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Think Sprinkler

Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service is supporting the National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) National Sprinkler Week campaign (17-23 May), to continue to raise awareness of the benefits sprinkler systems provide in keeping people and buildings safe from fire.

Fire sprinklers are widely recognised as the single most effective method for fighting the spread of fires in their early stages, with research by the NFCC and National Fire Sprinkler Network (NFSN) showing that when operated sprinkler systems extinguish or contain the fire on 99% of occasions. The result is sprinklers reduce injuries by at least 80%, reduce property damage by 90% and substantially reduce damage to the environment from fire.

One area sprinklers could make a big difference is in schools, with research from Zurich Municiple, the leading insurer of schools, identifying that schools are nearly twice as likely to suffer a fire as other types of commercial building.

We saw this for ourselves in Derbyshire during 2020, as the Service attended three separate school fires that completely destroyed the school buildings and their contents. On 28 May Firefighters responded to a fire at Harrington Junior School in Long Eaton, and then in October, just 48 hours apart, Firefighters responded to two further school fires. On 3 October St Mary’s School, Darley Abbey was destroyed, and on 5 October, Ravensdale Infants School in Mickleover suffered the same fate.

Derbyshire’s Chief Fire Officer/Chief Executive Gavin Tomlinson, a former NFCC Sprinkler Lead and now Chair of the NFCC Protection & Business Safety Committee said: “The three school fires we witnessed last year were devastating and had a huge impact on the local communities.

“None of these schools were fitted with sprinkler systems, which could have prevented the loss of the buildings, the untold impact on the education of the children who attended these schools and the financial impact of relocating and rebuilding them.

“Since these fires Derby City and Derbyshire County Council have both committed to a statement of intent, committing to ensure that any new schools built in Derby or Derbyshire, or those undergoing significant refurbishment, are fitted with sprinklers and that the right fire safety measures are fitted too.

“It is widely acknowledged that sprinklers are an effective fire safety measure. To support this I have recently issued a report on the reliability and effectiveness of sprinkler systems in school fires.

“The report demonstrates how sprinkler systems were 100% reliable and 100% effective in extinguishing or controlling the spread of fires in schools and colleges in England and Wales in the four years from 2016 to 2019.

“As part of the National Fire Chiefs Council and alongside the National Fire Sprinkler Network we will continue to lobby government, calling for changes to fire safety legislation that would see sprinklers fitted as mandatory in all new-build and refurbished schools.”

For more information visit our website, or follow us on social media @DerbyshireFRS.