IFSA Newsletter Published

The International Fire Suppession Alliance has published its latest newsletter, which includes an article on the size of the sprinkler market in 30 different geographic areas. IFSA SprinklerScene Jan 2018 Readers are invited to send in their own estimates if they think any of the IFSA figures are incorrect. For Europe, the IFSA estimates the sprinkler market at over 17 million sprinklers/annum, with the largest markets being Germany and Turkey.

Two dead from fire in unsprinklered Prague hotel

News media report that two people have died and dozens were injured in a fire in the Eurostars David Hotel in Prague. From the hotel’s website it is clear that it was not sprinklered. It also had an unenclosed staircase through which fire and smoke could readily spread from floor to floor.

According to reports, the fire started around 18:00 and took two hours to bring under control. A spokesperson for the Fire Brigade said that seven people were being treated in hospital. The hotel is in the historic city centre and is popular with tourists.

New French car park regulations and another French car park fire

At around 04:00 this morning, 10th January, a fire was reported in an underground car park in Choisy-le-Roi, south of Paris. 120 firefighters attended. One firefighter suffered a heart attack and was taken to hospital. 200 residents were evacuated and by midday many were still not able to return to their homes. Concerns were expressed about the structure of the building, which had been exposed to temperatures in excess of 600 C for many hours.

Just last month, on 19 December the French government published new regulations on fire safety in public car parks. The regulations require sprinklers in new car parks (except for open-sided above ground car parks) of more than two storeys and in existing car parks (except for open-sided above ground car parks) of more than three storeys. It applies to public car parks.

The new regulation also offers a reduction from 120 minutes to 90 minutes for the structural fire resistance of car parks, or from 120 minutes to 60 minutes where there is no building of more than two storeys above the car park.

Car park compartment sizes may be increased from 3,000 m2 to 6,000 m2 with sprinklers.

If sprinklers are fitted, the smoke ventilation system need only be sized for 600 m3/hour per vehicle instead of 900 m3/hour per vehicle, and the extraction fans need only be rated for 200 C instead of 400 C. With sprinklers, power cables for the smoke extraction system do not need to be fitted in fire-rated ducting.

If the car park is sprinklered, automatic fire detection is not required.

Hackitt Interim Report Published

Shortly before Christmas, Dame Judith Hackitt published an interim report of her review of building regulations and fire safety. The 118 page report largely focusses on the process by which fire safety is assured in buildings. Dame Hackitt has criticised the lack of clear accountability for fire safety in new buildings, the failure to upgrade safety in existing buildings, that those designing and installing fire safety need no qualifications, and the potential for unscrupulous people to cut corners when it comes to fire safety in buildings.

Regarding sprinklers she said, “There needs to be a demonstration that there are sufficient layers of protection to ensure that building safety does not rely heavily on compartmentation. There is a high risk of compartmentation being breached during use, whether as the result of residents’ own actions or of maintenance work carried out in the whole building. There are a range of fire protection measures that can be retrofitted to or amended to in existing buidings; for example, extra staircases and smoke ventilation or sprinkler systems.”

All her recommmendations in the interim report concern process; she has not yet made any recommendations for changes to the fire safety guidance in Approved Document B, which is the deemed to satisfy regulatory guidance for England. She will publish a final report in 2018, which we anticipate will include some recommendations for changes to Approved Document B.

US Offers Tax Incentive to Install Sprinklers

As part of the recently announced US federal tax reform, known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, small businesses will be able to expense the retrofit of fire sprinklersup to a cap of $1 million in each year of expense. In addition, if they need to borrow to pay for the retrofit of sprinklers, small businesses will be able to deduct the interest expense on the loan. These provisions will support the fitting of sprinklers in nightclubs.

Larger entities can fully expense the investment over the next five years but that will slowly taper down from 2023. This will incentivise the retrofit of sprinklers in high-rise and other high risk occupancies built before sprinklers became mandatory.

Major fires in Germany

German media report that a fire in Saarbr├╝cken has killed four people and injured 23, while a fire in Berlin has injured 22 people. The fatal fire was reported at 13:30 on 3 December. 100 firefighters and 25 police attended the fire in the five-storey building. It is thought that the fire started on the first floor. One of the victims jumped out of the building.

In Berlin Biesdorf a fire in a ten-storey building was reported on the morning of 2 December. 22 people were injured, of whom 19 had minor injuries and three were more seriously hurt. 200 firefighters attended the fire which is believed to have started in a kitchen on the third storey and to have spread through the staircase and other apartments to reach the roof of the building. According to the Berlin Fire Brigade there was a large amount of combustible material in the apartment where the fire started. A second apartment on the top storey of the building also burned out. A service shaft was made of wood and was readily combustible. The building is now uninhabitable and the fifty residents must be rehoused.

Major Fires in Capital Cities

There have been several major fires recently in some of Europe’s capital cities. In each fire the burning building was not fitted with sprinklers.

In Stockholm on 7 November a fire started at 05:00 in a retail, office and residential building that was undergoing renovation. The cultural heritage building was gutted.
Stockholm1 Stockholm2

London Fire Brigade reports that at 09:13 on 23 November it was called to a warehouse fire in Ponders End. 12 engines and 81 firefighters attended the fire in the Tottenham Hotspur merchandising store. The fire cast a large cloud of smoke and was visible from central London.

Celestine Photo

Also on 23 November, at about 13:00, a fire started in the Milcamps waffle factory, according to the Brussels Fire Brigade, which reported that the fire began in the cooling system for the ovens. A nearby school and some businesses were evacuated and residents told to keep doors and windows closed. A train line next to the factory was closed, causing huge delays to Charleroi, Mons and Gent. The 4,000 m2 factory was destroyed.

British Labour Party Leader calls for Sprinklers

On 9 November Jeremy Corbyn, the British Labour Party leader, gave a press conference at which he called for sprinklers to be fitted in all existing social housing buildings higher than 30 m.

His party is not in government but this adds to the pressure on the government to act.
You can see him give the speech here.
Key text excerpts of his speech are here.

Meanwhile Chris Wieczorek, Head of Codes and Standards at FM Global has written an article putting some perspective on the differences between fire safety codes in different countries.

New Requirements for Sprinklers in Finland and France

From January Finland will permit 3-8 storey hotels to be built from wood if they are fitted with sprinklers. Larger compartments will also be allowed in many building types if sprinklers are present. In France, sprinklers will be required in car parks with more than two underground storeys and in all underground automatic car parks.

To ensure that new national regulations do not create a barrier to trade they are first sent to the European Commission which translates them at least into English, French and German and sends them to all the national governments in the EU.

New fire safety regulations in Finland have gone through this process and can be viewed here.

The amendments to the French car park regulations can be viewed here. The EFSN has extracted the clauses of relevance to sprinklers after the amendments are applied and collated them:New French Car Park Regulations.

Call for Papers for Fire Sprinkler International 2018

Fire Sprinkler International 2018 will take place in Stockholm on 13-14 June. As for our previous conferences, we are issuing a call for papers. Please download it here: Call for Papers 2018