London Fire Brigade

Sprinklers

Sprinklers or Automatic Water Fire Suppression Systems (AWFSS) can save lives, properties and money.

 

How do sprinklers work?

Sprinklers react to heat. When the ceiling temperature rises to 68-74 degrees the sprinkler fitted in the room will operate spraying water across the room, suppressing the fire.

Sprinklers heads are designed to react to temperature, only the sprinklers in the immediate area of the fire will open. The others remain closed. They don`t all go off together throughout the building as portrayed in Hollywood movies.

Where should sprinklers and fire suppression systems be fitted?

Sprinklers are proven to save lives and property and provide a high level of protection for vulnerable residents, especially for those likely to be affected with long term impairments which could restrict their ability to respond in an emergency situation. There are many organisations and properties that could benefit.

• Schools
• Care homes/Specialised housing or places where vulnerable people live or regularly visit
• Heritage buildings
• Hospitals
• Registered Social Landlords

How much do sprinkler systems cost

There has long been a myth that sprinkler systems are very expensive. Of course costs will very depending on the type of system you buy, however, it is estimated that the costs can be recovered over a period of 10 years through reduced insurance premiums and less disruption to business continuity following a fire

What the benefits of sprinklers?

Building design

To make a building safe from fire compartmentation needs to be in place to stop the spread of fire. This can sometimes restrict the design of the building`s internal layout. If sprinklers are fitted, the restrictions can be less, so a designer has more freedom with the internal space of the building, e.g. reduction in compartment fire rating, increase fire escape travel distance.

Vulnerable people

Sprinklers can give a person with mobility issues a lot more time to escape if there is a fire. Fire death and injury data indicates that those most at risk are younger people, older people, people with mental health problems, and particularly those with mobility problems who are unable to leave buildings easily. We therefore consider that all residential care homes should be fully fitted with sprinklers for the protection of residents from fire

Businesses

Commercial premises can all benefit from fitting sprinklers in their properties.

It is a recognised fact that 85% of small and medium businesses that suffer a serious fire either never recover or cease trading within 18 months. The installation of sprinklers in these types of premises will aid growth in the economy as fewer businesses will cease to trade, losses due to fire will reduce and fewer businesses will be forced to relocate often destabilising and affecting whole communities.


Schools

Schools are one of the property types where the most significant benefits can be achieved by sprinklers  due to the impact of fire not only on students but also the surrounding population when a community resource is lost.

Building Bulletin 100: Design for fire safety in schools, 2007 includes a expectation that ‘all new schools should have fire sprinklers installed except in a few low risk schools’.  To this end we continue to work with schools, colleges and education authorities to ensure that the benefits of sprinklers are fully considered

What is the current law on Sprinklers?

The regulations around the United Kingdom differ slightly. In England, for life safety it is compulsory to install AWFSS in:

• New residential blocks over 30m high
• Uncompartmented areas of shops or self storage buildings with an open plan area over 2000m2

To meet Approved Document B standards, corresponding regulations apply to large single storey buildings where the largest permitted unsprinklered compartment is 20,000m2. (Buildings used for storage/distribution)
Further information about the current legislation is available on the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA) website

Personal Protection Watermist Systems

A self contained watermist system is essentially a sprinkler system in one room of a building, for one person. These systems are designed for people who spend most of their time confined to a specific area of their home. Watermist systems use a spray of fine water droplets that can surprises a fire by cooling, wetting and displacing oxygen

Who are Watermist systems for?

Past causes of fatal fires in places where people live show that a significant percentage of victims have a physical or mental impairment that makes them unaware of, or unable to respond to, a fire in their home

Further guidance can be found in the publication for assessing and identifying `priority` people whose level of risk warrants additional measures such as Personal Protection Systems. Assisting  social housing providers in fire risk management strategies for vulnerable clients

“Guidance on the use, deployment and limitations of Personal Protection Watermist Systems in the homes of vulnerable people”

Automatic Water Fire Suppression Systems consultation

London Fire Brigade is one of the leading campaigners on sprinklers. We have experts on hand to answer questions and give advice.
One of our sprinkler coordinators can help if you have any other questions, contact them on sprinklers@london-fire.gov.uk