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Why Councils should install sprinklers in care homes

Last month I went along to a briefing put on by the London Fire Brigade for representatives of borough councils in London from all parties. The fire commissioners used the meeting to raise practical measures Councils could take to help them to save lives. One message that came through loud and clear was to install sprinklers in Council-run care homes. the effectiveness of modern sprinkler systems was stressed. For instance how they react individually to heat so that only the sprinkler nearest the fire will open. Where they are used fire deaths are almost eliminated and fire injuries cut by 80%. Ronnie King of the National Fire Sprinkler Network gave a briefing on the subject.

His key points were:

  • Fire death is highest in care homes.
  • Residents can not get out when the fire alarm sounds.
  • It takes two staff to lift one person and a fire can reach fatal conditions before the fire brigade arrives.
  • Sprinklers stop fire growth and may even put the fire out, so conditions remain tenable.

The reason that not all care homes have sprinklers is cost. But King argued that this was flawed logic. Apart from insurance premiums there might be a potential for reducing the number of night staff. Sometimes the key determinant in the number of night staff available was fire risk. Even a modest reduction would allow the cost of installing sprinklers to be rapidly recouped. Of course in other cases no reduction will be possible because staffing levels are already at a basic minimum for all the other functions that must be carried out.

Installing sprinklers in Council care homes should be an imperative. It might save money. It would certainly save lives. Number 38 on my list of 100 ways to cut Council Tax without cutting key services said: "Use sprinklers in care homes allowing a potential reduction in night staff and safer elderly residents." Some have told my they didn't understand why I included that item. I hope they understand a little better now.


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