To receive a presentation on the options available for retrofitting sprinkler systems in buildings from the Watch Manager of Salford and Trafford Fire Protection Team, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service.
The Watch Manager for Salford and Trafford Fire Protection Team and the Legal Support & Complex Enforcement Lead, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) gave a brief overview of a presentation on sprinklers which covered the way that modern sprinkler systems worked. The officers stated that there was an issue in terms of public perception of sprinklers whereby people believed that they caused as much damage as they prevent. The Committee were told that modern sprinkler systems used smaller amounts of water than the fire service would use if they had to put out a fire. The Committee were informed of a number of incidents whereby retrofitted sprinklers had saved residents lives and how the safety that such systems provided enabled elderly and frail people to stay in their home in safety longer than other options.
After the presentation a video was delivered to the Committee, the video covered the legal requirements regarding the fitting of sprinkler systems within England. The video stated that there were still a large number of people across the England living in blocks of flats which did not have sprinkler systems installed. The video showed the difference between a fire in a block of flats without a sprinkler system and one that did. In the building that did have a sprinkler system there was no loss of life, minimal fire damage, and minimal fire crew time compared to the other fire which resulted in deaths, a number of flats being totally destroyed, the full evacuation of the building, and hours of multiple fire crews time.
The video then went onto inform the Committee that modern sprinkler systems could be fitted with minimal disruption to the residents. It was no longer required for a building to be evacuated and residents rehomed whilst the system was fitted (which previously represented a large additional cost). The majority of high rise flats were suitable for the systems without any changes being made to the buildings infrastructure, the only ones that did require changes were those that did not have adequate water pressure. The video detailed a scheme which had been undertaken in Sheffield to retrofit a number of tower blocks with sprinkler systems. The scheme proved that systems could be installed within high rise tower blocks with minimal disruption and at a reasonable cost.
After the video the Watch Manager for Salford and Trafford Fire Protection Team informed the Committee that despite the video being almost 10 years old and the fire incidents being real there had not been great interest in adding sprinkler systems to tower blocks that did not legally require them.
Following the video Committee Members were given the opportunity to ask questions. Committee Members asked a number of questions relating to the regulations around sprinklers. The Officers responded that there had been no change to the regulations within the last ten years, even following Grenfell Tower, and that housing developers were unlikely to install sprinkler systems in buildings if they were not required to do so. There was a recommendation following Grenfell Tower that buildings be retrofitted but it was not a legal requirement and had little to no impact upon developers.
The Officers also informed the Committee that there were to be new regulations for care homes and nursing homes to have sprinklers due to the immobility of residents. This was of particular interest as it was vulnerable people who were the most at risk and therefore gained the most from having these systems fitted.
Committee Members then asked a series of questions relating to public engagement that the fire service had conducted around sprinklers. The Officers responded that the fire service was doing a lot to improve the public image but it was an uphill battle. They gave an example of a recent advert by an insurance company showing a sprinkler being set off by a mobile phone and causing damage, which had undone a lot of the fire services hard work. The Chair added that while the fire service did a lot of work around public engagement developers lobbied in opposition to proposals to the regulations regarding sprinklers due to the short term costs, despite their obvious benefit.
The Officers told the Committee that the government were looking to revise guidance and were currently consulting nationally. GMFRS was planning to respond to consultation that they felt the regulations on sprinkler retrofitting needed to be update. The Chair asked that the fire services send their consultation response be sent to the Committee once it was ready.
1) That the presentation and update be noted.
2) That the Watch Manager for Salford and Trafford Fire Protection Team and the Legal Support & Complex Enforcement Lead, GMFRS be thanked for attending the meeting.
3) That GMFRS are to send their consultation response to the Committee for information once it was ready.