Dispelling myths as part of National Sprinkler Week

Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) is supporting National Sprinkler Week, a National Fire Chiefs Council campaign running from 12 – 16 March.

During National Sprinkler Week, RBFRS is hoping to dispel many of the common misconceptions about sprinklers and encourage their installation. As part of one of RBFRS’s strategic commitments to ensure appropriate fire safety standards in buildings, there is a focus on increasing the installation of sprinklers and other fire suppression systems.

RBFRS strongly recommends the installation of appropriate sprinkler systems in properties including social housing (particularly blocks of flats), landlords (shared houses, houses of multiple occupation (HMOs), schools and care homes.

The case for installing sprinkler systems is compelling; they save lives and reduce injuries, protect firefighters who attend incidents and reduce the amount of damage to both property and the environment from fire.Sprinklers are the most effective way to ensure that fires are suppressed or even extinguished before the fire service can arrive. A sprinkler system is vital in maintaining business continuity and important public buildings, such as doctors’ surgeries and schools.

Here are some of the main sprinkler myths, which often deter people from installing sprinkler systems:

  • Myth: Sprinklers are hugely expensive.
    Actually, the costs of installing sprinklers are roughly equivalent to carpeting the same building in new buildings. However, damage from fires can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds - sometimes running into millions of pounds. Losses from fires in buildings protected with sprinklers, in comparison, are estimated to be one-tenth of those in unprotected buildings. Fitting sprinklers can save money in some areas - insurers will often offer premium discounts to premises with sprinkler systems, and policy excesses may be lower.
  • Myth: When there is a fire all the sprinkler heads go off at once. 
    Each head is independent and only the head(s) adjacent to the fire go off as the heads are activated by heat and not smoke
  • Myth: Sprinklers can go off accidentally.
    Records show that the chance of an accidental discharge from a sprinkler is in the region of 16 million to one. They will only go off if there is a fire which increases the heat beyond the defined sprinkler trigger point (typically 135 to 165°F (57.2 to 73.9°C).
  • Myth: Water damage is as bad as the fire damage.
    A typical sprinkler discharges 55 litres per minute. A firefighting hose discharges over 600 litres per minute. You can expect a sprinkler to discharge less than 5% of the water used by the fire service.

One of the most often ignored benefits of fire sprinklers is the additional flexibility a system can provide to both architects and developers. There are also environmental benefits which can be used as a powerful tool in demonstrating how sprinklers can contribute to safer and stronger communities.

Chris Bunyan, Group Manager Fire Safety Enforcement, said: “Sprinkler systems are a hugely effective way of saving lives and protecting property. Evidence supports this clearly and shows that no lives have been lost due to fire in UK homes fitted with domestic sprinkler systems. Businesses that have fitted sprinkler systems have incurred minimal costs during a fire, compared to those businesses that have suffered the full costs of a devastating fire.”  

Councillor Colin Dudley, Chairman of Royal Berkshire Fire Authority, said: “During this week it is important that we actively promote the benefits of sprinkler systems across Royal Berkshire. Sprinkler systems are an excellent means of containing or extinguishing fires, before firefighters even arrive at the property.” 

For more information on sprinkler systems, please visit: https://www.rbfrs.co.uk/your-safety/safety-at-work/sprinklers/