One of the most efficient and effective ways to reduce the impact of fire is through measures which ensure that when it starts it is quickly extinguished so that damage is minimised. Fire sprinkler systems do just this – they make buildings and businesses resilient to the impact of fire because they automatically control or even extinguish it before the fire and rescue service arrives, with the result that the business can be up-and-running again usually within hours of the incident. But how efficient and reliable are they when a fire breaks out?
There is clear evidence that sprinklers work. In fact, the NFCC and the National Fire Sprinkler Network (NFSN) have worked together to investigate the effectiveness and reliability of sprinkler systems. In an independent report carried out by Optimal Economics, thousands of incidents have been analysed to provide detailed and comprehensive analysis of the activation and performance of sprinkler systems used to control fire in buildings. The evidence shows that sprinkler systems have an operational reliability of 94% and demonstrate when called to work they have a very high reliability. Furthermore, it is evident that when they do operate they extinguish or contain the fire on 99% of occasions across a wide range of building types1.
The data clearly proves that sprinklers are both effective and efficient in a wide range of fire scenarios and building types, affording greater levels of fire protection to people, property and the environment. They protect firefighters who attend incidents and reduce the amount of damage to both property and the environment from fire. In fact they are so good at protecting property that many businesses that experience a fire and have sprinklers fitted, are able to be back up and operational within days, if not hours.
Sprinklers provide property protection and I am in no doubt that if the project design team or consultant for the Daventry warehouse which was destroyed by fire on 12 March had recommended sprinklers or the client had insisted on sprinklers, then the building would still be standing and operating. Instead, the fire had a massive financial impact in terms of an insurance claim, jobs will be at risk, the local economy will be affected and there is the environmental impact that removing a fire damaged building and rebuilding it will have. Sprinklers would have helped to create a resilient building and the owners would not be facing the challenges that now lie ahead for them.
It’s important that we understand the costly impact of fires and the benefits that sprinklers bring. It is also important that we keep pushing for the regulatory change that is so needed. Sprinklers are an effective part of an overall fire safety solution. They can be used efficiently to improve fire safety in a range of new and existing buildings. They save lives, they save property.
1 Efficiency and Effectiveness of Sprinkler Systems in the United Kingdom: An Analysis from Fire Service Data – Optimal Electronics May 2017