Headlines: March 5th, 2004

The Local Government Association is calling for a change to building regulations to ensure that all new schools are fitted with sprinkler systems and it has published the results of a poll of public opinion which shows almost one hundred per cent support for the idea once people are aware of the level of risk of school fires.The LGA says the modernisation of the fire and rescue service was heralded as a complete re-think on how best to allocate resources in order to prevent fires happening in the first place. The switch to a risk based approach, it says, should have resulted in building regulations to ensure all newly built schools have sprinkler systems. The LGA says sprinklers are by far the most effective and efficient way of protecting schools and the lives of those either in the schools or called upon to fight the fires but the Government’s 5.1 billion pound project ‘Building Better Schools’ includes no provision sprinklers as an essential design requirement in the new buildings.

The Association quotes figures showing that It costs an estimated 1.8 per cent of the total building cost to install a sprinkler system and that in six years time, the value of the new investment will have been stripped back by 500 million pounds because of preventable fires in schools, equivalent to the cost of 15,000 more teachers or 200 new primary schools.

The LGA has published the results of a poll it conducted amongst members of the public. These show that 63 per cent thought that the chances of a school suffering a fire large enough to require action by the fire service was either 1 in 50 or 1 in 500. The real figure is 1 in 15. Each year over 2000 schools are damaged by fire and 70 per cent of these fires are started deliberately With this information in mind, 97 per cent of people questioned believed that sprinkler systems should be fitted into all new schools as they are built. Almost as many believed that sprinkler systems should be fitted into all existing schools undergoing large-scale renovations and 94 per cent believed that over time, sprinkler systems should be fitted into all schools.