Darcy CourtA refurbishment scheme that has included the fitting of life saving fire sprinklers in a block of flats in Sunderland has been completed.

Housing Association Gentoo Group has installed the sprinklers in D’Arcy Court, Hendon as part of a joint pilot scheme with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service to improve the safety of its high-rise homes.

The installation was part of a £4m modernisation scheme involving the refurbishment of 104 flats over 13 floors, which began in summer 2014.

Andrew Griffiths, Deputy Director at Gentoo, said “At Gentoo we are committed to ensuring our customers feel safe in their homes. By working in partnership during the process of the modernisation works at D’Arcy Court, we were able to invest in a system that could help save lives in the event of a fire. We will continue to work with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service to reduce the number of preventable fires in our communities and make even more homes in Sunderland safe from fire.”  

The scheme was supported by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, whose campaign ‘Sprinklers Save Lives’ promotes the benefits of sprinkler systems in both commercial and domestic properties.  

Assistant Chief Fire Officer John Baines, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Gentoo has shown great leadership in protecting their communities and supporting those most vulnerable in their homes. As we know, fires in the home devastate lives; and whilst working smoke alarms are essential to provide an early warning, they will not stop a fire developing. Sprinkler systems prevent a fire from growing.

“Put simply, they can and do save lives. I would like to commend Gentoo for their foresight in enhancing the safety of residents within D’Arcy Court by committing to fit sprinkler systems to this high-rise. This is a major step forward in improving the safety of residents in high-rise housing.

“Across the Tyne and Wear area, a number of housing groups have also installed sprinkler systems in high- rise accommodation and homes for those more vulnerable. This latest project has seen the total number of dwellings protected increase to over 1,240, since we launched our partnership campaign.”

The system is designed to use the existing water tanks within the loft space, with the addition of a new booster pump to ensure each flat receives the correct water flow and pressure. During modernisation works the ceilings were lowered to allow for pipe work to be hidden and sprinkler heads to be recessed. Sprinklers have been fitted into the kitchen, bedroom(s), hallway and living room of each flat.

Fewer than 1% of high-rise social housing tower blocks currently have sprinklers fitted within homes. Installing sprinkler systems in high-rise towers is not currently a legal requirement but comes highly recommended by coroners, following inquests into the deaths of eight individuals in two tower block fires in the past seven years.