Are school sprinklers necessary?

Education Business reports that following the tragic Grenfell Tower fire back in June, there has been questions raised over how fire-safe buildings are and whether sprinklers should be fitted in all schools

The fire at Grenfell Tower in June 2017 brought into sharp focus wider questions about fire safety and has caused widespread concern throughout the education sector about how many school buildings have cladding which is not fire resistant.

It has also raised the question as to whether all new and refurbished schools should be fitted with sprinkler systems to ensure that pupils are safe if a fire was to break out. 

SAFETY PROVISION

Since the incident, the Fire brigades Union (FBU), National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) urged education secretary Justine Greening to ditch proposals they believe will make fire safety rules less effective – especially in regard to the installation of sprinklers in schools. 

Although the government responded to NUT and FBU protests by claiming that it was still consulting, its proposed replacement Building Bulletin set out the government’s intention: ‘The Building Regulations do not require the installation of fire sprinkler suppression systems in school buildings for life safety and therefore [guidelines] no longer include an expectation that most new school buildings will be fitted with them.’  

CALL FOR SCHOOL SPRINKLERS

Since the Grenfell fire, the National Fire Chiefs Council has called for all new school builds or refurbishments to have sprinklers fitted – a policy that is mandatory in Scotland and Wales. 

The NFCC part commissioned an independent analysis in 2017 which looked at more than 2,000 incidents attended by UK fire services in sprinkler-protected buildings, which found that sprinkler systems correctly operated on at least 94 per cent of the fires and controlled or extinguished 99 per cent of those fires. 

According to NFCC, the impact of school fires is significant; while they have an impact in financial terms they also have a devastating impact on the communities schools serve, along with the environment and the disruption to students, teachers and families. 

COSTLY CONSEQUENCES

According to figures by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the average cost of school fires between 2000 and 2004 was £58 million per year. 

Read the full article Are school sprinklers necessary?

What are your thoughts on sprinklers in schools? Do you feel safe without them? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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