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I have sprinklers in my building which I believe were installed under the requirements of a local building act which has been repealed. Can I remove these or cease to maintain the system?
This is not a straight forward matter. The sprinkler system may have been installed as a 'trade-off' for building regulations compliance or as a life safety/means of escape measure for other purposes. Sprinklers are often used to permit a variance in means of escape provision, travel distances, fire separation, access for the fire and rescue service, access to a fire hydrant and boundary conditions including separation from nearby premises.
Guidance from the Fire Sector Federation recommends that, prior to the removal or abandonment or decommissioning of any fire safety measure in an existing building, a full building survey is undertaken and a fire strategy should be provided that demonstrates compliance with the fire safety elements of the building regulations. in addition, a new fire risk assessment (as required for virtually all places of work and common areas in residential buildings) should be undertaken to ensure that the loss of the sprinkler system does not place the 'relevant persons' at risk. It would also be wise to verify with the building's insurers (who may not be the occupant's insurers) that they have no concerns about the proposed action. See: firesectorfederation.co.uk/upd ... proved.pdf
Why are sprinklers important for life safety?
In a large, fast moving fire people often do not know which way to go and may not be able to use hose reels or fire extinguishers.
Sprinklers are completely automatic. They work by themselves and can stop heat and smoke from trapping people.
How can we be sure sprinklers will work in a fire?
Most sprinkler systems are very simple. There are normally no moving parts to fail. The pipes are full of water, usually from the mains. The sprinklers over the fire burst open when they get hot and spray water on the fire. If you have water in your pipes the sprinklers will work.
What about water damage?
Reports of water damage from fires in buildings with sprinklers are often exaggerated. Only the sprinklers over a fire open. All the others stay shut. A sprinkler opening by accident is almost unheard of. Sprinkler cannot be acuated by smoke or burning toast!
Firefighters will often use 10,000 times more water from hoses to do the same job as a sprinkler system.
A valuable item sprayed with water from a sprinkler as it puts out a fire can usually be recovered or restored. One that is burnt to a cinder and flushed down the drain by a fire hose is another matter!
If there is a fire the water from one or two sprinklers is a small price to pay for saving a complete building, its contents or even a life.
What about smoke?
Smoke damage is a major cause of loss in fires. In serious cases smoke is the main cause of death. Sprinklers wash the larger particles out of smoke reducing its density and toxicity. In addition the water cools the smoke making it less harmful.
Quick response sprinklers are now available that will attack a fire even earlier in its growth. Fast attack dramatically reduces the amount of smoke that a fire can produce.
What is the life safety record for sprinklers?
Apart from explosions there have never been multiple fatalities in a fully sprinklered building in the United Kingdom.
The total number of deaths world-wide in sprinklered buildings is only 50 compared to thousands in unprotected buildings. This is a record no other fire system can match.
What do sprinklers cost?
The cost will vary depending on what your building is made of, what you store in it, what you use it for and how good your water supply is.
A useful comparison is that sprinklers cost less than carpet. But unlike carpet, which wears out, your sprinkler system will protect you for the life of the building.
Aren’t sprinklers unsightly?
Modern sprinkler are specially designed to meet the needs of architects in offices, hotels, shops, hospitals and prestige buildings. They are compact and elegant. In most buildings the public are usually unaware that sprinklers are fitted.
Miniature sprinklers are little bigger than a 50p piece and are neat and robust. They can be fitted with ceiling rosettes and painted to match any colour scheme.
Concealed sprinklers are recessed and covered by a flat plate flush with the ceiling. They are unobtrusive and almost invisible. Concealed sprinklers are ideal for clean areas, where there is restricted headroom or vandalism is a problem.