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NFCC calls for sprinkler law change

12 March 2019

AHEAD OF a debate in Parliament on fire safety and sprinklers, the National Fire Chiefs Council has said that England is lagging behind Scotland and Wales when it comes to the inclusion of sprinklers and calls for a change in legislation.

According to NFCC, England needs to come into line with Scotland and Wales, who have both introduced a reduction in height restriction for the fitting of sprinklers, and in some cases the requirement for mandatory installation in flats and specialised dwellings, such as care homes.  NFCC also want to see sprinklers fitted in schools for property protection in addition to life safety, along with being fitted in facilities providing waste management and recycling.

Terry McDermott, NFCC Lead for Automatic Water Suppression Systems is leading the call for change: “The case for increased use of sprinklers is clear and has the evidence to back these calls up. We know that sprinklers save lives, protect property, keep firefighters safer, while reducing the impact of fire on the environment and protecting businesses. When fitted in homes, sprinklers reduce fire damage by around 75% and people are 50% less likely to be injured.

“I look forward to the fitting of sprinklers and their wider benefits being raised in this debate; it is essential this important issue is firmly on the agenda and we see changes made. Standards in England must be enhanced and brought in line with national policy in Scotland and Wales with regard to water suppression systems.

“We recently responded to the government consultation on Approved Document B, which supports building regulations for fire safety and is used for large numbers of new and refurbished building designs, with a view to making these changes a reality.”

According to NFCC, sprinklers should be part of overall fire safety solutions in both new and existing buildings; this is further evidenced by its research with the National Fire Sprinkler Network has proven the effectiveness of suppression systems in extinguishing fires.

NFCC research shows that in both converted and purpose-built flats, sprinklers are 100% effective in controlling fires and supported the concept of risk-assessed retro-fitting of sprinklers into existing buildings. 

NFCC’s position on sprinklers shows:

Currently, sprinklers:

  •  Are only a legal requirement in new residential blocks over 30 metres tall in England
  • In Wales, sprinklers must be fitted in all new domestic premises, including houses
  • In Scotland, residential buildings including care homes, sheltered housing, schools and high-rises taller than 18 metres require sprinklers. The Scottish Government has committed to applying sprinkler requirements to buildings higher than 11 metres. 

NFCC wants to see sprinklers:

  • Become a requirement in all new high-rise residential structures
  • Be retro-fitted in buildings more than 30 metres tall when they are refurbished
  • Should be retro-fitted in high-rise residential buildings over 30 metres with a single staircase, regardless of refurbishment plans
  • Should be provided in new residential care premises and specialised housing
  • Sprinklers continue to be fitted in new schools unless the risk is deemed exceptionally low