Fire Service praises school sprinklers

Shropshire Council project manager Rod Derbyshire, school head Penny Cooper and Chief Fire Officer Alan Taylor with a sprinkler section where the new William Brookes School in Much Wenlock is being built.

Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service has praised a decision to install sprinklers in all new Shropshire secondary schools.

The move was today welcomed by the Chief Fire Officer and Anthony Derricutt, Building and Planning manager for the county fire service.

The decision has been made as part of Shropshire's Building Schools for the Future (BSF) plans. The ambitious Government programme intends to replace or refurbish all secondary schools in the country over the next 10 to 15 years.

Work is ongoing on rebuilding the William Brookes School in Much Wenlock which is Shropshire's first BSF project to install a sprinkler system. It will be the county's second school to install a sprinkler after the privately built Hadley Learning Community in Telford.

The annual cost of arson attacks on schools has more than doubled in the last ten years and has now reached a record figure of £100 million. On average, there are three schools fires each day in the UK, with 75 per cent of all fires started deliberately and more than 33 per cent lit during the daytime.

As well as putting lives at risk, schools suffered the greatest financial loss from fire compared to any other public building, said Mr Derricutt.

"Educational fire losses were 60 times the cost of all office fires in 2004," he said.

School head Penny Cooper and Chief Fire Officer Alan Taylor with a sprinkler section on the site of the new William Brookes School in Much Wenlock now under construction.

Councillor Ann Hartley, Shropshire Council's Cabinet Member for Children's Services said: "While Shropshire schools have an excellent fire safety record, the Building Schools for the Future project provides the opportunity to take a step over and above what statutory legislation requires and ensure that sprinklers are installed in all new secondary schools.

"We want the county's youngsters to be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve and this decision contributes to these priorities."

Mr Derricutt said: "Fires in schools cause death or injury but they also bring disruption to children's education and severe difficulties for young people when coursework is lost. It seems foolish that a system, which costs about 1.8 per cent of the capital building expenditure yet could bring such benefits, is not a mandatory requirement," said Mr Derricutt.

"We believe sprinklers should be installed in all new schools and promoted in existing schools in high risk areas as they are a reliable means of containing or extinguishing a fire. That is why Shropshire County Council's decision is so important."

Community centres based in schools also face the loss of important services if a school is hit by fire, he added.

Fire sprinklers are also being installed in existing Shropshire schools and new schools which are not part of the BSF programme where it is deemed necessary by a risk assessment.

14th May, 2009