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The National Fire Sprinkler Network (NFSN) have been watching the tragic events unfold at the horrendous fire at Grenfell House tower block in North Kensington in London. We wish to express our heartfelt sympathy to everyone who has been affected by this devastating incident.
Clearly the fire spread and subsequent loss of life at this fire is unprecedented in this type of structure in the UK. We know of no other high rise residential building on our shores that has suffered such extensive damage, with fire spreading throughout the building to extent we have seen at Grenfell House.
The scale of the fire, significant loss of life and impact on the local community is immeasurable, the effect of this fire will be felt for years to come in terms of human and financial loss. It must also be stated that the risks to firefighters posed by an incident of this magnitude were also far in excess of normal firefighting expectations.
There will now follow a detailed and thorough investigation into the cause of the fire and reasons for the fire spread. The whole of the fire sector including architects, fire engineers, fire investigators and right the way through to firefighters will be keenly awaiting the outcome of this investigation to provide answers around the cause and spread of the fire and to establish what can be learned to prevent reoccurrence.
The NFSN feel it is premature and inappropriate to pass judgement on the effectiveness of sprinklers in relation to this particular fire in advance of the official investigation being completed.
Whilst it is too early to speculate on the cause of the fire and the reasons for the rapidity of the fire spread, the subject of sprinklers is being raised up in the discussions and the National Fire Sprinkler Network are being approached for comment and opinion as to the effectiveness of sprinklers.
As a group the NFSN are concerned with promoting the advantages of sprinklers in the built environment and to this end we work to lobby for sprinklers, educate on the effectiveness of them, improve stakeholder support and engagement around the wider sector and importantly to provide evidence of the benefits of sprinklers.
In regard to providing evidence the NFSN have over the past year coordinated the collection of data from all UK Fire and Rescue Services, in a bid to describe the general effectiveness of sprinklers.
The data collected has been secured from all fire and rescue services in the UK taking information from Fire Reports that have been completed after fires have occurred in buildings were sprinklers were fitted. The data captured evidence stretching over a five year period.
The data has been analysed to establish firstly the reliability of sprinklers, based on answering the question “did the sprinkler system operate?” In addition the effectiveness of sprinklers was explored asking the questions “Did the sprinkler system control the fire and what was the extent of fire damage”?
Amongst the key findings of the report are the following headlines: across all premises types sprinklers are 99% effective; across all premises types operational reliability of sprinkler is 94%; The average fire damage in dwellings not fitted with sprinklers is 18-21sq.m. In dwellings where sprinklers are present, the average is under 4sq.m; The average fire damage in other building types with sprinklers is 30sq.m which is half that of buildings without;
A copy of the report can be accessed here.
It remains to be seen if sprinklers would have been effective at Grenfell House. The NFSN are not about to speculate on this in advance of the official investigation.
The NFSN are committed to sharing expertise and advice across the fire sector and to working in continued partnership with the National Fire Chiefs Council to promote fire safety solutions involving the use of sprinklers and other automatic water suppression systems.