CFO Sean Frayne responds to FIRE's challenge to the Fire Sector in our May issue
FIRE Editor Andrew Lynch was entirely justified to call for the UK Fire Sector to raise its game in pushing sprinklers onto the green agenda. We need to move sprinkler awareness to the next level - we have certainly managed to preach to the converted, now is the time to galvanise the public and sectors outside of the Fire and Rescue Service, including the housing and environmental sectors.
I think it is fantastic that in the US the National Protection Association has partnered with industry to launch a new green home exhibition to show the environmental benefits of domestic sprinklers. As Andrew Lynch mentioned in his piece, we may not have as high a profile location as Walt Disney World Resort; however we have a number of popular exhibitions such as the Ideal Home Show and Grand Designs Live. These could provide us with the platform we need to showcase the benefits of domestic sprinklers to those who are forward thinking and are willing to embrace innovation and change.
Latest research shows that installing sprinklers in commercial and industrial buildings alone would save England and Wales over nine billion litres of water every year in extinguishing fire - the equivalent of five times the UK's entire annual bottled-water consumption. Think how much further this figure would increase by if it were to include residential properties.
I certainly agree with the suggestion that we need a new high profile leader to pick up the domestic sprinkler challenge. There will be an ideal opportunity in the near future as the merger which has taken place between the Federation of British Fire Organisations (FOBFO) and the Fire Sector Partnership, filling the gap left by government as it steps back from central control of Fire UK, and hands it over to the sector.
Ultimately we still need greater co-ordination. As we all know, it is government policy which creates market conditions and currently one of the big barriers for sprinklers is the cost. Introduce legislation which results in greater use of sprinklers and we will see the market flourish and the cost come down as a result.
The draft Energy Bill has recently been published and if we get in there early enough, we may have the opportunity to influence this legislation. The Bill details ambitious targets, such as an 80 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. A recent report, Assessing the Role for Fire Sprinklers, states 350 tonnes of CO2 are released into the atmosphere every year due to commercial building fires. This figure could be drastically reduced by 22 per cent if all commercial buildings were fitted with sprinklers. Clearly on these statistics alone we have a valid case to put forward that we can help them achieve their aims for greater sustainability.
There is some promising work taking place, but there is still much more to do particularly in relation to highlighting the environmental benefits of sprinklers. Yes it will be a challenge to raise our game further, but one we are willing to accept in order to make a real difference. But we do need the help of others, others who design and build houses and commercial premises.
See next issue of FIRE for CFO Sean Frayne's article in full on behalf of the Chief Fire Officers Association.