Sprinkler systems in the home?

Home owners often ask what fire precautions are effective and economical for private houses. Sprinkler systems immediately come to mind, already widely used in public buildings they can be extremely effective in the home. When a house is at the planning stage it is child's play to incorporate fire protection. And why not choose safe materials for installations for your safety? Sprinkler systems with copper tubes create safety because they themselves are safe. They do not burn and can withstand high temperatures and pressures - these are only some of the great advantages of copper. And it is no problem to retrofit an older property with a copper sprinkler system.


How sprinkler systems work

Automatic sprinkler systems have an advantage over fire alarms because the fire is not only registered, but also attacked with water. A sprinkler head will operate when it reaches a set temperature (sometimes this is 30°C above max. room temperature) and it will then pour water over the fire area. Only the sprinkler heads in the vicinity of the fire will operate, not the whole system. Because they react to heat, one or two sprinklers are often sufficient to extinguish small fires. Enormous water damage often occurs when the fire brigade has to be called in. Sprinklers are activated only where they are needed.

Fire sprinkler system saves in domestic and residential properties:

Student flat save: Wolverhampton: 8th September 2017

West Midlands Fire Service received a call to Liberty Heights, a 25 storey student accommodation block in Wolverhampton. A fire had occurred when a fat pan was left unattended but when FRS personnel attended the flat, the fire had been extinguished by one head on the buildings sprinkler system. The building was constructed in 2009 and is a reinforced concrete, clad building with an L shaped plan measuring  10m x 20m. It consists of two blocks, the tallest of which is 25 storeys. FRS personnel were engaged in clear up operations after the event, but no fire-fighting action was required.

Residential flat save: Bedford: 31 July 2017

Bedfordshire FRS were called to a 5th floor (of a 14 floor building) residential flat fire at 23:06 hrs on 31 July 2017. The resident had fallen asleep leaving a chip pan on, a fire broke out whilst the resident slept, fortunately the fire activated the residential sprinkler system and the sprinkler head within the kitchen extinguished the fire as well as raised the alarm. 1 female casualty was escorted from the flat by fire service personnel and handed over to ambulance service. The fire officer in charge of the incident reported that without the sprinkler activation, the whole flat would have been lost and there was a real possibility that the occupant would have lost their life. The sprinkler system was reinstated the following day (01/08/2017).

Residential flat save: Dereham: 11th June 2017

Sunday 11th June was a fine day and the occupier of a two storey flat in Dereham decided to have a barbecue. After eating they returned the hot coals to a bag of unused charcoal and placed the bag inside the flat before leaving the premises. A fire ensued but luckily the flat had a BS9251 sprinkler system installed in 2011 and a single head extinguished the fire prior to the arrival of appliances from Norfolk F&RS. A fire officer is reported to have said that without the sprinkler activation, the whole flat would have been lost. The sprinkler system was reinstated the following day.

Poole dwelling: 2nd June 2017

At about 11:30pm a fire occurred at a dwelling in Poole, Dorset when some window drapes were ignited by a lighted candle that had been placed on the windowsill. Crews from Dorset and Wiltshire F&RS were mobilised, but on arrival they found that the fire had been extinguished by a single sprinkler head, located in the room of origin. Their main task was to isolate the water supply to the sprinkler system and assist in remedial action. The tenant is said to have been able to move back into the property the following day.

Sprinkler save in single private dwelling: Tamworth: 31st March 2017

At 01:23 on Friday 31st March, Staffordshire FRS mobilised an Officer and an appliance from Belgrave to a house fire in Tamworth. Being close to the border with Warwickshire the second appliance and an Officer were mobilised from Polesworth. The fire was in the lounge on the ground floor caused by a discarded cigarette, which ignited some paper and plastic Tupperware container. The occupants consisted of an elderly couple and their disabled grandson who was 25 years old and bedbound. The property was fitted with working smoke alarms which raised the alarm. The male who was sleeping upstairs heard the alarm and went downstairs where his wife and grandson were still asleep. He took the grandson outside and then came back for the female prior to the arrival of the FRS. In 2014, a tank fed sprinkler system had been retro fitted by Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service after collaborative work with stakeholders. A single sidewall sprinkler head activated and extinguished the fire, leaving crews using 2 BA and a hose reel to ‘dribble’ water on the last few embers. All three occupants were taken to hospital by West Midlands Ambulance for precautionary checks.

