Fire sprinklers: Odds-on they’ll help keep your business running after a fire
March 13, 2015barriehol
With shorter odds than you might think of suffering a fire, Fire and Safety Centre chooses UK Fire Sprinkler Week (March 16th-22nd) to illustrate what fire sprinkler systems can do to keep companies up and running when a fire strikes.
You see people every week, queuing to buy tickets for the National Lottery in pursuit of the dream of winning a jackpot worth millions. They’ll most likely be disappointed. That’s hardly surprising, since the odds of success are a well-publicised 14 million to one.
Compare those odds to the far shorter ones of having a warehouse fire, and it’s a wonder there aren’t queues forming outside the premises of fire sprinkler system installers too.
Consider this: the odds of having a warehouse fire that needs the fire brigade to put it out are a mere four to one, according to the Building Research Establishment, which spent three years studying relevant data to compile a report on the subject. That means more than 600 warehouses (almost a dozen every week) will suffer a fire this year. And yet fire sprinkler systems are installed in just one in five of them covering more than 2,000 sq metres and less than 10,000 sq metres.
Insurance alone is not enough to protect companies from the impact of fire.
“What is clear from the current research is that insurance alone is not enough to fully protect companies from the long-term impacts of fire.”
Iain Cox, former Chief Fire Officer of Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service
Far more have insurance, but that smacks a little of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. It’s more effective to restrict physical damage caused by fire in the first place, in any kind of business premises, than to count the cost and attempt to clear up a larger physical and financial mess afterwards.
The work done by the Building Research Establishments researchers presents interesting cost comparisons. Fire damage caused to medium-sized warehouses without fire sprinkler systems cost an average of £1.5m over the survey period. With them, the figure goes down to less than £37,000. Over the whole life of a building it’s estimated that ones without fire sprinklers cost getting on for four times those that have them.
Common myths about fire sprinklers
• Sprinklers use more water and cause more damage than fire hoses.
No they don’t. Sprinklers release up to 24 gallons a minute; hoses up to 125
• All the sprinklers go off in a fire. No, they go off individually near the seat of the fire. About 80% of fires are controlled by no more than two sprinkler heads
• There’s enough protection from smoke detectors.
No there isn’t. Smoke detectors will tell you when there’s a fire, but they can’t put it out.
• Sprinklers might save property, but don’t save lives. Completely untrue. There have never been multiple fatalities in a building protected by fire sprinkler systems.
Fire out in a jiffy
The benefits of fire sprinklers were graphically illustrated after a fire at Jiffy Packaging in Cheshire only last month. Sprinklers confined the fire to the machine in which it started, where firefighters were able to put it out. Quoted on the Business Sprinkler Alliance web site, Keith Brooks, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Head of Prevention and Protection, said: …..“Had there been no sprinkler system installed the damage could have been much greater. In similar cases we have seen incidents that needed up to ten fire engines in attendance for extended periods. This incident could have resulted in much more serious damage from which companies very rarely recover. Having a fire sprinkler system has certainly kept this company in business.”
We hardly need to say more – except that UK Fire Sprinkler Week 2015, from March 16th to 22nd, might be a good time to take a cold hard look at the need for fire sprinklers in your premises.