London Fire Brigade

Easter warning from Brigade that Government is ignoring school fire risk

31 March 2017

We are warning Government education chiefs that children's lives will be put at risk if they remove guidelines stating sprinklers should be installed in new school builds.

The call comes as we release shocking statistics ahead of the Easter holidays, which show that although there were 718 fires in London schools between 2009 and February 2017, sprinklers were only installed in 15 of these cases.

In addition, almost one in five of these fires were set deliberately.

Despite these stark figures, the Department for Education has recently consulted on proposals to make changes to guidance on safety in school buildings introduced in 2007. 

The proposals remove the 'expectation' that all new schools would have sprinklers installed, effectively rewriting the guidance to say they are not an essential requirement when considering fire safety.

'Sprinklers as important as smoke alarms'

We believe sprinklers are essential in school buildings and that during holiday periods like Easter, when there are fewer people around to raise the alarm if a fire breaks out, it could mean the difference between a school being destroyed and suffering only minor damage.

Assistant Commissioner for Fire safety, Dan Daly, said: "Sprinklers are as important as smoke alarms in buildings like schools, residential care homes and sheltered accommodation. Fires can move quickly and often silently but sprinklers can stop a fire in it's tracks.

"We're very concerned that no-longer recognising the important role sprinklers can play in keeping schools safe will have potentially devastating consequences.

"A fire that destroys a school, not only has a huge financial impact it also devastates the whole community, causing huge distress and disruption to students, teachers, families and local businesses.

"Installing sprinkler systems in schools significantly reduces fire damage and the risk to life while also protecting firefighters carrying out search and rescue operations by limiting the spread of the fire."

The Department of Education's consultation on its sprinklers proposals closed last August.

We responded by urging the Secretary of State for Education to reconsider the amendment to Building Bulletin 100 - Fire Safety in Schools.  More than six months later the Government has yet to announce a final decision.

Our sprinklers campaign

There is clear evidence sprinklers suppress fires quickly, reduce property damage, potentially save lives, help with business continuity and the cost of repairs, reduce the impact of fires on the environment and protect firefighters.

In addition to schools, we are campaigning to promote the cost effective and life saving benefits of installing sprinklers in buildings which house some of the capital's most vulnerable people such as care homes and sheltered accommodation.

Dan Daly continued: "We want to see all residential care homes and sheltered housing schemes fitted with sprinklers.

"There are around ten fires in London's care homes every week which should be evidence enough that builders, developers, local authorities and housing and care providers need to stop ignoring their benefits."