Retirement flat: Harrogate: March 2017

The fire started in a store cupboard when a lithium battery on a bicycle overheated (it wasn’t being charged it just overheated). The door was closed to the store cupboard and the sprinkler in the cupboard activated and suppressed the fire. The fire and rescue service attended to isolate the system and make safe, however the fire was contained in the room of origin and no one was affected by the fire.

Care-flat fire, Abbey Hulton, Stoke on Trent: 16th March 2017

At 05:53 on 16th March, Staffordshire FRS were called to a flat fire at an Extracare village. The state of the art building containing 175 flats over 3 storeys was completed two years ago and benefits from having a misting system throughout both the flats and common areas. The fire was in the lounge in a second floor, single occupancy flat. The occupier was lead to safety thanks to the alarm system and the quick actions of the staff. A single head of the misting system activated shortly after the occupant had left, containing the fire to an armchair. There was little smoke damage to the lounge and the rest of the flat was left relatively unaffected. Fire crews attending reported the fire was extinguished and naturally ventilated the flat.

Report taken from the Bristol Post on 13th January 2017

In the early hours, fire-fighters were called to a fire in a basement flat at a Bristol hostel after a suspected arson attack. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation. Avon F&RS crews from Kingswood fire station arrived to find that the building's sprinklers had extinguished the fire and used a ventilation fan to clear the building of smoke. There were no reports of any injuries at the hostel, which is made up of 11 self-contained flats. The property provides homes for people with complex needs including homelessness, drug and alcohol misuse and mental health problems.

St Albans Housing complex: 21st December 2016

On the evening of 21st December a fire occurred upon ignition of a light on the hallway ceiling in a flat. 2 sprinkler heads activated to control/extinguish the fire and fire-fighter’s from St Albans (Green watch) attended to ensure extinguishment and isolate the supply. No injuries nor serious damage is reported.

Rickmansworth house sprinkler save: 6th November 2016

At just after 10pm, Hertfordshire F&RS were called to a fire in a first floor bedroom of a 3 storey house in Rickmansworth. The fire developed with a candle setting fire to curtains within the bedroom and was severe enough to operate the single sprinkler head in the bedroom. 2 pumping appliances from the Brigade attended the incident which was reported to be OOA (out on arrival), as the fire had been extinguished by the time crews arrived. All six occupants of the house escaped the fire. Though damage was estimated at about £3k, Hertfordshire FRS said that had the sprinklers not been there, the fire damage to the property would have been considerable.

Doncaster Flats bin room: 9th November 2016

A successful sprinkler activation occurred in the bin room at a high rise block in Doncaster, South Yorkshire. A single concealed sidewall head, fed by town’s mains supply operated due to the fire in a refuse bin in the store and controlled/extinguished it, damage due to the fire being very minimal.

Sprinkler save at specialised housing scheme in Southwark, 24th October 2016

London Fire Brigade reports that at 11:51 on Monday 24th October they responded to a report of a bedroom fire at a 5 storey specialised housing scheme in Southwark. 2 pumps were mobilised and on arrival crews noted that the fire had involved paper/cardboard in a waste bin located in one of the bedrooms but that a single sprinkler head in the bedroom had activated due to the heat from the fire and extinguished it prior to the arrival of LFB resources. It is believed that the fire was caused by the careless disposal of smoking materials. The fire caused damage to a small section of carpet and a small refuse bin. The building is a 1980's purpose built SHU consisting of 32 flats with 8 flats per floor, split 50/50 on either side of the staircase. Beneath the flats is an underground car park with  approx. 80 garages but this is no longer used other than to house the sprinkler tank. The building was retro fitted with a sprinkler system covering all parts of the building (excluding) basement. In addition to the flats is a shared lounge, laundry room and kitchen and the scheme manager has an office on site.

