London Fire Brigade Backs Sprinklers in Schools

The London Fire Brigade, Britain’s largest fire department, is calling for sprinklers to be installed in all schools in the city. Its latest data show 36 arson attacks and 113 accidental fires occurred in 2011 in London’s schools, colleges, and nursery buildings; nationwide, each year nearly one in every eight schools sustains a serious arson attack, and London’s school fires account for one-third of the estimated annual losses of about £65 million.

NFPA data show the problem is far greater in the United States. From 2005 through 2009, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 6,260 structure fires in educational properties annually that caused an annual average of 85 civilian injuries and $112 million in direct property damage, according to the NFPA “Educational Properties” report by Ben Evants in June 2011.

In 2011, the London Fire Brigade reported almost two-thirds of new or refurbished schools planned for the city are not being built with sprinklers installed despite 2008 government guidelines recommending them in most cases. While fire chiefs are consulted on plans for new schools and renovations of existing ones, according to the brigade’s figures, six out of 10 schools that proposed building work in the past three years did not plan to install sprinklers.

“The number and regularity of school fires we attend is yet more evidence, if any were needed, that builders, developers, local authorities, governing bodies and other private providers must stop ignoring the huge benefits of sprinklers,” said Susan Hall, chairman of London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority’s Community Safety Committee. “As well as making sure the children in their care are protected, those responsible for our schools should recognize that sprinklers can dramatically reduce damage by stopping fires from spreading so quickly. This would help to protect the significant amount of public money invested in our school buildings.”

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