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Think Sprinkler - keeping people and buildings safer from fire

18 May 2020

Humberside Fire and Rescue Service is supporting the National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) National Sprinkler Week campaign.

sprinkler set off on ceiling

The campaign will run from Monday 18 to 24 May and will raise awareness of the benefits of sprinkler systems in keeping people and buildings safer from fire as we encourage people to #ThinkSprinkler.

Fire sprinklers are widely recognised as the single most effective method for fighting the spread of fires in their early stages. Research by the NFCC and the National Fire Sprinkler Network (NFSN) found that sprinkler systems operate on 94% of occasions so are very reliable and when they do operate they extinguish or contain the fire on 99% of occasions.

The result is sprinklers reduce injuries by at least 80%, reduce property damage by 90% and substantially reduce damage to the environment from fire. This also means that sprinkler systems help to protect the lives of firefighters and that is why they are fully supported by fire services.

Despite this there is some disparity in building regulations and sprinkler systems across the UK. Sprinkler laws in Wales and Scotland are stricter meaning their communities have more fire protection than those of England and Northern Ireland.

fire officers holding up sprinkler headsChief Fire Officer of Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service, Gavin Tomlinson and NFCC lead for Sprinklers, said:

“The evidence speaks for itself, our research proves that sprinklers are very effective and provide strong fire safety protections as part of a fire safety package. Wales and Scotland recognise this and have implemented measures to make their communities safer from fire; we want to see these same changes in England and Northern Ireland as matter of urgency. Fire does not discriminate and is just as dangerous in England and Northern Ireland as it is in the rest of the UK.”

Sprinklers are also known as Automatic Water Suppression Systems (AWSS) which automatically apply water to a developing fire to control or contain the fire, other examples include water misting systems and fog systems. Sprinklers systems are activated by intense heat caused by fire. Only the sprinkler head closest to the fire will be activated and it attacks the fire quickly and directly so less water is needed. As they also operate the fire alarm, the flow can be quickly turned off when the fire is out.

Sprinklers use typically 60 litres/min of water to control the fire. This is between 1/25th and 1/100th of the water used by each fire service hose - so in the event of a fire water damage is minimised. In fact, sprinklers use even less water than this because they tackle the fire immediately, when it is still small. Smaller fires need much less water to control them which means much water is conserved and less water damage to buildings.

Sprinklers are the most effective way to ensure that fires are suppressed or even extinguished before the fire service can arrive

More on sprinklers

• They save lives and reduce injuries, protect firefighters who attend incidents and reduce the amount of damage to both property and the environment from fire
• NFCC and the National Fire Sprinkler Network (NFSN) have worked together to investigate the effectiveness and reliability of sprinkler systems
• Evidence produced indicates that sprinkler systems operate on 94% of occasions demonstrating very high reliability. Furthermore, it is evident that when they do operate they extinguish or contain the fire on 99% of occasions and are thus very effective
• The research also found that in both converted and purpose built flats that sprinklers are 100% effective in controlling fires.
• The average area of fire damage in a non-residential building where a sprinkler system was present was 30 m². This is half the average damage area when there are no sprinklers.
• Fires in dwellings where sprinkler systems operated had an average area of fire damage of under 4 m². This compares to an average area of fire damage of 18 to 21m² for all dwelling fires in England between 2011/12 and 2015/16.
• NFCC recognise that sprinklers are an effective part of an overall fire safety solution and can be used efficiently to improve fire safety in a range of new and existing buildings
• NFCC support the concept of risk assessed retro fitting of sprinklers in existing buildings.
• NFCC have submitted a response to the government review of the Building Regulations (Approved Document B), you can view this here. 

The vast benefits of sprinklers are proven through evidence and research however, there are still cases where communities have declined the retrofitting of sprinklers in their homes by their local council due to associated costs. This shows that there are gaps in the public understanding of sprinklers, but also that legislative changes are needed including funding for local authorities to make their communities safer.

NFCC Position Statement on sprinklers

To find out more about the campaign follow #ThinkSprinkler on social media.