Fitting sprinkler systems in all new homes could save many lives each year and dramatically slash the cost of fire and water damage, according to Shropshire Fire & Rescue Service.
Speaking at the unveiling of a pilot project that will see sprinklers installed in a two-bedroom vulnerable person’s bungalow in Oswestry, Andy Blizard, the head of SFRS’s fire safety team, called for sprinklers to be fitted in all new homes, particularly those occupied by the elderly and other vulnerable people.
“For many vulnerable people getting out of their home and away from a fire would be difficult, perhaps impossible. Even if they hear their smoke alarm it won’t help them escape from a fire. Sprinklers can remove that danger because they will usually put a fire out and stop it spreading from room to room,” Andy Blizard said.
The Oswestry project is a joint venture between Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service and Shropshire Towns and Rural Housing Association and is the first of its kind in the county.
“This is the first of what we hope will be many more sprinkler projects involving social landlords, local authorities, developers and SFRS. Our message is simple: Sprinklers save lives and provide vulnerable people with very high levels of protection against fire. We would like to see them fitted in all new homes,” Andy Blizard added.
In Wales all new properties have to be protected by a sprinkler system following a change in the law and the Chief Fire Officers’ Association (CFOA) has backed a call for similar legislative change in England.
A spokesman for CFOA said: “Residential sprinklers are the equivalent of having a firefighter on stand-by in your home. They can put out a fire before the fire service arrives. We know that sprinklers save lives and we strongly welcome this initiative in Shropshire.
“CFOA is campaigning for a legal requirement to fit sprinklers in higher risk premises, such as care homes, schools and 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. Costs of installation and maintenance are also much lower than many people think.”
Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service’s call for sprinkler systems to be fitted in all new homes has also been backed by the Local Government Association, the body that represents local councils in England.
An LGA spokesman said: “Fires in the home still account for a large number of fire deaths and injuries each year and we believe that the installation of sprinklers in domestic premises would have a significant impact in reducing these. Sprinklers should certainly be fitted in those domestic premises where our most vulnerable residents live.”
Sprinkler systems will also have a big impact on the amount of damage a fire can cause says Andy Blizard.
“Because sprinklers will usually stop a fire spreading from room to room they drastically reduce the amount of damage caused by water because sprinklers use much less water than a conventional hose.
“There are so many good reasons why sprinkler systems should be fitted in all new homes but, above all, they would dramatically reduce the number of people who lose their lives in fires,” he said.
The announcement of the Oswestry project also marks the start of National Sprinkler Week (16-22 March), a national campaign aimed at encouraging sprinklers to be fitted in domestic and business premises.
“Sprinklers can make a huge difference to a business affected by fire by significantly reducing the amount of fire damage and allowing the business to resume operating with minimal disruption,” Andy Blizard added.