67=68451
For information on how businesses can stay safe from fire, and on sprinkler systems, visit https://www.twfire.gov.uk/business-safety/
With all this success with fire sprinklers fitted at commercial properties this begs the question, why aren’t all homes or domestic properties fitted with fire sprinklers? One could argue the cost but you can’t put a cost on life. It is an extremely rare occurrence for a single death in a building fitted with fire sprinklers, in fact There have been NO deaths from fire in a building fully protected by sprinklers in the UK.
“Think Sprinkler” has also been lobbying for a change in the law to make sprinklers compulsory in new houses.
At the moment high rise blocks and large commercial buildings are legally required to have sprinklers fitted.
Most public buildings have them fitted but domestic dwellings generally do not have them, although they have been compulsory in new build houses in Wales since April 2011.
Ronnie King, former fire chief of Mid and West Wales, is campaigning for all UK homes to be fitted with them.
Read More: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22271677
Sprinklers have been successfully used for the protection of property such as factories, department stores and shopping centres for well over 130 years and there is now a growing appreciation of their potential to save lives in domestic properties where the majority of deaths from fire occur.
Sprinklers are ideal for protecting homes for the following reasons: https://www.derbys-fire.gov.uk/safety
Over 60% of fire casualties are physically or mentally disadvantaged, which prevents or slows their escape from a fire. Sprinklers will at the very least control the fire and will raise the alarm, greatly extending the time available for escape or rescue.
- Saves Lives
Every day two people die and fifty are injured in fires in the UK. 75% of all fire casualties occur at home, where you are three times more at risk than anywhere else. Your chance of experiencing a major fire in your lifetime is just one in five.
- Cost Effective
Sprinklers are NOT expensive; normally costing around 1% or 2% of the cost of construction of a new building. The use of sprinklers will usually allow design freedoms as well, which can reduce construction costs and improve usability of the building.
Read More: https://www.derbys-fire.gov.uk/safety
The reasons for installing a domestic fire sprinkler system is certainly compelling.