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Fire Precautions in Dwellings

Technical guidance on sprinkers

Although fire sprinklers were invented in the UK in 1864 it was not until 1973 that their use for life safety was seriously investigated. Even since then the UK has not been proactive in extending and developing their use in residential premises despite many other countries passing local laws relating to them. There is a strong argument for the use of sprinkler systems in favour of the more traditional automatic fire detection systems. Research carried out in the USA into the benefits of sprinkler systems has found that in properties with sprinklers there had been:

  • no fire deaths
  • 80% reduction in fire injuries
  • 80% reduction in property damage
  • 95% reduction for water usage for fire control

There is an extremely low risk of a false alarm with sprinklers and when one sprinkler is triggered it does not trigger any of the others. An auto dialler can be fitted to the system so that in the case of a sprinkler operating the call is transmitted to the fire brigade and the owner/manager automatically. In short, should a fire occur the sprinkler suppresses the fire and douses it or contains it within that room. The damage that is caused by the water from the sprinkler is generally much less than the damage that would be caused by the fire, smoke, and the water from the fire brigade in a property with traditional fire precautions. Sprinklers and associated pipe work can be fitted in the ceiling void and all that is visible is a small disc on the room ceiling.

One of the main advantages to the landlord is design freedoms. These may include relaxation of the requirement for fire doors allowing properties to maintain traditional features, increased travel distances and a reduction in structural fire protection. A risk-based assessment will be made as to the individual requirements for each property and detailed below is an example specification.

Sprinkler Specification

A residential sprinkler system designed, installed, and maintained in accordance with B.S. 9251:2005 should be provided throughout the premises. The sprinkler system is to be installed by a contractor approved by The Fire Sprinkler Association - a list of approved contractors is available from them on request.

The sprinkler system is to be linked to an automatic fire detection system and where a sprinkler head is activated the fire alarm system shall also be activated. The type of fire detection system required will depend on the type and layout of the building. Again, guidance should be sought from your Local Authority and/ or Fire & Rescue Service.

When the sprinkler system is activated audibility levels of 75dB(A) are to be achieved at the bedhead in each room (with the bed-sit doors closed). As a guide only - sounders positioned in the common areas producing approximately 100dB(A) should be capable of producing this sound level at the bedhead. Where the sprinkler system is linked to the fire alarm system 'common' sounders for the 2 systems can be used, although the sprinkler system must still have its own external visual and audio alarm and a single internal audio alarm.

A monitored link/auto dialler shall be installed so that when a sprinkler head is activated either the Fire Service or the landlord/responsible person for the property is contacted. The link is only to be activated when the sprinkler system is activated not when the fire alarm system is activated.

When installation is completed the approved sprinkler contractor should provide the required documentation to prove that the system complies with the relevant British and European Standards. A copy of this documentation is to be provided for the Local Authority.

The landlord or responsible person is to enter a maintenance contract with a competent person or company to maintain the system in accordance with of BS 9251. Details of maintenance are to be available at reasonable request. A system logbook to record every event involving the system is to be kept accessible and maintained.


Last modified on 29 November 2023

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