Lincolnshire PPS Activation: 2nd October 2016

At 18:22, Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue (LFR) Control received a call that a Personal Protection System (misting unit), supplied and fitted by LFR had activated in a vulnerable persons property (flat) at Sutton-on-Sea. LFR immediately mobilised crews to the address. Crews reported that they had found evidence of burnt material and burn marks on the resident’s clothing but there were no signs of any further fire spread, due to the activation of the PPS. Crews remained on scene to assist the occupier further. The presence and activation of the PPS had protected the occupier from severe injury or far worse. It also protected the other occupants in neighbouring properties, who would have been at serious risk should the fire have developed

Ilkeston PPS activation: 15th October 2016

At about 18:00 hours two crews from Derbyshire F&RS attended report of fire at the home of an elderly lady in Ilkeston. One of the local safeguarding team also attended as crews raised concern for occupiers welfare due to her being very confused and not understanding that there had been a fire. Crews reported that the fire was caused by the occupier smoking and falling asleep, in the process dropping a cigarette onto a blanket on her knee. The blanket and some of her clothing had burn marks, but the fire hadn’t taken hold or spread due to the presence of a Portable Protection System activating within the room. It was considered by attending F&RS personnel that the activation of the PPS had protected the occupier from serious injury or worse.

Gateshead Flat sprinkler save: 1st October 2016

Shortly after 4am a fire occurred in a waste bin in the bedroom of a flat. The cause of the fire is under investigation but was possibly started by carelessly discarded smoking materials. The building is a 9 storey block with retail units occupying floors 1-5 and the remaining 4 uppermost floors being residential. The sprinklers in the bedroom activated due to the fire and contained/controlled the fire allowing the 19 year old occupant to make good his escape. He was administered oxygen at the scene but did not require hospital treatment. There was 10% fire damage reported to the 2m x 2m bedroom along with moderate smoke discolouration in the flat.

Bin store fire at a tower block in Birmingham on 20th September 2016

Incident involves fire in ground floor bin room of an 11 storey block of flats bin room. Sprinklers have actuated and extinguished fire. There is a light smoke logging to the block.

Woodgate (Birmingham) Flats bin room: Tuesday 13th September 2016

West Midlands Fire Service report that there was a successful suppression system activation which partially extinguished a fire in the ground floor bin room of a 10 storey block of flats in Woodgate, Birmingham on Wednesday 13th September. Full extinguishment with 1 hose-reel and ventilation of some of the upper floors was carried out by attending crews.

Southwark Specialised Housing scheme: 1st September 2016

At about 15:15 hours on 1st September 2016 a fire occurred on the cooker in the flat of an 82 year old resident at residential specialised housing scheme in London. LFB also report that there were some issues with hoarding. The block had been fitted with automatic fire sprinklers to BS9251 as part of a scheme to protect elderly and vulnerable residents in Southwark and one sprinkler head activated to extinguish the fire. This was all the more extraordinary as it is reported the system was not fully commissioned at the time of the fire. The occupier was taken to hospital as a precautionary measure. The system installers attended shortly after 5pm, within the prescribed two hour attendance time to reset the actuated sprinkler head. London Fire Brigade report that due to the excellent signage within in the block, the attending crews were able to quickly locate the stop valve and isolate the water supply to the sprinkler head.

Croydon sprinkler save 14th September 2015

On Monday 14th September a fire occurred in the kitchen of a flat in a Croydon flat when a tea towel, placed too near to a toaster, caught fire. The occupier , an elderly gentleman, was asleep in his living room at the time. The sprinkler head actuated in the kitchen area, extinguished the fire and alerted staff via the alarm system activated by the sprinkler flow switch. Staff who attended managed to safely evacuate the occupant from the smoke filled flat. London Fire Brigade crews attended and isolated the sprinkler system but there were no fire-fighting measures required. A sprinkler engineer attended later that day to replace the head. The home manager remarked that it appears that the sprinklers may have potentially saved this gentleman’s life. The building in question is an “Extra Care” Sheltered Scheme which is owned by the London  Borough of  Croydon and was the first of six such schemes in Croydon to have been retro-fitted with sprinklers. This was following London Fire Brigade safety visits prompted concerns regarding the number of vulnerable residents in some of the schemes in the Borough. This ‘save’ demonstrates how effective partnership working between FRS and Housing Providers can be in protecting vulnerable occupants, and the clear advantages of fitting suppression systems in such cases.