Fire Sprinklers UK
Fire Protection Systems
Fire sprinklers have been in use in the UK since the early nineteenth century. They have a proven record of stopping 99% of the fires that start in buildings fully protected by fire sprinkler systems (statistics from the UK and Europe). Furthermore, in the event of a fire the losses are only one tenth of those in buildings not protected by fire sprinkler systems.
Apart from the avoidance of losses in the event of a fire, there are other economic reasons for installing a fire sprinkler system. When planning new buildings, for instance, the inclusion of a fire sprinkler system can mean that other costly additions become unnecessary. There may no longer be a call for extra fire retardation systems elsewhere or extra escape routes. UK building regulations also allow for buildings on a site to be constructed closer together if they are protected by a fire sprinkler system, and the regulations for access by the fire brigade are less stringent.
Another factor to bear in mind is the insurance premium. With a good fire sprinkler system installed the premium will be lower. In high-risk areas it may actually be impossible to obtain insurance without such a system.
It is worth remembering that sprinkler systems nowadays are reliable systems that will only operate if there is an actual fire. There need be no anxiety about false alarms. In the event of a fire only the sprinkler heads in the immediate vicinity will be activated. Furthermore, it is possible to set the sprinkler system up so that the fire brigade is automatically informed if a fire breaks out.
How Sprinklers Work
The sprinkler heads protrude from a network of pipes that are usually concealed by a suspended ceiling. The heads themselves may also be concealed. The water in the system may be under mains pressure, where that is sufficient, or a pump may be installed to provide the adequate pressure.
Each sprinkler head has an extremely reliable system to initiate its operation, and each head operates completely independently so that there is no discharge of water in areas where there is no fire. The heads contain a thermal element that responds to the hot gases emitted by the fire, so only those heads affected by the fire are switched on and the other sprinkler heads remain closed.
The activation of the sprinkler head also allows water to flow into system of pipes causing a mechanical gong to sound. This means that the sprinkler system also provides an effective alarm in the event of fire that is completely independent of the electrical supply to the building.
Types of sprinklers
Basically there are two types: in one the pipes are always full of water under pressure, in the other the pipes contain air under pressure and are filled with water only when the sprinkler heads are activated. The former are known as wet pipe systems, the latter as dry pipe systems. The first is ideal for heated buildings in the UK where there is no risk of freezing in the winter, and a wet system is obligatory in high-rise buildings and in cases where it is a matter of protecting occupants, not just goods. The second is needed where, due to the risk of frost or some other reason, the pipes need to be empty of water while the system is standing idle.
Choosing an installation contractor in the UK
When looking for a sprinkler installation contractor in the UK it is important to choose one that has the necessary certification from a Government-approved accreditation service. The contractor needs to be able to demonstrate that the systems that they design, install and maintain comply with the latest standards laid down by the Loss Prevention Certificate Board. Certificates provided by the LPCB are proof to Fire Brigades, Local Authorities and Insurance Companies that the sprinkler system complies with the appropriate standards and has been installed correctly.