13th Jun 2024

NFCC Urges Government to Strengthen Regulations for Mandatory Sprinklers in England

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has published a position statement today, urging the Government to introduce more robust regulations for mandating fire sprinklers and other automatic water suppression systems (AWSS) in England.

Sprinklers in Schools and Care Homes

The NFCC is calling on the Government to require that sprinklers be installed in all new care homes, schools, and student accommodation, irrespective of building height. Additionally, the position paper recommends that existing schools, student accommodation, and care homes undergoing refurbishment should also be retrofitted with sprinklers.

The NFCC also urges the Government to mandate the retrofitting of sprinklers in all existing residential buildings over 11 meters based on a risk-assessed basis. Previously, the Council had recommended retrofitting sprinklers in all high-rise residential buildings over 18 meters (or at least seven stories) with only a single staircase.

Comparative Requirements in the UK

The statement highlights the disparity in fire safety regulations within the UK. In Scotland, sprinklers are required in all blocks of flats, care homes, social housing, and schools. Wales mandates sprinklers in all new single dwellings, care homes, student halls of residence, boarding houses, and certain hostels.

Crucial Additional Time

Recent high-profile fires, such as Beechmere Extra Care Village (2019) and Newgrange Care Home (2017), underscore the necessity of these measures. The NFCC emphasises that current evacuation strategies depend on staff having sufficient time to evacuate residents before escape routes are compromised by smoke. If these routes are compromised, the risk to staff and residents increases significantly.

The NFCC’s position statement also focuses on schools. In both Scotland and Wales, sprinklers are mandatory in all schools, regardless of height. Jonathan Dyson, NFCC Lead for Sprinklers and AWSS, stated: “Sprinklers have been used for over a century and are consistently reliable at saving lives and reducing injuries. Analysis shows they’re 99% effective in extinguishing or controlling a fire. Sprinklers can buy crucial additional time for firefighting and can also protect property, reduce repair costs, and minimize the environmental impacts of fire.”

Dyson added, “NFCC welcomed the lower height threshold for sprinkler installation in new residential buildings to 11 meters, but we remain concerned that there’s still no requirement to retrofit existing residential buildings with sprinklers. We’ve consistently urged the Government to make it a requirement to retrofit all existing residential buildings over 11 meters on a risk-assessed basis.”

Serious Concerns for Care Homes

NFCC Chair, Mark Hardingham expressed serious concerns about fire safety in care homes. He stated, “Thankfully, deaths and injuries in school fires are rare. However, it’s important that we protect schools as they are vital community assets. School fires can be devastating, and the use of sprinklers is proven to not only minimize the disruption to a pupil’s education but also the impact on their family and the community.”

“NFCC have consistently called for sprinklers to be mandated in all new and refurbished school buildings in England, which would provide the same level of protection as schools in the rest of the UK. We also have serious concerns about fire safety in care homes. Sprinklers are critical to protecting vulnerable residents as well as employees. Installing sprinklers in care homes would reduce the likelihood of a fire spreading beyond the room in which it originated. This buys time for evacuation and firefighting and can reduce the need for vulnerable residents to be moved.”

We welcomed the Government’s proposal requiring sprinklers be installed in all new care homes regardless of height. However, it must go further to include existing care homes undergoing refurbishment.”

The NFCC’s call for action underscores the critical need for updated and comprehensive fire safety regulations in England, aiming to protect the most vulnerable and ensure safety across educational and residential facilities.

Furthermore it has been found that sprinklers are 99% effective at controlling a fire. (BAFSA) For all your fire sprinkler needs get in touch with our experts today,

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