The London Fire Brigade has made numerous warnings about the importance of fitting sprinklers in property developments, but it seems that its advice is still being ignored. An audit of purpose-built flats refurbished in 2016 found that only two out of 15 blocks had sprinkler systems fitted.
London Fire Brigade commissioner Dany Cotton said: “To ignore Brigade fire safety advice is reckless. The Government needs to act now to stop that happening. Our spot-check shows that the building industry cannot self-regulate on sprinklers and so the Government must step in. Although we are telling developers that sprinklers will save lives, in most cases we cannot force developers to fit them and it’s very difficult to follow up on whether our life saving advice was incorporated into the build.”
The London Fire Brigade is calling for a change in the law to ensure that sprinklers are a core part of fire safety measures, not only in new builds but in older buildings as well. It’s the Brigade’s recommendation that sprinklers must be fitted in all-purpose built blocks of flats and all homes and buildings housing vulnerable residents.
Cotton added: “Developers should be required to include sprinklers in more buildings. Sprinklers are not a luxury. They save lives.”
Simon Rooks, operations director at Johnson Controls and council member of the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association informed Risk Xtra: “The London Fire Brigade’s call for mandatory sprinklers in new high-rise buildings, irrespective of height, is yet another plea for action on fire safety. Industry bodies, building owners and occupiers have been calling for vast improvements to fire safety regulations ever since the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Fitting sprinkler systems in old and new buildings needs to be a priority. Sprinklers are not simply an add-on. They’re a life-saving essential.”
Rooks continued: “Regulations already exist to ensure that sprinklers are installed in new tower blocks taller than 30 metres, but ensuring that sprinklers are installed shouldn’t be dependent on building height or whether a building is old or new. We urgently need a solution that ensures sprinkler systems become an integral component in fire safety systems across the country, both in residential and commercial properties.”
In conclusion, Rooks stated: “The Government should offer clear guidance and financial support to local councils and building owners. Retrofitting sprinklers in existing high-rises, or incorporating sprinklers into the design stage of new-builds, is cost-effective, practical and urgently needed. Building managers and specifiers need to find the right supplier now to ensure the safety of their residents. Legislators need to take action today to save lives.”