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British Automatic
Fire Sprinkler
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Safer High Rise Living

 “Safer High Rise Living… the Callow Mount Sprinkler Retrofit Project” is a major report, published by BAFSA in 2012, which demonstrated that it is cost effective and practical to retrofit automatic fire sprinklers in existing high-rise tower blocks in particular in those constructed between 1950 & 1970.

Download “Safer High Rise Living… the Callow Mount Sprinkler Retrofit Project” HERE

It describes how a pilot project, sponsored by the sprinkler industry and overseen by the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association resulted in the successful installation of sprinklers in a 13 storey, 1960s tower block in Sheffield – Callow Mount.

It has long been the view of many fire safety professionals that automatic fire suppression systems could be used to supplement existing fire safety provision in high rise buildings and compensate in locations where this might not be adequate.  

A primary objective of the project was to determine the practicality of installing a complete system without the need to decant residents. 

Taking less than four weeks in total to complete the work, the approach adopted demonstrated once and for all how significant improvements in life and building safety can be achieved with minimal disruption by retrofitting an automatic fire suppression system.

The report reviews:

  • ·         the identification of risks associated with high rise blocks
  • ·         the direct and indirect consequences of fire in-rise residential premises
  • ·         the relevant recommendations in current fire safety legislation and guidance documents
  • ·         research into the use of sprinklers in residential and domestic premises 

This 2012 report clearly demonstrated that: 

  • it is possible to retrofit sprinklers into occupied, high-rise, social housing without decanting residents
  • such installations can be undertaken on a fast track basis
  • tenants, residents and their families feel safer knowing they are better protected with a sprinkler system in place
  • the potential trauma and disruption to individuals and communities following a fire would be reduced
  • the minimum impact of a fire in a sprinkler-protected block will substantially reduce the need for rehousing tenants and major refurbishment following a fire
  • the true installation and whole life-costs can permit a cost benefit analysis of sprinkler installations in relation to potential repair and rehousing costs following a fire
  • retrofitting sprinklers as part of a major refurbishment project would form only a small part of the overall costs
  • the retrofit design and installation can be adapted for high-rise blocks with different layouts

The final cost of the project in 2012 produced an average cost per flat of just under £1,150 (£1,148.63) which included the provision of sprinklers in utility rooms, common areas, bin stores and an office.

In consequence of the success of the Sheffield pilot project findings, BAFSA and the Sprinkler Coordination Group recommended  that the option of retrofitting automatic fire suppression systems should be properly considered by the relevant stakeholders when considering or planning:

  • ·         major refurbishment programmes of high rise accommodation
  • ·         undertaking and reviewing statutory fire risk assessments
  • ·         implementing measures to rectify deficiencies disclosed by fire risk assessments
  • ·         considering the cost effectiveness of various fire safety measures
  • ·         compensating for deficiencies or defects in fire safety provision or non compliances with current fire safety standards (such as the existence of only one staircase) 

It is also very clear that automatic fire suppression systems:

  • enhance the safety of residents and other occupants of high-rise blocks
  • reduce the risks to life and injury experienced by firefighters working in high rise blocks.
  • reduce the social impact of fire on occupants, their families and neighbourhoods
  • reduce the costs and financial impact of a fire on hard-pressed local authorities and landlords

These findings permit national government, local housing authorities and private sector housing associations to give informed consideration to the wider use of automatic fire suppression systems as part of a comprehensive fire safety strategy for existing, unprotected high-rise blocks across the UK.

Since 2012 BAFSA in collaboration with the UK Fire & Rescue Services have invited Local Authorities, Central Government and Housing Associations to more than 20 free to attend seminars on the subject.

Grenfell Tower fire

Following the fatal Grenfell Tower, many people will today be asking how such an incident occur. Examination of the facts and a formal investigation will be ongoing but meanwhile BAFSA can confirm that the building dates from 1974, when sprinklers were not required in high-rise apartment buildings in the UK.

Those requirements only took effect in England in 2007. Since then all new high-rise apartment buildings higher than 30m have had to fit sprinklers. In Scotland the height threshold is 18 m and in Wales since last year all new apartment buildings and houses must have sprinklers.

Grenfell Tower was given a major refurbishment, costing £10 million, which was completed last year. Sprinklers are not required in an existing building and all reports indicate that they were not fitted. We believe that the cost do so would have been about £0.2 million (around 2% of the refurbishment cost). New external cladding was fitted and it looks from all the visual evidence that this was combustible. We do not know if the cladding was fitted to improve thermal insulation or purely for aesthetic reasons.

