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LFB calls for sprinklers in high-rise homes and schools

13 September 2017

LONDON FIRE Commissioner Dany Cotton is calling for the installation of sprinklers in high-rise buildings and schools as the Grenfell Tower Inquiry formally opens.

The commissioner describes sprinklers as the only fire safety system that detects a fire, suppresses a fire and raises the alarm. She also explained that sprinklers are essential for protecting vulnerable residents, especially those who are mobility impaired. 

Commissioner Cotton said: “The tragic fire at Grenfell has thrown fire safety into the spotlight and while we are not pre-empting the findings of the Inquiry, now is the time to remind Government of life-saving recommendations we have been making for years.

“We are calling for residential tower blocks to be retrofitted with sprinklers and they should be mandatory in all new school builds and major refurbishments. My priority is to save lives but I can also make an economic case for sprinklers. It costs around £1,500 - £2,500 to retrofit a flat, while the cost of refurbishing a one-bedroom flat after a fire is about £77,000.”

As well as calling for sprinklers in residential tower blocks, London Fire Brigade is calling for new school builds or refurbishments to have sprinklers fitted. Fire crews are called to over 80 fires a year in London’s schools and in most cases, sprinklers are not fitted – meaning millions of pounds are wasted repairing fire damage but also water damage from fire crews hoses. Modern sprinklers will only activate near to the flame and much more water is used putting a fire out via a hose than when a sprinkler head activates in a targeted area. 

Last year, the government consulted on removing guidance around incorporating sprinklers into all new school builds and refurbishments. In the same year, we recommended sprinklers in 184 London schools being refurbished or built, and yet our advice was taken in only four of these cases.

Commissioner Cotton continued: “For years builders, developers, local authorities and private housing providers have ignored the clear benefits of sprinklers.

"It’s not just about homes, we go to around 80 fires in London schools every year. Fires in schools cause major disruption to pupils, breakfast and after school clubs are cancelled and often, a costly repair bill could have been avoided.

“If they are incorporated from the design stage, sprinklers are around 1% of the total build cost.”