A recent seminar, hosted by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service supported fire chief's calls for automatic sprinkler systems to be installed in all new homes and for housing providers to install them in their current properties.

The seminar, held at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service's (TWFRS) headquarters in Washington on 12 July 2012 was attended by over 80 people from across the North East. Through sharing case studies, the event was aimed at raising awareness of fire safety and the benefits of life saving sprinkler systems.

Speakers informed delegates from fire and rescue services, local authorities, health organisations and housing providers about the importance of surveys to ensure the integrity of fire safety measures and also how fire safety systems play a significant role in saving life and property from the devastating effects of a fire.

An example of this latter is at Regent Court in Gateshead, whereby a ten-storey block with 160 flats is due to have an innovative sprinkler system retro-fitted to all flats and communal areas this summer. This project was launched after fire safety staff from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service and The Gateshead Housing Company accompanied a number of representatives from the five Tyne and Wear local authority housing providers to the Callow Mount Project in Sheffield, where a sprinkler system had been retrospectively installed.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer, John Baines, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said: "The seminar provided an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of fire safety and the life saving benefits of sprinkler systems. In the same way that seat belts and airbags have become a standard feature in cars, we are supporting the national campaign to make sprinklers a standard safety feature in the home.

"Sprinklers are incredibly affordable, but more importantly if universally installed, they will almost eliminate fire deaths in the home. Recent tragic incidents where multiple children have died in two severe fires have further brought focus to the need for action.

"Over the next 25 years, based on an extrapolation of 2010/11 national statistics, another 8000 people will lose their lives in fires and 185,000 will be seriously injured. These lives could be saved with the introduction of sprinklers. We are delighted to be working in partnership with Gateshead Housing Company to deliver the Regent Court project and we would encourage other providers in the region to work with us on similar schemes. Our aim is, as ever, to work in partnership to ensure safe environments for our communities."

Neil Bouch, Director of Customers and Communities at The Gateshead Housing Company said: "The company sees the work as vitally important. The safety and security of our tenants and leaseholders is our top priority and we are delighted to be working with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service on such an innovative scheme. The fitting of a sprinkler system to an existing building has never been done before in this region and we are delighted to be leading the way in ensuring our high-rise residents stay even safer in their homes."

Steve Seaber, British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA) said "I'm delighted that Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service have hosted this seminar. It is pleasing to see such a positive approach from the fire service and the fact that more housing providers are now coming on board and working in partnership on projects is a great achievement."

The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) is urging the Government to follow the Welsh Assembly by introducing legislation which will see all new-build domestic properties fitted with sprinklers. People are being encouraged to pledge their support for the campaign by signing an online e-petition. If the petition receives the backing of 100,000 people it could be debated in Parliament. To sign the e-petition visit http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/ and search for sprinklers