Does your school, college or university have a sprinkler system?
17th March 2015
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This is the second annual sprinkler campaign undertaken by Fire and Rescue services, and this year the focus is on raising awareness that fitting sprinklers can help educational establishments including universities, schools and colleges, by reducing the impact of a fire.

Lee Howell, Chief Fire Officer said: “Devon & Somerset fully support this campaign as sprinklers save lives, protect property, promote prosperity and contribute to the community health, safety and wellbeing. Sprinklers play a positive role in saving lives, reducing the economic and environmental cost of fire in any building they are installed in.”

Paul Bray, Community Safety Manager said: “We remind school leaders and councils the effect a fire would have on their property, education, teaching and social continuity and encourage sprinklers to be fitted in all new builds or following major refurbishments of schools.”

“If a fire were to occur in a building fitted with sprinklers, they would assist in extinguishing and containing the fire, keeping the damage to the building minimal. This allows for rapid re-occupation and use of the building, sometimes on the same day.”

Fire can damage not only the facilities and equipment of an education provider; it can disrupt classes, destroy important coursework and have a negative effect on the wider community. With almost a third of all fires in educational establishments started deliberately, and an average cost of £1,256,000 per fire, schools need to ensure that their essential resources are protected, and sprinklers can help to do this.

The Fire Service will continue to work tirelessly to debunk the myths associated with sprinklers, which unfortunately are reinforced by TV and movies, where all the sprinklers in a building are set off for dramatic effect.

Dispelling the myths about sprinklers

Myth: All our sprinklers will go off every time someone burns the toast, damaging my stock and buildings.

Truth: Each sprinkler head is set to operate individually, and it will only be triggered to spray water onto a fire when it reaches its predetermined operating temperature. The predetermined temperature varies, but it’s often around 68°c. That’s 11°c higher than the highest temperature ever recorded in Death Valley, California, and would be hot enough to fry an egg on the pavement.[1]

If a fire does start in your business, only the sprinklers in the immediate area of the fire will open – all the others remain closed. Don’t believe the Hollywood action films that show the hero flooding an entire building by holding a lighter to a single sprinkler, it just doesn’t happen in real life!

Myth: Sprinklers are unreliable aren’t they?

Truth: No, they are very reliable: accidental discharge due to manufacturing defects is 1 in 14million (per year of service).[2] They’ve been proven in use for well over 100 years, during which time they have a 99% success rate worldwide. There are sprinkler systems over 100 years old that are still in full working condition today.[3]

If you’re worried about water damage, it’s worth knowing that in a fire, firefighters often use 15 times more water from hoses to do the same job as a sprinkler does alone.[4]

Myth: Sprinklers are hugely expensive, I can’t afford them.

Truth: Actually, the costs of installing sprinklers works as roughly equivalent to carpeting the same building in new buildings. In UK business properties you can expect to pay in the region of £1.39–£1.85 per square foot to install fire sprinklers (for light to ordinary hazard).[5]

In contrast, damage from fires can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds – sometimes running into millions of pounds. For example, the average cost of an industrial fire is £1,500,000; for a department store it’s £3,000,000 per fire. Even smaller businesses may find the costs are higher than they think: the average cost of a fire in a hairdresser’s is £312,000 per fire, and for a single retail shop the average cost is £355,000 per fire.[6] Losses from fires in buildings protected with sprinklers, in comparison, are estimated to be one-tenth of those in unprotected buildings.[7]

Fitting sprinklers can save you money in some areas – insurers will often offer premium discounts to premises with sprinkler systems, and policy excesses may be lower.

Myth: Sprinklers are ugly and will spoil the look of my building

Truth: Modern sprinklers can be specially designed to meet your needs and are compact and elegant. The public will often be unaware that sprinklers are fitted, with miniature sprinklers (about the size of a 50p piece) available, which can be fitted with ceiling rosettes and painted to match your colour scheme. Concealed sprinklers are almost invisible – they’re recessed, flush with the ceiling, and covered by a flat plate (ideal for clean areas, areas with restricted headroom, or where vandalism is a potential problem).

In fact, including sprinklers in the specification for an unconventional or unusual building design can often offer design freedoms while still achieving Building Regulations compliance cost-effectively. Sprinklers may also mean that you can reduce the amount of visible, portable fire-fighting equipment that you need to have.

Myth: I’ve got all my fire protection in place, it’ll never happen to me…

Truth: Of the 14,600 accidental fires in dwellings and other buildings in 2012/13, 5,700 were caused by electrical distribution and other electrical appliances[8]. And, while you think you might not be a target for arson, there were 9,910 fires started deliberately in 2012/13, with over 3,063 of these in premises including industrial and retail buildings and schools[9].

Myth: Sprinklers only use water – my business has specialist requirements that mean water can’t be used on a fire.

Truth: Sprinklers can now be foam enhanced, to control flammable liquid, chemical and petroleum fires.

Fire Sprinkler Week 2015 is being coordinated by the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA). CFOA is campaigning for a legal requirement to fit sprinklers in higher risk premises, such as care homes, schools and other buildings. Laws in England are lagging behind those currently in force in Scotland and Wales, which require sprinklers to be installed in a range of higher-risk buildings.


About the Author

Dave B

Member since: 10th July 2012

Hi, I am Dave, I run thebestof Exeter along with my colleagues. If you want to promote your business or event, get in touch with us on 01392 349 130.

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