Monday, 2 April 2012
Saturday 31st March
I attended a meeting of the Surrey Fire & Rescue Group (FRAG) last week at Leatherhead Fire Station. FRAG is an advisory group to Mrs Kay Hammond CC, who is the Surrey County Council Cabinet member for Community Safety.
These meetings - as one might imagine - generally take the form of reviewing information provided by the Fire Service and to discussing various fire & rescue issues. It is not scrutiny; that is left to the Communities Scrutiny Committee of which I am a member, but it does offer and informal forum for discussion between the Cabinet Portfolioholder, members and the Fire & Rescue Service.
It is a most interesting interface. But occasionally a piece of information surfaces which is frankly, shocking. One of these in my most recent meeting concerned sprinklers: You know, the ones that you might see 'go off' in the movies and (mostly) US television shows in apartment blocks?
Seemingly a universally good idea and one that is widely supported owing to the fact that sprinklers are proven to be one of the only means of actually preventing fire deaths, particularly when it comes to the very young, the very old, the disabled, the infirm and those who use drugs and alcohol unwisely. So, you might expect that all new schools, institutional establishments, residential care homes, hostels, hotels etc would be covered by safety legislation that insists upon such systems.
There is no such legislation in place. And I'm advised that such sprinkler systems aren't supported by legislation in England owing to their perceived cost, even though no-one in the UK has ever perished in a building protected by sprinklers.
A fact I think is shocking.
Maybe not for individual residential homes - although I have since been investigating retro fitting such a system to my own house - but certainly for buildings that are otherwise specifically designed for purpose and include an already exhaustive list of safety requirements as part of the legislation that covers Building Regulations.
More than this, I'm suitably fired up to see what else can be done about it and I shall be writing to our MP, Michael Gove and a number of other people to determine why this kind of legislation is not in place already.
It might chill your blood to know that in Scotland and Wales, this legislation is in place.