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11 May 2012, 14:39 | Updated: 11 May 2012, 14:46
Leaders from government and industry have been showing their support today for fire sprinkler systems to protect Suffolk people and safeguard local businesses and schools.
Launched during an event at Suffolk's newest fire station, Ipswich East, the newly-formed Safer Suffolk Fire Sprinkler Coalition is making the case for installing fire sprinklers in businesses, homes and educational establishments such as schools and colleges.
Research shows that 80% of all fire deaths occur in the home, and fire sprinklers, coupled with smoke alarms, reduce the risk of death or serious injury by over 80%. People are also 57% less likely to die in a fire in a room where a sprinkler is installed. Suffolk Fire & Rescue hosted the event, which included industry experts from the British Sprinkler Alliance and British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association, plus Peter Aldous MP and representatives from local and regional government, business and local housing developers.
Councillor Colin Spence, Suffolk County Council's Portfolio Holder for Public Protection said:
"I am delighted by the strong collective support we have received for our ambition to make automatic fire sprinklers the standard for our homes and businesses. It has been proven time and again that they save lives and ensure that businesses and communities do not suffer the catastrophic impacts of fire, which can cost lives, jobs and livelihoods.
This is our response to the growing national debate about fire sprinklers. Today's event and the formation of the Safer Suffolk Sprinkler Coalition sends a clear signal that we do not only intend to join the growing support for sprinklers, but we want to shape it and take the lead in their widespread use here in Suffolk."
The County Council is telling Heart that in recent years, Suffolk has experienced incidents in which fire sprinklers could have made a crucial difference. Wessex Foods in Lowestoft, which was not protected by sprinklers, suffered a major fire in July 2010, which resulted in the closure of the factory and a loss of 150 jobs to the local community.
By contrast, occupants of a multiple occupancy home in Ipswich were saved by a fire sprinkler system in 2008 after a fire was started deliberately in their basement. They were quickly alerted and escaped unharmed from the building. When firefighters arrived they extinguished the small fire that had been contained by the sprinkler system. Residents were able to return to their homes the same day.
Andy Fry, Chief Fire Officer for Suffolk Fire & Rescue, said:
"We are now well aware of the life safety, social, economic and environmental benefits of fire sprinklers but, unfortunately, too often, fires which could have been contained if sprinklers had been installed destroy lives and property. Sprinklers also make sense from an environmental perspective, using a fraction of the water that our firefighters may rely on in the event of a major fire. More importantly, they also keep our firefighters safer as sprinklers can put fires out, or keep them at bay, reducing the risk for the crews.
I am delighted that so many experienced and influential people will be joining us at today's event - we need their supporting in building our coalition. The next step will be to translate the momentum we have built into practical steps to ensure that policy makers and developers take timely, properly informed decisions about whether to install fire sprinklers in new buildings across Suffolk."
Using a combination of case studies demonstrating where fire sprinklers could have made a major difference, a practical demonstration of a sprinkler system, and examples of innovative projects through which sprinklers are already protecting people in homes and businesses across the county and beyond, the launch event focussed on the benefits of fire sprinklers.