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British Sprinkler Alliance warned Government of woeful Fire Safety Guidance and Building Regulations

Monday 19 June 2017

Just a week before the Grenfell Tower disaster, the British Sprinkler Alliance warned of a long overdue review of Fire Safety Guidance and Building Regulations. With so many lessons to be learnt from the devastating blaze, their argument for a major shake-up in the way the Government tackles fire safety is more poignant then ever.

The alliance claims that the government has put measures in place and invested for flooding, winter cold snaps, terrorism and cyber-crime, but that fire has been largely absent from their agenda and a great cost to safety and to business. 

Speaking before the Grenfell Tower blaze, Iain Cox of the British Spinklers Alliance said: 

"Because the impacts of fires are distributed across the year and across the country – national press reports are rare and the urgency for action to effectively protect against fire and to minimise these costs is missing.

"We believe the next Government should put fire on the resilience agenda and commit to actions designed to reduce the impact of fire on the country, the economy and on UK plc. The most efficient and effective way to do this is to ensure that when fires start they are quickly extinguished so that damage is minimised. Fire sprinkler systems do just this – they make buildings and businesses resilient to the impact of fire because they automatically control or even put out the fire before the FRS arrive with the result that the business can be up and running again usually within hours of the incident.

"Three straightforward actions by the next Government would help ensure a greater use of fire sprinkler systems and so enhance UK plc’s resilience to fire:

"Firstly, the government can undertake a long overdue review of the Fire Safety Guidance of the Building Regulations. This needs to start soon because the current guidance is woefully out of date. Moreover, the current Guidance is only designed to ensure life safety of occupants. We believe the Guidance must also be designed to optimise property protection in the event of a fire.

"Secondly, the Government should remove sprinklers from the classification as “plant and machinery” for the purposes of the Business Rates – this classification causes a rate increase for buildings fitted with sprinklers. We believe that this creates a perverse disincentive to install equipment which would save a building and business in the event of a fire and should therefore be changed.    

"And thirdly, the Government should advise and inform businesses about the threat that fire presents and what they need to do to effectively protect themselves from fire. Coupled with the first two actions such an information outreach programme would heighten awareness of the risk of fire and so encourage business owners to make their buildings and companies resilient to the impact of fire.

"The Business Sprinkler Alliance therefore wants the new Government to acknowledge the threat that fire presents on a daily basis to businesses; wants the new Government to recognise the benefits the country will accrue by making the buildings of the future safe and sustainable; and wants the new Government to take 3 straightforward policy decisions which will  enhance the resilience of UK Plc, which will make the task of the FRS safer, easier and cheaper and which  will benefit the national finances, the economy and the wider society." 

In a statement on their website following the Grenfell disaster, Iain Cox re-iterated their position:

“There are many questions to answer in the coming weeks as to exactly what happened and what can be done to prevent such a fire happening again but we strongly believe the Government should put fire back on the agenda and commit to actions to reduce the impact of fire.”