Call for Mandatory Sprinklers By the ABI’s James Dalton Underlined by Cafe Nero Warehouse Fire.
The government has been urged to make sprinklers mandatory in care homes and schools by one of the insurance industry’s most senior figures.Speaking at the Worshipful Company of Firefighters Fire Lecture in central London, James Dalton, director of general insurance at the Association of British Insurers (ABI), said he feared that only tragedy would prompt a change in the law.
Dalton’s comments, which also referenced the huge annual cost of fires in sprinkler-free warehouses, came just a week before a fire broke out in a Cafe Nero coffee factory in South London.
It’s unclear at the time of writing whether the warehouse had sprinklers installed.The blaze, which caused chaos on train routes running through nearby Clapham Junction, was tackled by eight fire engines and about 100 firefighters.Just a few days earlier James Dalton had told an audience at the historic Insurance Hall in central London that warehouse fires in England and Wales cost an average of £1m and £250m overall.
During the 2011 London riots a blaze at the 30,000-square-metre Sony warehouse destroyed £3.2m worth of stock and caused £10m worth of damage to the building.
On the care home issue he said: “It is scandalous that there is no regulatory requirement for the use of sprinklers in newly-built buildings that house the most vulnerable in our society – those in care homes and schools.
The building regulations and British Standards offer guidance and encourage the use of fire-protection measures – but that is simply not good enough.“In Scotland and Wales, the occupants of new and refurbished care homes must be protected by fire suppression systems – why not in England as well?”He also suggested that “responsible care home owners install sprinklers on a voluntary basis to protect their residents” and that loved ones of vulnerable residents should consider fire safety measures as well as the quality of accommodation and food when comparing potential dwellings.
Dalton cited two examples where sprinklers have more than justified their installation. One was a kitchen fire, which sprinklers had extinguished before firefighters turned up. The other, a blaze caused by a lit cigarette, was well under control by the time help arrived.“The sad reality in the case of both care homes and schools is that it will take a tragic loss of life” before action is taken, warned Dalton. “But the real tragedy is that this loss of life is as inevitable as it is predictable.”
Approved Document BApproved Document B – which outlines the building regulations currently in force – only “recommends” that sprinklers are installed in warehouses larger than 20,000 square metres. Approved Document B is overdue a review, “especially in light of demands of modern building owners,” said Dalton.More than nine in 10 members of the Fire Sector Federation (FSF) also think the document should be subject to a review, a survey by the organisation revealed last year.
He also suggested that while the increasingly frequent and severe flooding that afflicts communities around the UK is devastating, fire still eclipses it, if not in column inches then in insurance costs and loss of life.Dalton’s talk followed a lively recreation of the Great Fire of London by theatre troupe Spectrum Drama.Spanning events leading up to the fire, which destroyed the homes of 70,000 out of 80,000 inhabitants, to its aftermath, this segued nicely into Dalton’s presentation.
The ABI director of general insurance opened by charting the insurance industry’s roots back not to the establishment of Lloyds of London in 1688, but to the wreckage of the Great Fire 22 years earlier.Other speakers included master of ceremonies Bruce Hoad, from the Worshipful Company of Firefighters, and Dr Christine Rigden, Sheriff of the City of London.