Fire chiefs to challenge government over ‘backward step’ of sprinklers plans


Fire chiefs are set to challenge a government consultation on sprinklers in classrooms, claiming the proposals are “taking the standards of fire safety in schools backwards”.

A long-awaited consultation to the Fire Safety Design for Schools bulletin was launched last month.

The non-statutory guidance proposes that automatic fire suppression systems – such as sprinklers – should be installed in new special schools and new school buildings over 11 metres tall, effectively four storeys or higher.

Fire safety campaigners want to make sprinklers mandatory for all new and refurbished schools.

Gavin Tomlinson, the chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) protection and business safety committee, told Schools Week the draft review “appears to be taking the standards of fire safety in schools backwards”.

”If approved in its current guise [it] will almost certainly factor sprinklers and the building protection afforded from them out of any newbuilds.

Warning over sprinklers ‘missed opportunity’

“This would be a really missed opportunity and our [NFCC] intention is to push back on this as much as possible. I want to see new and future buildings safer, not less safe, as we invest in them.”

Jonathan Dyson, the NFCC’s sprinkler lead, said: “We have been clear that we want to see a requirement for the installation of sprinklers in schools, including the retrofitting of sprinklers in existing school buildings when relevant refurbishment takes place.”

The DfE said all responses would be considered and a final revised version of the guidance published in due course.

A spokesperson said the consultation proposed “a requirement for sprinklers to be fitted when constructing sleeping accommodation and in all school buildings over 11 metres – in addition to the existing requirement for sprinklers in any other circumstances required by building regulations.”

You can read more about the DfE’s plans and consultation here.

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