Southwark’s fire commander is calling for automatic fire suppression systems – such as sprinklers – to be installed in care homes, high-rise buildings and new and refurbished schools.
Figures released by London Fire Brigade revealed there were 22 fires at hostels, care homes, retirement homes and sheltered housing accommodation in Southwark in 2017 – and sprinklers were only installed in nine of these cases.
In 2013 and 2014 there were 21 fires in this type of accommodation in Southwark, 27 in 2015, and five so far in 2018, according to the Brigade.
London Fire Brigade says it believes automatic fire suppression systems play a significant role in reducing the impact of fire on people, property and the environment, as part of an “appropriate package of fire safety measures”.
Southwark Fire Commander Neil Chisholm said: “It’s a tragic fact that many of the fires we see involve vulnerable people who have mobility and/or health issues that mean they are unable to escape even small fires and they may suffer fatal or life changing injuries before the fire brigade is even called.
“We need to ensure sufficient and appropriate protection measures are in place to safeguard these people where they live and suppression systems should be part of those considerations.
“Sprinklers are the only system which detects a fire, suppresses a fire and raises the alarm.”
The fire commander said sprinkler systems only amounted to about one per cent of the total build cost of some new buildings such as schools if incorporated from the outset.
“There has long been a myth that sprinkler systems are very expensive, and of course costs vary depending on the type of system, but for example in schools if they are incorporated from the design stage, sprinklers are around one per cent of the total build cost,” he said.
“There are also self-contained watermist systems which are designed to provide protection to vulnerable individuals who may be at increased risk of fire and have mobility issues which affect their ability to escape.”
The fire brigade is calling for all new residential developments over 18 metres in height to be fitted with sprinklers and any existing blocks of the same height to be retrofitted with sprinklers.
It would also like to see sprinklers made mandatory in all new school builds and major refurbishments, as well as all residential care homes and sheltered accommodation.
A Southwark Council spokesperson said sprinklers were installed in all of the local authority’s properties housing vulnerable residents, with the exception of one homeless hostel where work is underway – the work was delayed due to a potential move to another site which did not go ahead.
What London Fire Brigade is calling for:
- All new residential developments over 18m in height to be fitted with sprinklers
- Existing residential blocks over 18m in height to be retrofitted with sprinklers
- Sprinklers to be mandatory in all new school builds and major refurbishments
- All new residential care homes and sheltered accommodation to be fitted with sprinklers
- Existing residential care homes and sheltered accommodation to be retrofitted with sprinklers
The Brigade also strongly advocates the use of sprinklers in:
- All homes occupied by the most vulnerable in our communities
- All other residential properties including hotels, hostels and student accommodation, over 18m in height
- All new London Fire Brigade buildings
The Brigade will continue to promote the installation in the following types of property throughout London:
- Heritage buildings
- Large warehouses