BAFSA advocates for mandatory fire sprinklers in schools during Sprinkler Week

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Increased risk of school fires during summer term

The British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA) is urging the Government and education authorities to address the increased risk of fires in schools during the summer term.

This appeal is part of this year’s Sprinkler Week campaign, running from 20-25 May.

According to Government data, only 8.5% of new schools built since 2015 have automatic fire sprinklers installed, despite approximately 300 school fires occurring in 2023.

BAFSA highlights that schools equipped with sprinklers can often resume operations the same day after a fire, compared to the two-year rebuilding period typically required for major fires.

Sprinklers can limit fire damage to a single room, preserving valuable student coursework and preventing significant disruptions to education.

Fire sprinklers in schools: Call for legislative action

BAFSA, alongside the NFSN and NFCC, has written an open letter to the Secretary of State for Education, the Rt Hon Gillian Keegan MP.

The letter urges the Government to revise Building Bulletin 100 to mandate automatic fire suppression systems in all new schools.

The letter states: “It is deeply concerning that BB100 – which was necessary to provide fire safety measures specifically for schools, that were beyond Approved Document B and BS9999, to protect the continuity of education has become outdated and disregarded.”

Ali Perry, chief executive of BAFSA, emphasized the economic and emotional benefits of installing sprinklers in schools: “The impact of school fires is much greater than the financial cost of any rebuild. But there is the emotional cost too.

“Schools work hard to establish a positive culture and build relationships which are shattered when pupils and staff are displaced due to fire.”

Support from Zurich Municipal

Zurich Municipal supports BAFSA’s Sprinkler Week campaign, noting the persistent issue of fires in educational facilities.

Governments in Scotland and Wales have already mandated sprinklers in all new and significantly refurbished schools to prevent such blazes.

Paul Redington, Regional Major Loss Manager for Zurich, stated: “For several years, Zurich has called on the Government to bring English schools into line with the rest of Britain, but so far, we have yet to see any movement.”

Redington also pointed out additional fire risks: “The traditional fire risks of arson and ‘hot works’ are supplemented by the increase in complex electronic equipment in schools, and the growing trend among young people to use disposable vapes which contain lithium-ion batteries that can ignite if damaged or disposed of incorrectly.”

Impact on communities

Terry McDermott, secretary of the National Fire Sprinkler Network (NFSN), stressed the importance of maintaining sprinkler requirements in new schools: “Any decision to remove the requirement for sprinklers in new schools would be a retrograde step. Schools are critical buildings in local communities.

“Whilst it is accepted that there has not been a loss of life in a school fire, the impact of the loss of a school is devastating for the children, parents, and the community.”

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