“Compulsory sprinkler systems needed for warehouses” asserts Association of British Insurers

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) is calling for sprinklers to be made a legal requirement in all new warehouses over 2,000 m2 in area as average payouts for commercial fires break the £25,000 barrier for the first time.

Guidance from the Department for Communities and Local Government around fire sprinkler installations only recommends that warehouses in England and Wales should be provided with such a system if they’re larger than 20,000 m2 and it’s not compulsory. These limited regulatory requirements mean that only 20% of warehouses between 2,000 mand 10,000 m2 are fitted with fire sprinklers.*

James Dalton, the ABI’s director of general insurance policy, said: “This year marks the 350th commemoration of the Great Fire of London, but the approach to sprinklers remains stuck in the past. While the number of fires continues to fall, it’s alarming that the average cost is rising so sharply. As the Great Fire so strongly demonstrated, failure to prepare buildings to withstand fire can lead to large-scale destruction. The benefits of sprinklers are clear, and it’s now time to make them a compulsory part of every high-risk building, particularly warehouses.”

The recent fire episode at an industrial estate in Battersea, south London, which spread through eight single-story units, was an example of the disruption and expense warehouse fires can cause.

Sony warehouse fire

The rise in online shopping has led to larger distribution centres with more closely-packed goods, increasing the risk of fire spreading. When the Sony warehouse was destroyed by fire during the August 2011 riots, 3.2 million pieces of stock were ruined along with the building itself. More than £80 million was paid in insurance claims overall, yet the replacement building – opened the following year – remains without sprinklers.

Legislation is already in place in a number of European countries to require fire sprinklers to be installed in commercial and industrial properties which are significantly smaller than current Government guidelines. Examples are the Netherlands – 1,000 m2, Austria – 1,800 m2, Belgium – 5,000 mand France – 3,000 m2

The ABI’s figures show that the average commercial fire claim has risen 165% since 2004 to more than £25,000.

The ABI is also making the case for compulsory sprinkler installations in all new care homes and schools. For their part, the Scottish and Welsh Governments have already brought in new regulations on sprinklers for new and refurbished care homes.

*Figures issued by the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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