London Fire Brigade

Schools ignoring advice on life-saving sprinklers, warns London Fire Brigade

30 March 2011

Think Sprinkler booklet coverAlmost two thirds of new or refurbished schools planned for the capital have not been built with potentially life saving sprinklers installed, the London Fire Brigade is warning today.
This is despite Government guidelines introduced three years ago recommending they should be fitted. Sprinklers stop fire from spreading and greatly reduce the chance of death or serious injury, says the Brigade. Fire chiefs are consulted on the plans for newly built or refurbished schools in the capital and according to the Brigade’s figures, six out of 10 schools that have proposed building work in the last three years were not going to install sprinklers.
The figures are released to coincide with the publication of new guidance from the Brigade encouraging builders and developers to install sprinklers in schools, residential care homes, social housing and commercial premises.

Every year, one in eight schools suffers a serious arson attack. The cost of school fires is around £65million with London accounting for over a third of the cost. As well as having a huge financial impact, these fires cause disruption to students, teachers and families and can have a devastating effect on the wider community.

Sprinklers can also significantly reduce the cost of repairing damage caused by a fire. If they are factored in at the design stage of a building or the refurbishment of an existing building, costs can be kept as low as one per cent of the original construction costs.

The guidelines appear in a new booklet called “Think Sprinkler”. Over coming months, the Brigade will be sending copies of the booklet to architects, building managers, care home owners and social landlords. This will promote the benefits of sprinklers and encourage their installation.

Chairman of London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority’s Community Safety Committee Cllr Susan Hall said: 

“It’s time for building owners and developers to stop playing such a high risk game and gambling that there will never be a fire in their building. For too long architects and developers have ignored the overwhelming benefits of sprinklers in reducing the damage and potential loss of  life a fire can cause. 

“A fire that destroys a school or care home devastates the local community. Children are left to learn in temporary classrooms and the elderly lose their home. Owners and developers have a responsibility to protect people in the places where they live and work.” 

For more information visit our Sprinklers page.

Notes to editors

The London Fire Brigade is consulted on all newly built and refurbished schools and our figures show that almost two thirds of these schools (48 out of 79) did not propose to install sprinklers. The Brigade wrote to all schools who were not installing sprinklers to highlight the benefits and encourage their installation.

  • In 2008 the Government produced “Designing and Managing Against the Risk of Fire in Schools that stated that all new schools and the majority of those undergoing major refurbishment to have sprinklers installed.
  • The London Fire Brigade has collected data on whether newly built or refurbished schools in London have installed sprinklers since the middle of 2008.
  • The arson and cost of school fires are taken from a ‘the impact of school fires’ a study undertaken by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) commissioned by Local Government Analysis and Research (LGAR).