Sprinkler protection: the answer is out there; as the financial and social cost of school and residential fires continues to hit the economy and communties hard, FIRE looks at some of the possible solutions and finds that it is possible to cut through the bureaucracy and install sprinklers in high-risk areas. Largely because if there's a will ...(Active protection: sprinklers)(Cover Story)

The message to the Government is that most schools still lack the protection of a sprinkler system even though the number of school fires continues to rise, along with the financial and social cost. The warnings, from fire brigades and the private sector, are growing, accompanied by calls for sprinkler systems to be installed.

Some authorities have taken action, but the Government has so far not insisted on the fire safety system that has been fitted in millions of buildings and saved lives throughout the world.


In June Zurich Municipal, which provides more school insurance than any other company, told the Local Government Association education conference that automatic sprinklers must be fitted in new and refurbished schools if the soaring rate of school arson and the rising number of daytime fires were to be reduced.

Zurich Municipal had already told the Government that sprinklers should be made compulsory in new and refurbished schools.

The company's alert to Westminster was repeated at the conference with some stark facts by Larry Stokes, Zurich Municipal's underwriting manager and chair of the Arson Prevention Bureau's schools working group.

Stokes warned: "A small fire can turn into a large fire in about five minutes, so sprinklers are key to limiting the damage, which is as high as nearly 2 million [pounds sterling] a week. The installation of school sprinklers will save money and could save lives. If sprinklers are not made compulsory in new developments, a unique opportunity could be lost."

A similar call, also in June, was made by the Arson Prevention Bureau, an arm of the Association of British Insurers. The right time for considering suppression systems, said the bureau, was the design stage. Jane Milne, the Chief Executive, said: "Making sprinkler installation mandatory in new school development will reduce significantly the risk to life and the financial cost of arson, and will strengthen the Government's vision to deliver higher education standards and transform learning environments in schools. …

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