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Business Sprinkler Alliance encourages greater sprinkler adoption in warehouses

08 April 2024

THE BUSINESS Sprinkler Alliance used the recent UK Warehousing Association National Conference, which ran on 12-13 March at the East Midlands Conference Centre (itself located at the University of Nottingham campus), as a platform for promoting awareness relating to the use of fire sprinkler systems in warehouses.

Themed ‘2024: The Year of Warehousing’, conference featured expert panels discussing Best Practice in sustainability, cyber crime, property markets and other topics relevant to the warehousing sector.

Tom Roche, secretary of the Business Sprinkler Alliance, was one of over 200 built environment and warehousing professionals in attendance and delivered his insight as part of the discussions involving warehouse owners and operators, duly stressing the importance of business resilience and safeguarding what are critical structures from the outset.

“Many warehouse owners and operators view sprinklers as a necessary evil for insurance purposes,” asserted Roche, “but perhaps don’t always fully grasp how they work and how critical they are for protecting lives, property and business continuity.”

Fire remains the largest cause of damage to warehouse buildings. The average cost of a large warehouse fire is £5.9 million, while over 25 warehouse fires occur every month in the UK. Modern warehouses pose differing challenges due to increasingly complex storage arrangements, concentrations of values, combustible contents and physical limitations when it comes to firefighting.

Simply put, the way in which contents are often stored can lead to the rapid spread of fire and, hence, the need for attention to fire safety.

Sustainability practices

Conference included a focus on sustainability practices. Understandably, this segment focused on energy solutions for vehicles and energy efficiency systems such as solar panels.

“These can exert a sizeable impact on a business’ carbon footprint and operating costs,” continued Roche. “However, there’s also scope for considering the resilience of warehouse buildings and the impact of fire as another critical element within sustainability practices. As recent large warehouse fires have demonstrated, their environmental impact can be significant, not only in terms of pollution, but also when it comes to firefighting resources, water and the extensive rebuilding of facilities.”

In order to be truly sustainable, buildings should also be resilient to fire, with fire sprinkler systems proven to be the most effective means of fire protection. Further, a building’s sustainability – or green rating – is focused on energy performance, but those environmental credits are instantly lost when a building burns to the ground.

Further challenges

In addition to highlighting the fire protection benefits of sprinklers, the Business Sprinkler Alliance delegation learned of other challenges facing the warehouse sector. Labour shortages, the lack of available land for new warehouse construction, difficulties obtaining planning permission and the need for sufficient power at site locations were among those topics discussed.

Throughout the two-day event, the Business Sprinkler Alliance representatives met with attendees to explain the multitude of benefits sprinklers provide for life safety, asset protection, environmental safeguarding and the long-term sustainability of warehouse operations when fire strikes.

“There remains an education gap around sprinklers and their role in warehousing resilience and risk mitigation,” explained Tom Roche. “Events like this provide an invaluable opportunity to build understanding that sprinklers are a smart investment, not just a regulatory compliance box to be checked. For the more complex storage solutions the warehouse industry is trying to adopt, they will be an essential element when it comes to securing business operations. On that basis, we very much hope to inspire more warehouse owners and operators to embrace sprinklers as a critical layer of protection.”

Importantly, the Business Sprinkler Alliance advocates greater business resilience by enhancing protection against fire through the increased acceptance and use of fire sprinklers in commercial and industrial premises alike.

*For more information about the Business Sprinkler Alliance visit www.business-sprinkler-alliance.org