Calls for sprinkler systems to be fitted in all schools - after three buildings destroyed in fires last year

Derbyshire County Council has backed calls for all schools to be fitted with sprinklers – after it was revealed that out of 419 schools supported by the local authority only 12 are currently fitted with such systems.

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 11:20 am

In 2020, DFRS attended three separate school fires that completely destroyed the school buildings and their contents.

On May 28, firefighters responded to a fire at Harrington Junior School in Long Eaton, and then in October, just 48 hours apart, firefighters responded to fires at St Mary’s School in Darley Abbey and Ravensdale Infants School in Mickleover.

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Harrington Junior School in Long Eaton burned down in an accidental blaze last May.

It comes as Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service (DFRS) showed it’s support for the National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) National Sprinkler Week campaign – to continue to raise awareness of the benefits sprinkler systems provide in keeping people and buildings safe from fire.

Derbyshire’s Chief Fire Officer Gavin Tomlinson said: “None of these schools were fitted with sprinkler systems“which could have prevented the loss of the buildings, the untold impact on the education of the children who attended these schools and the financial impact of relocating and rebuilding them."

Derby City and Derbyshire County Council have both since committed to ensure that any new schools built in the region, or those undergoing significant refurbishment, are fitted with sprinklers – but only 12 currently have them.

Research from Zurich Municiple, the leading insurer of schools, said they are nearly twice as likely to suffer a fire as other types of commercial building.

Derbyshire County Council’s Designate Cabinet Member for Education Councillor Alex Dale said: “Our policy is that all permanent new school buildings, significant extensions or major refurbishments are fitted with sprinklers which applies to all the schools we’ve recently built, and this has been our policy since 2017.

“Like Derbyshire’s chief fire officer, we want to see the installation of sprinkler systems set out in fire safety legislation, backed by the finances to fund it.

“A fire in a school is a devastating event for everyone concerned, the students, staff and the local community, and we need to do all we can to protect our buildings.

“We do currently fit sprinklers into our new school buildings but we are calling on the Government to introduce legislation to make sure this takes place across the country.

“We’re also calling on the Government to provide additional funding to fit sprinklers.

“Where sprinklers are installed in schools the primary purpose is to limit fire damage to school property when the building is empty, outside of school hours, although they would activate any time day or night.

"During the school day fire alarm and evacuation procedures are in place in all schools to ensure pupils and staff evacuate the building quickly and safely.

“Wherever possible when we undertake a significant refurbishment we look to retro fit sprinklers, so long as this is possible to do as you need sufficient roof space for the pipework and a suitable water system.

“We will join with others, including Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service, to do what we can to support a change in legislation so we can prevent as many school fires as possible.”

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