Published 16 May 2022

Families back NFCC’s Think Sprinkler campaign

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The families of two much loved mothers who lost their lives in a tragic care home fire, have backed the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) campaign urging the government to improve sprinkler regulations in England. 

Daphne Holloway, 88 and Ivy Spriggs, 91 sadly lost their lives after an accidental fire ripped through Newgrange Care Home in Hertfordshire on 8th April 2017.

Daphne & Ivy’s daughters, Claire Miles and Carole Murray added their support as part of NFCC’s ‘Think Sprinkler’ week of action which runs from 16th – 22nd May.

While 33 residents were rescued by Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Daphne and Ivy died in their beds as firefighters were unable to reach them.

NFCC want all care homes to be fitted with sprinkler systems in the UK. By retrofitting and requiring new build care homes to have sprinklers we can help protect people and these buildings now and for future generations. With a growing and ageing population many more people could be reliant on care.

Sprinklers reduce fire damage by around 75% and people are 50% less likely to be injured. On 99% of occasions sprinklers can control or extinguish a fire according to research by NFCC and the National Fire Sprinkler Network.

However, unlike in Scotland, Wales, and many other countries there is still no Building Regulation requirement in England for care homes to be fitted with sprinklers. It is therefore very disappointing and difficult to understand how Newgrange Care Home has been rebuilt without sprinklers installed, against the recommendation of Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.

The inquest into the deaths concluded in February this year and found, “inadequate compartmentation in the roof space had contributed to the deaths”.

Evidence from the fire service and an independent fire safety expert highlighted if a sprinkler system had been installed, the two deaths were likely to have been prevented.

As mentioned above there is no Building Regulation requirement for sprinklers to be fitted in care homes in England despite the fact residents can have additional mobility and/or cognitive needs which cause delays in evacuation should a fire occur.

Some care homes do choose to install sprinkler systems for both life and property protection, but these are the exception – the majority do not.

Claire Miles, daughter of Daphne commented “Yes, there is a cost to fitting sprinklers, but there’s a greater human cost to those who risk life and limb for others – and those firefighters called to Newgrange certainly did that. There’s a cost to losing those we love before their time and in such terrible circumstances.”

Mark Andrews NFCC lead for higher risk accommodation said “Families should reasonably expect that when looking for care for loved ones they should be assured they receive good care and are kept safe including from the catastrophic risks of fire.

“We applaud those care homes that have opted to install sprinkler systems. More widespread installation of sprinklers in all care homes will prevent future deaths and could have prevented the loss of life at Newgrange and in other care home fires across the UK.

“We urge families to ask questions of care home managers and owners to ensure your loved ones are adequately protected from fire.”

Senior Hertfordshire coroner Geoffrey Sullivan wrote to Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, RT HON Michael Gove requesting action be taken to prevent future deaths.

He also formally raised a concern that sprinkler systems are not a mandatory requirement in care homes – whose occupants may have limited or no independent mobility and therefore at greater risk of fire.

The government’s response indicated that as part of the ongoing technical review of Approved Document B, which provides fire safety guidance to meet building regulations, there may be future potential changes. This could mean improvements to fire safety measures in housing for vulnerable residents. It also stated analysis for sprinklers in care homes will be accelerated and available this year.

It also pointed out that a more ‘robust regulatory regime’ will apply to higher risk buildings led by the Building Safety Regulator. This would mean care homes which are at least 18 metres in height or at least 7 storeys, would fall within this new regime. However, NFCC has concerns that this height threshold means that care home settings are unlikely to fall within it as they are very rarely more than 2 or 3 storeys in height.

The definition of ‘high risk’ buildings should not just apply to high rise – it should be widened out to where vulnerable people sleep and consider the needs of those who live in the buildings and their ability to respond to a fire incident.

The government in England lags behind many other developed nations, for example, Australia which require sprinklers in all care homes and closer to home Scotland and Wales where sprinklers are already required in new build and converted care homes.