London Fire Brigade

Fire Chief urges action on sprinklers as Grenfell Inquiry opens

13 September 2017

Now is the time for action on sprinklers in residential high-rise buildings and schools, warns London Fire Brigade as the Grenfell Tower Inquiry formally opens tomorrow.

We are renewing our call for residential tower blocks and new school builds to have sprinklers.

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said: “The tragic fire at Grenfell has thrown fire safety into the spotlight and while we are not pre-empting the findings of the Inquiry, now is the time to remind Government of life-saving recommendations we have been making for years.

“We are calling for residential tower blocks to be retrofitted with sprinklers and they should be mandatory in all new school builds and major refurbishments.

“Sprinklers are the only fire safety system that detects a fire, suppresses a fire and raises the alarm. They save lives  and protect property and they are especially important where there are vulnerable residents who would find it difficult to escape, like those with mobility problems.

“My priority is to save lives but I can also make an economic case for sprinklers. It costs around £1,500 - £2,500 to retrofit a flat, while the cost of refurbishing a one-bedroom flat after a fire is about £77,000.”

Sprinklers in schools

As well as calling for sprinklers in residential tower blocks, we are calling for new school builds or refurbishments to have sprinklers fitted. 

Fire crews are called to over 80 fires a year in London’s schools and in most cases, sprinklers are not fitted – meaning millions of pounds are wasted repairing fire damage but also water damage from fire crews hoses. Modern sprinklers will only activate near to the flame and much more water is used putting a fire out via a hose than when a sprinkler head activates in a targeted area. 

Last year the Government consulted on removing guidance around incorporating sprinklers into all new school builds and refurbishments. In the same year, we recommended sprinklers in 184 London schools being refurbished or built, and yet our advice was taken in only four of these cases.

Commissioner Cotton continued: “For years builders, developers, local authorities and private housing providers have ignored the clear benefits of sprinklers.

"It’s not just about homes, we go to around 80 fires in London schools every year. Fires in schools cause major disruption to pupils, breakfast and after school clubs are cancelled and often, a costly repair bill could have been avoided.

“If they are incorporated from the design stage, sprinklers are around 1% of the total build cost.”

What we are calling for:

• The retrofitting of sprinklers in all residential high-rise tower blocks, as part of an appropriate package of fire safety measures
• Sprinklers to be installed in all school new builds and major refurbishments