Wednesday 20 June 2007

Sprinklers save lives

I hadn't thought much about sprinklers until today - well, other than reckoning they're a good idea and generally thinking that they should be fitted wherever possible. At lunchtime, I attended a presentation by Strathclyde Fire and Rescue, who have recently been stepping up their campaign to have sprinklers fitted in homes.

They showed a video of the outcome of a fire in two very similar rooms; one with a sprinkler, one without. The temperature in the rooms rose quickly with the fire, but the sprinkler detected this and went off automatically at around seventy - seventy-five degrees centigrade, doused the fire and the room was saved. Without the sprinkler, the fire in the other room spread, and the room very quickly got destroyed. No prizes for guessing which room on the left was which!
What really struck me was the speed that the fire spread, and the Fire and Rescue officers I spoke to reinforced this point to me after the presentation. By the time a fire crew gets to a house fire, it could easily be too late. A sprinkler could intervene and prevent a fire - the system on display today showed that it could also have flashing lights and alarms to alert neighbours in a tenement of block of flats.

It was also mentioned that lots of new houses come with burglar alarms as standard now, but not with sprinklers. I suppose people tend not to think about fire prevention when they buy a property, but given the risks and the statistics, fire is probably more likely to happen.

I came away from the meeting thinking that it's time to actually force house builders to take fire safety into consideration through legislation. You could ask them to do it voluntarily, but I'm not sure that that's working thus far. Interestingly, pie-eating former Minister Frank McAveety spoke at the meeting, and was still swithering over whether he favoured voluntarism or enforcement through legislation; he talked about Cross - Party Groups and Petitions as a means of bringing this forward. I think an SNP government could to better than that, and I hope the Fire and Rescue services get serious and get chatting to the government on this issue pronto.

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