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Government rethink urged regarding sprinklers in schools

Date: 20th September, 2016

At their meeting on 14 September, Members of Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Authority agreed to urge local education and environmental leaders to continue with school sprinkler installations, against proposed new Government advice.

Following a review of Government documentation, ‘Building Bulletin 100 (BB100): design for fire safety in schools’ is out for consultation, with a proposed position that it no longer includes an expectation that most new school buildings be fitted with sprinklers. Clearly this does not recognise the catastrophic impact a fire in a school can have on pupils, education and on the communities that schools serve.

Chairman of Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Authority, Cllr Rebecca Knox, said: “The Fire Authority is extremely disappointed that the Government is considering removing the expectation of sprinklers being installed in new school buildings. Since the policy was introduced, sprinklers have been credited with saving 17 schools from huge fire damage. Fires in schools damage children’s education through loss of resources or coursework and can mean longer travelling times, disrupted social groups and poorer facilities. There are significant societal costs including the loss of jobs and the loss of building facilities to the community.”

She added: “Members of the Fire Authority and I feel that the removal of this expectation is wrong and the logic behind the decision is flawed. We see no reason to change the current policy of a risk based approach.”

Chief Fire Officer Darran Gunter said: “In Dorset and Wiltshire, we know only too well how devastating school fires can be and how difficult they can be to deal with, not only for firefighters but also short and long term for the children, teachers and their families. Sprinklers within a school building limit the spread and growth of fire and allow for quick evacuation of children and staff. I support the Fire Authority’s letter to our education and environmental leaders encouraging them to think about the safety of young people across Dorset and Wiltshire.”

Cllr Knox and CFO Gunter have already written to the Secretary of State for Education outlining their concerns and imploring the Government to rethink this matter urgently.

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