Ronnie King on sprinklers
Ronnie King is Honorary Administrative Secretary for the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety & Rescue Group (APPFSRG). He has long been a strong advocate of the benefits of automatic fire suppression as a means of saving lives, (including firefighters’ lives), and reducing damage to property from fire. He is a former Vice Chairman of the National Fire Sprinkler Network (NFSN), and a member of the Fire Sector Federation’s Executive Committee. Prior to this, Ronnie served for 41 years in the Fire & Rescue Service in West Yorkshire, London, Scotland, Wales and HM Fire Service Inspectorate, twenty years of which was as a Chief Fire Officer in Mid & West Wales. He has devoted a lifetime to Fire Safety and Rescue
Sprinklers are the most effective way to ensure that fires are suppressed or even extinguished before the fire service can arrive. They save lives and reduce injuries, protect firefighters who attend incidents and reduce the amount of damage to both property and the environment from fire.
A single fire death in a building fitted with a fully sprinklered working system, designed to the appropriate standard, is an extremely rare occurrence. A multiple death is almost unheard of anywhere in the world. (However this is not to say that there won’t be particular circumstances which prevent a sprinkler from operating and controlling the fire on every occasion. Fortunately it remains extremely rare for it to happen, and a life to be lost as well).
In the last 12 months, the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and the National Fire Sprinkler Network (NFSN) have worked together to investigate the effectiveness and reliability of sprinkler systems. The evidence produced indicates that sprinkler systems operate on 94% of occasions demonstrating very high reliability. Furthermore, it is evident that when they do operate they extinguish or contain the fire on 99% of occasions and are thus very effective. The research also found that in both converted and purpose built flats that sprinklers are 100% effective in controlling fires.
The National Fire Chiefs Council recognises that sprinklers are an effective part of an overall fire safety solution and can be used efficiently to improve fire safety in a range of new and existing buildings. The NFCC supports the concept of risk assessed retro fitting of sprinklers in existing buildings and would also welcome the prioritisation of a review of the Building Regulations (Approved Document B) to ensure fire safety requirements keep pace with new building developments. The NFCC supports the mandatory installation of sprinkler systems in certain types of higher risk buildings such as nursing homes, and single staircase high rise buildings as two examples.
The NFCC supported by the NFSN are focused on developing understanding and acceptance to promote the wider use of sprinklers. Together they will continue their efforts in the coming months to:
Educate the public and building owners to dispel the myths and understand the benefits of sprinklers.
Provide clear guidance on their consideration and implementation as part of a fire safety strategy.
Provide clear guidance within the service on their ongoing maintenance and operational considerations.
Current Position on topical issues.
In regard to the review of ADB (Approved Document B to the Building Regulations):
The NFCC supports the urgent review of ADB and recommends that the thresholds that set the requirements for sprinkler systems should be refreshed to mirror the Scottish standards for new buildings. In addition the NFCC recommends specific additional requirements in respect of existing high rise residential buildings are incorporated into the new ADB.
The NFCC recommends premises designed for the care of vulnerable persons such as care homes, supported living, houses in multiple occupation, etc, and should be fitted with a suitable sprinkler system.
In regard to high rise buildings:
The National Fire Chiefs Council recommends that the review of ADB specifies that sprinklers are a requirement in all new high rise residential structures above 18m (or as defined in any revised Approved Document B). Student accommodation should be included in this category of building.
In respect of existing high rise residential buildings, NFCC recommends that where high rise residential buildings currently exceed 30m there should be a requirement to retro fit sprinklers when these buildings are scheduled to be refurbished. Furthermore, NFCC recommends that sprinklers should be retro fitted where high rise residential buildings over 30 metres are served by a single staircase.
The NFCC will support fire and rescue services who are receiving enquiries from, and providing support to local authoritiesand Housing / Residents Associations, which are committing to install sprinklers in their high-rise stock.
In regard to other building types:
The NFCC recommend that sprinklers continue to be fitted in new schools unless the risk is deemed exceptionally low in line with the original intention of BB1OO. To drive consistency NFCC recommend a standard approach is adopted to conducting the risk assessment; with the loophole closed whereby an alternative is sought to avoid installing sprinklers when a risk assessment deems them other than low risk.
The NFCC recommend that the review of ADB includes lowering the threshold for the requirement to fit sprinklers in large structures such as warehousing to 4,000 square metres. (The NFCC are supporting research to assess the ability of firefighters to safely perform rescues from large structures such as warehouses. Based on the early results of this research suggests 4000M2 )
The NFCC recommend that sprinklers are provided in new residential care premises and specialised housing.