Use of Automatic Fire Sprinklers in Domestic Environments
This paper presents a perspective on domestic fire safety from one Member State (MS) that has a long history of activities related to fire safety and especially fire safety in the home. The United Kingdom has seen a progressive decline in fire deaths, as shown in the figure below, over many decades. This progressive reduction in domestic loss is not haphazard and results from both regulation and education.
By: Dennis Davis CTIF Special Projects Adviser
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Past examples have included regulation of non-flammable children’s nightwear and open fire fireguards; education on home fire safety and domestic smoke detectors to alert residents; regulation of foam-filled furniture and of hard-wired smoke detectors in new buildings; regulation of reduced propensity ignition cigarettes; and in Scotland regulating for sprinklers into care establishments and in Wales domestic sprinklers in new buildings. Ongoing is education about domestic sprinklers in high rise dwellings and other buildings, hopefully in advance of regulation.
However this reduction has tended to stagnate not because of lack of endeavour, investment, campaigns or programmes mounted by fire and rescue authorities (FRA) but rather because it reached a natural plateau - what is sometimes referred to as the “hard to reach”. The evidence is that the more vulnerable members of society: the elderly (over 65), the very young (under 5), the disabled and those affected by substance abuse – alcohol and drugs - primarily form this group who, despite an over 80% ownership of domestic smoke warning detectors, remain unable to respond to a warning.
One solution receiving prominence in the UK because of these features is automatic fire sprinklers. Successfully used for the protection of industrial and commercial property for well over 130 years and often used to gain flexibility in building design, fire sprinkler protection is certainly not a new innovation. The transition and growing appreciation of the potential to save lives in other types of buildings – particularly domestic dwellings where the majority of deaths and injuries from fire occur – is however gaining strength. This paper explores some of the discussion and learning that may assist other MS and FRA.