The Need for Intelligent Integrated Sprinkler Systems to Future-Proof Fire Safety

December 09, 2019


FIRE Magazine article by Paul Berry, Director of Fire Suppression, Johnson Controls

In the months and years since the Grenfell Tower tragedy, there has been a marked increase in focus on fire safety. In particular, the role that sprinkler systems play in fire suppression – and the regulations around their installation – have been brought starkly into the light. Recently, the London Fire Brigade called for mandatory sprinkler systems in all high-rise buildings – rather than just those deemed ‘high enough’ according to current regulations – and fire safety professionals around the UK rallied behind the LFB. Bristol City Council announced earlier this year that they are to install sprinklers in all 59 of their high-rise residential blocks, a welcome sign that the tide is turning in the industry, and that councils will do what it takes to ensure fire safety and avoid tragedy. 

Only since the official inquiry into Grenfell have the consequences of neglecting sprinklers when implementing fire safety plans come to light – and this much is clear: sprinklers save lives. For fire and security professionals and building managers, it’s high time not only for review and reappraisal, but for action – they must safeguard employees by ensuring sprinkler systems in any and all buildings exist, and are both effective and compliant.

While the regulatory discussion surrounding sprinklers is relatively new, the technology behind them has been mostly unchanged for decades now – a temperature of more than 68 degrees causes a bulb in the nozzle to fracture, discharging water through the sprinkler. The quicker this happens, the better, and this hardware has been proven to work by controlling or ideally extinguishing a fire as soon as possible. A fully-functioning and well-maintained sprinkler system should prevent fires from ever getting out of control, and these basic components do succeed in preventing further damage. 

But what measures can fire safety and suppression teams put in place to ensure that their sprinkler systems are up to the job? There are four key focus areas: integration, intelligence, regulatory compliance, and choosing the right technology partner to help carry out an install or upgrade.

This article originally appeared in the March issue of the FIRE Magazine.