Fire sprinklers have been used for the protection of commercial properties such as offices, factories, warehouses and department stores for well over 130 years and there is now a growing recognition of their effectiveness in improving levels of life safety in other types of buildings.
The latest version of Approved Document B in support of the Building Regulations incorporates clear recognition of the value of sprinklers in improving levels of safety for occupants as well as in preventing the spread of fire. Other developments have demonstrated the value of sprinklers in providing additional levels of safety for fire fighters in large, complex structures or in buildings where the fire load is excessive. With the incorporation of the latest fast-response sprinkler heads there is clear evidence that, even in the compartment of origin of a fire, occupants of sprinklered buildings enjoy a significant additional measure of life safety.
There also appears to be a growing consensus that sprinklers offer a highly cost-effective way of reducing the UK's appalling fire death toll. It seems generally acknowledged that, while smoke detectors probably save around 80 - 100 lives each year, this figure is unlikely to improve. It is also clear that when it is the most vulnerable members of our society who die - the very young, the very old, the disabled, the infirm and those who use drugs and alcohol unwisely - only sprinklers can actually prevent fire deaths.
In the case of social housing, care premises, homes in multiple occupation, hostels and similar properties there now clear arguments that sprinklers offer the best chance of preventing deaths should a fire occur.