Information for housing providers

As part of Greater Manchester’s ambition to develop a world-class approach to fire safety, a number of social housing providers and local authorities are exploring the retrofitting of sprinkler systems within their blocks.

The information on these pages will help housing providers and local authorities who are exploring the retrofitting of sprinklers in high rise residential buildings. 

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service is supporting local authorities and housing providers with their consultation and engagement with residents, this includes attending resident drop-in sessions and providing advice. 

To find out more about sprinklers email highrise@manchesterfire.gov.uk

Your questions answered:

Why are sprinklers so important?
There is clear evidence that sprinklers are effective in stopping fires spreading and putting them out, ultimately saving lives.

Fire and rescue services across the country advocate the use of sprinklers, and play a key role in promoting a better understanding of the benefits of sprinklers as part of a package of fire safety measures.

How do sprinklers operate?

Fire sprinklers are individually heat-activated and connected to a network of water pipes. When the heat from the fire plumes hot gases reach the sprinkler and at a specific temperature (usually about 68 deg. C) that sprinkler activates delivering water directly to the source of the heat.

How can we be sure sprinklers will work in a fire?
Most sprinkler systems are very simple. There are normally no moving parts to fail. The pipes are full of water, usually from the mains supply. The sprinklers over the fire burst open when they get hot and spray water on the fire. If you have water in your pipes the sprinklers will work.

Why are sprinklers so effective?
A fire starts small. If detected and tackled early enough a fire can be controlled with very little water. Fire sprinklers operate automatically even if you are not at home releasing water directly over the source of the fire and sounding the alarm.

How reliable are sprinklers?
Evidence shows that sprinkler systems are highly reliable and operate on 94% of occasions. When sprinklers do operate they extinguish or contain the fire on 99% of occasions.

What about smoke?
Smoke damage is a major cause of loss in fires. In serious cases smoke is the main cause of death. Sprinklers wash the larger particles out of smoke reducing its density and toxicity. In addition the water cools the smoke making it less harmful.

Quick response sprinklers are now available that will attack a fire even earlier in its growth. Fast attack dramatically reduces the amount of smoke that a fire can produce.

What is the life safety record for sprinklers?
Apart from explosions there have never been multiple fatalities in a fully sprinklered building in the United Kingdom.

The total number of deaths from fire, world-wide in sprinklered buildings is only 50 compared to thousands in unprotected buildings. This is a record no other fire system can match.

Can sprinklers reduce damage to the environment?
Sprinklers can increase the sustainability and life expectancy of buildings, by limiting fire development and significantly reducing the amount of smoke, CO2 and other pollutants. Sprinklers use much less water to put a fire out than fire service hoses - and lead to much less water damage.

What do sprinklers cost?
The cost will vary depending on what your building is made of, what you store in it, what you use it for and how good your water supply is.

A useful comparison is that sprinklers cost less than carpet. But unlike carpet, which wears out, your sprinkler system will protect you for the life of the building.

Can we enforce residents to have sprinklers installed in their flats?
It would be difficult to legally enforce residents to have sprinklers installed in their flats. However, it’s important to emphasise that any work taken has the safety of residents at the heart.

It is also possible to minimise disruption to residents by combining the installation with other scheduled improvement works.