On 11 February 2019 London’s Fire and Rescue Service Commissioner Dany Cotton appeared on Radio 4’s News at One programme to make (yet another) plea for better use of sprinkler fire suppression systems in high-risk residential blocks. The Commissioner spoke earnestly and honestly: sprinklers save lives, but she finds that fire service advice is simply being brushed aside, ignored. The evident frustration of the Commissioner’s call for real action on installing sprinklers in both new build and refurbished buildings can easily be understood. Emergency response to fire is to use water. And surely, on a common-sense basis alone, suppression including sprinklers has a role in the fire safety and protection strategies for buildings, especially where higher risks cause concerns?
Sadly, lack of attention on the benefits of sprinklers reflects a wider lack of focus on the risks of fire. Disasters such as Grenfell 2016 and Lakanal 2009, together with other lower profile fire events, suggest that sprinklers are not the only fire safety measure that needs to be given far more attention.
Fire protection – in all its respects – requires more emphasis. The key is integrated fire safety. That’s a variety of different measures, working together, firstly, to avoiding fire breaking out and, secondly, if fire does arise to prevent fire and smoke spread. Both people and property need to be safeguarded against the extremes of fire growth. A combination of steps is necessary, including the following:
Building management aligned with risk assessment to ensure that proper fire precautions are in place, including elimination of obvious sources of ignition, housekeeping to remove easily combustible material and attention to keep escape routes open for use in an emergency.