17th Aug 2023
Growing Calls to Mandate Fire Sprinklers in More UK Buildings
In light of recent tragic fire incidents that have claimed lives and wrought havoc in communities, a mounting collective voice is urging for alterations in building safety regulations. Fire safety experts, policymakers, and community leaders are rallying behind the demand to enforce the installation of fire sprinklers more widely in residential buildings.
In November 2020 new amendments in Approved Document B Fire Safety Volume 1 Dwellings included making fire sprinklers a requirement in blocks of flats with their top storey more than 11m above ground level in England. Wales already requires sprinklers in all new housing. Scotland introduce requirements to fit sprinklers in all new apartments and all new social housing in January 2021. In Northern Ireland Stormont made proposals in July 2023 that all new apartment buildings in Northern Ireland above 11m tall could require sprinkler systems.
The Vital Role of Fire Sprinklers in Fire Hazard Mitigation
Though not a novel concept, the potential of fire sprinklers to save lives and minimise fire damage is now more apparent than ever. When a fire ignites, these discreet devices automatically respond, discharging water directly onto the flames and stifling the fire. This preemptive action affords occupants valuable time to evacuate and provides first responders with a more secure environment in which to operate.
In May South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue wrote:
The fire service is calling for the widespread adoption of sprinklers by businesses, schools and care homes, as it marks a national awareness week.
South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has tackled 1,065 fires in non-domestic properties over the last three years. The most serious of these incidents can take fire engines several hours to tackle, as well as potentially putting the company involved out of business.
But business fire safety officers say fire sprinklers are the most effective way to suppress or even extinguish a fire before the fire service arrive.
Sprinklers save lives and reduce injuries, protect firefighters who attend incidents and reduce the amount of damage to both property and the environment from fire.
In August in an article in PCB Today Ali Perry, chief executive of the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA), says
It’s high time for change in high-rise and fire safety sprinkler policy.
Advocates Emphasise Preventative Measures Over Reactive Responses
Champions of mandatory fire sprinkler installations assert that a preventative approach to fire safety is more efficacious than relying solely on reactive measures. While smoke alarms and fire extinguishers remain pivotal components of building safety, fire sprinklers offer an unparalleled degree of protection by tackling fires at their inception and managing them before they spiral into life-threatening conflagrations.
Numerous instances of fire sprinkler systems averting calamities underscore their life-preserving potential. Recent events in which fire sprinklers thwarted disasters have reignited discussions concerning their widespread adoption. Some critics voice concerns over potential costs linked to retrofitting older buildings or installing fire sprinklers in new construction projects. Nonetheless, proponents argue that the long-term gains, in reduced fire-related devastation, far outweigh the initial investment.
Crafting the Landscape of Future Fire Safety
The drive to mandate fire sprinklers in more UK Buildings is gathering momentum as communities and leaders grapple with the stark repercussions of inadequate fire safety measures. Calling for a more comprehensive reassessment of building codes and regulations to prioritise proactive fire prevention, safeguarding lives, property, and the well-being of entire communities throughout the UK. The surge to elevate fire sprinklers underscores society’s commitment to forestalling fire-related tragedies and cultivating safer environments for all. As more voices unite, it is hoped that this will engender reforms that enhance the protection of UK communities for generations to come.