At this stage we cannot be certain how the fire started. Reports suggest it began in an apartment on the fourth floor. If that is correct, it is highly likely that a sprinkler system would have prevented the fire from developing as it did.

Alan Brinson of the European Fire Sprinkler Network has this to say ”This fire is similar to The Address fire in Dubai on New Year's Eve 2016. The difference is that building had sprinklers and nobody was killed.”

BAFSA Chief Executive, Keith Macgillivray MBE added “The families and friends of the Grenfell Tower community are in the thoughts of BAFSA and its members as are the members of the Fire & Rescue Services who are still endeavouring to extinguish the fire.”

 

Grenfell Tower Fire

Following the tragic event which took place overnight in London BAFSA wishes to send its condolences to all those affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy and thank our colleagues from the Fire Service for their prompt response.

Earlier this morning BAFSA agreed with our colleagues in the National Fire Sprinkler Network, the European Fire Sprinkler Network and the Business Sprinkler Alliance that we would issue one agreed statement under the banner of the Fire Sector Federation...

"The Fire Sector Federation (FSF) wishes to send its condolences to all those affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy. We also wish to praise the fire service for its prompt and professional response.

Although a fire on such a scale is unprecedented in the UK, there have been a number of similar incidents both here and around the world. The FSF has long expressed major concerns about the apparent disjoint in the processes which aim to ensure fire safety within the built environment, as well as concerns about the combustibility of certain modern building materials.

While we must wait for a full investigation into the cause of the fire and the reasons for such rapid fire spread in this tragic incident, the Fire Sector Federation will be continuing to campaign for improvements in fire safety legislation and in ensuring the safety of the public and our built environment.

Paul Fuller CBE, Chair of the Fire Sector Federation says:

“Today’s tragedy will be felt throughout the fire sector, where all our efforts are focussed on ensuring the safety of our communities and of ensuring that our buildings are adequately protected.

“We wish to express our heartfelt condolences to all those affected by this terrible event and pay tribute to the fire service which once again has shown its bravery and professionalism in its response to this incident.

“There is no doubt that there will be questions to answer and the Fire Sector Federation will continue to investigate and campaign for improvements in fire protection and fire safety legislation.”

Grenfell Tower was built in 1974 without sprinklers. Regulatory guidance in England has only required srpinklers in high-rise residential buildings since 2007. Although this 27-storey tower was refurbished at a cost of £10 million in 2014/2015, there was no requirement to fit sprinklers at the same time. The added cost to do so would have been about £200,000.

BAFSA Chief Executive, Keith MacGillivray MBE added "The families and friends of the Grenfell Tower community are in the thoughts of BAFSA and its members."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sprinkler Save : dwelling, Poole

At about 1130hrs on Friday 2nd June  a fire occurred at a dwelling in Ashley Road, Poole, Dorset when some window drapes were ignited by a lighted candle that had been placed on the windowsill.

Crews from Dorset and Wiltshire F&RS were mobilised but on arrival they found that the fire had been extinguished by a single sprinkler head, located in the room of origin. Their main task was to isolate the water supply to the sprinkler system and assist in remedial action.

The tenant is said to have been able to move back into the property the following day.

 

BAFSA Skills & Qualifications drive receives a boost

BAFSA has received a donation from the Sprinklers Engineers Society to assist with BAFSA's drive to improve competency and open up clear career options within the sprinkler industry.

In a letter from Mike Green, Chairman of the Sprinkler Engineer's Society explained:

The Sprinkler Engineers Society was set up some 35 years ago to provide a forum for like-minded professionals within the fire sprinkler industry to discuss the prevailing topics of the day. Fire sprinkler professionals from around the UK met regularly throughout the year to hear speakers from various companies, suppliers and governing bodies such as LPCB,LPC,BRE,NFSN,EFSN,FPA and BAFSA.

Members and officers of the organisation included some well-known people such as Peter Armstrong, Fred Marchant, Vince Procter, Ernie Leaver, Leslie Heavyside to name but a few.  Sadly with the increase in social media , online tutorials and the like meant the enthusiasm for face-to-face networking declined. Therefore the  decision was taken last year to wind up the Society and distribute any remaining funds to the industry.

As Chairman of the society and on behalf of the committee and all members we are pleased to donate the sum of £1325.00 to BAFSA with the request that the money be used inthe furtherance of the skills and development.

There is no doubt that BAFSA and its members will benefit from this donation and the Sprinkler Engineers Society consideration will be put to good use in the coming years.