The importance of fire strategies

sprinklers

Priority 1 explain why it is necessary to have a plan for the protection of your property

Consider the hypothetical event of a fire causing widespread property damage, whether that’s a leasehold apartment, or a HMO.

During the fire everyone evacuates, and no lives are lost. Is this a good result? Possibly, if considering the success of the fire alarm, the emergency planning, the maintenance of escape routes and emergency lighting. Or was the fact that no one died a matter of luck? Either way, in terms of loss of property, loss of amenity, and potentially lost income, then hardly good news. Costs may be recoverable through insurance, but never to 100% loss value. The fire will undoubtably have destroyed items that can’t be replaced, those kept for memories and for sentimental reasons.

Reflect on the extent and effect of the fire in a building protected by sprinklers. In this scenario the fire has been controlled and even extinguished within a limited area, the seat of the fire. Only sprinkler heads in the immediate vicinity would have operated. Visions of gallons of water cascading through the premises are misplaced. Published research results demonstrate that in 80% of fires controlled by sprinklers, fewer than six heads activated. These statistics include large commercial buildings where fires may need to be relatively large for sprinkler activation.

So why do so few residential buildings have sprinklers installed? Sprinklers are commonly not even considered at design and construction phases, omitted in favour of alarms, compartmentation and smoke control. All valid inclusions, but none able put the fire out and protect monetary investments. Fire service remit is the preservation of life, their actions may preserve property only as a result of preventing spread and threat to further lives. Sprinklers can’t be standalone protection for property and people, buildings do require other live safety systems. When considering protection of premises and people, there should be a clear understanding of objective, and the appointment of competent persons to decide on suitable systems.

Life safety is the objective of the building regulations, property protection is not an objective. It’s of concern to insurers with financial interests and owners who potentially have a greater interest with losses going beyond financial recompense. Regulations and guidance available to designers and developers consider fire protection of people, ensuring that they can escape from the fire. What the regulations and guidance don’t call for is sprinklers other than in specific circumstances, none of which apply to purely residential accommodation, and again not for protection of the property. The pure application of these standards is an undesirable proposition from an asset preservation standpoint.

Many businesses affected by fire loss events don’t survive. Loss of stock, records, premises or equipment can have a catastrophic effect. Surviving organisations report months and years of disruption, from temporary shutdowns to degrees of reduction in trading ability. Sprinklers would have certainly protected most businesses from complete cessation of enterprise and reduced disruptive periods from months to weeks or less.

If you’re considering financial investments in new premises as a business, an income from which you may be relying on, protection of the property should be of concern. Has the property been completed yet? Or is it still at the planning stage or under construction? If you have any sphere of influence over the design or build, resilience of the building to fire and protection of your business should be raised now. Challenge the designer or fire engineer to explain the thought processes around the fire strategy. The discussion is unlikely to avoid the issue of costs, this debate needs turning on its head and consideration given to wider impacts and the potential benefits of building resilience. You may also seek advice from proposed insurers who will often be willing to offer an opinion, and quote for the building with and without sprinkler protection.

For more information and advice, please call Priority 1 on 03300 882512 or visit www.priority1uk.com

 

 

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