AS part of the National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) National Sprinkler Week campaign, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service is continuing to work closely with social housing providers to achieve its target of having sprinklers retrofitted in more than 40 medium and high-rise buildings across the county.
"Our aim at SFRS was to have sprinklers retrofitted in all residential buildings of five floors or more by 2026 and we are well on our way to achieving that goal with installations having been completed in 12 blocks in the county, said Staffordshire Chief Fire Officer Becci Bryant.
The ‘community sprinkler project’ was singled out for recognition for what it has achieved and described as ‘innovative’ by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Service (HMICFRS) for recognition last December.
Although this has been an aim of SFRS for many years, this was formalised with the launch of the community sprinkler project in 2016 – to retrofit sprinklers in residential buildings taller than four stories in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.
Fire sprinklers are widely recognised as the single most effective method for fighting the spread of fires in their early stages.
Research by the NFCC and the National Fire Sprinkler Network (NFSN) found that sprinkler systems operate on 94% of occasions so are very reliable and when they do operate they extinguish or contain the fire on 99% of occasions. The result is sprinklers reduce injuries by at least 80%, reduce property damage by 90% and substantially reduce damage to the environment from fire.
The first part of the project involved working with social housing providers to identify the buildings that met the criteria. An analysis was completed on the existing high rises to identify which buildings were believed to be higher risk – based on the number of flats, floors, occupancy types, history of fire and false alarms.
In 2017, two high-rise buildings in Lichfield were fitted with a state-of-the-art sprinkler system as part of a project between SFRS and Bromford Housing. The work at David Garrick Gardens, which promotes independent living for older people, included having automatic sprinklers retro-fitted in all 63 one and two bedroom homes and communal areas, as well as fire doors upgraded.
In 2017, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Tamworth Borough Council announced they would be retrofitting sprinklers into their blocks – 18 in Stoke-on-Trent and seven in Tamworth. Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service also entered into an agreement to install sprinklers in four former local authority blocks in Lichfield.
In September 2018, work commenced at Seddon Court in Hanley and by May 2019, Stoke on Trent had its first sprinklered high rise block of flats. Shortly after its completion, work began on the next two blocks, with four more blocks expected to be completed in the coming year.
In January 2020, the work to improve the safety of seven high-rise blocks in Tamworth was also completed. The project ensured that if a fire was to start in one of the flats it would be suppressed within seconds by the new system.
Becci Bryant added: “Our aim at SFRS was to have sprinklers retrofitted in all residential buildings of five floors or more by 2026 and we are well on our way to achieving that goal with installations having been completed in 12 blocks in the county. There are also discussions and commitment from other housing providers and associations throughout Staffordshire to have these systems installed in a further 22 blocks.
“I am really proud of the community sprinkler project and everything it’s achieved. We have already seen evidence of how effective these systems are and how they minimise damage. More importantly the likelihood of someone dying in a fire is dramatically reduced with sprinklers.”