NFCC again urges sprinklers for schools

NFCC again urges sprinklers for schools

THE NATIONAL Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has called on the government to fit sprinklers in ‘all new schools and those undergoing refurbishment’.

Having made similar calls in 2017, the NFCC has ‘once again urged’ the government to consider fitting sprinklers in new build schools and schools undergoing refurbishment, as part of its response to the call for evidence on the technical review of Building Bulletin 100: Design for fire safety in schools (BB100). Its response was combined with input from building fire safety specialists from with UK fire and rescue services, and highlighted the ‘unacceptable outcome’ of the guidance’s 2007 edition.

This was that the rate of schools being fitted with sprinklers ‘may have fallen’ from 70% to ‘as low as’ 15% in terms of new builds, with a BBC study recently pointing this out. NFCC lead for sprinklers Terry McDermott called for the government to ‘acknowledge the failure of the design guide to achieve the expectation that most, if not all, new schools would be fitted with sprinklers’.

He added: ‘Loopholes have allowed designers to conveniently interpret the guidance and this must be rectified. NFCC considers all new schools, and those undergoing refurbishment should have sprinklers fitted. Currently England is lagging behind Scotland and Wales in terms of sprinkler inclusion in building design and this must be rectified.’

Roy Wilsher, NFCC chair, added that the council welcomed the BB100 call for evidence, stating: ‘We have a responsibility in this country to ensure we do everything we possibly can to make buildings safer for occupants. Increased use of sprinklers in schools is a no brainer. UK school fires disrupt the education of an estimated 90,000 children and students annually. Not only is ensuring our children’s safety paramount, schools are important community assets that need to be protected from damage.

‘The figures associated with fire damage in schools are significant.  The Association of British Insurers has reported that the most expensive school fires typically cost around £2.8 million to address. Covering a four-year period, an average of 24 large loss fires occurred every year totalling £67.2million. NFCC looks forward to government re-examining the BB100 guide and making the necessary changes to protect schools.’

He noted: ‘We are pleased the Secretary of State for Education is committed – as part of wider work on fire safety across government – to work with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to join up the reviews of fire safety guidance. We will continue to hold the government to account to ensure that we see not only sprinklers fitted in all new and refurbished schools but to raise fire engineering standards in building design across the board in the United Kingdom.’