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 Benefits of a Fire and Rescue Service being a member of the National Fire Sprinkler Network.

 

Background

 

Every UK Fire & Rescue Service is currently a member of the National Fire Sprinkler Network which gives it a powerful voice in promoting the wider use of fire suppression systems amongst those designing and building our buildings, and those in Government who establish Regulations and Guidance on the appropriateness of such systems. 

 

Members attending meetings of the NFSN hear at first hand best practice utilised in other areas of the country, and report sprinkler ‘saves’, all of which assists them in ensuring that their own areas are at less risk from fire, saving fire service resources in the longer term.

 

Members of Parliament are mobilised to lobby Government and speak in support of the benefits of fire suppression whenever there is a fire tragedy or major loss of a business in their constituency, building a strong body of expertise and knowledge across the UK on fire safety matters and the loss to the economy.

 

Working in partnership to reduce deaths and injuries from fire, and the loss of employment in an area suffering a business closure following a significant fire, is at the centre of the NFSN’s objectives.

 

The Sprinkler Sector in the UK has been particularly active and successful in getting its message across, having positioned itself close to Government (Central and Local Government), through the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety & Rescue Group, comprising twenty six Peers and MP’s, through the Local Government Association’s Sprinkler Working Group, and through the Chief Fire Officers’ Association (CFOA), who share most of the objectives of the National Fire Sprinkler Network (NFSN); which has representation in its membership from every UK Fire & Rescue Service, and from the Fire Brigades’ Union. 

 

The NFSN is a powerful body of opinion, chaired by a serving Chief Fire Officer (successor to Iain Cox currently under consideration) with its Vice Chairman a former Chief Fire Officer.  The Vice Chairman is also the Honorary Administrative Secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety & Rescue Group, and Treasurer of the Fire Sector Federation. (http://www.firesectorfederation.co.uk/; )

 

The NFSN was established in 1998 and is a ‘not for profit’ coalition of like minded people, who wish to see the greater installation of automatic sprinklers in buildings in the UK, in order to save lives and reduce injuries from fire, reduce damage to property, and to the environment.

 

Its success in achieving its goals has been very much down to working in partnership with so many other organisations and bodies, who can be advocates for the sprinkler cause, and to ‘open doors’ where they might otherwise be ‘closed’.  (The Chief Fire Officers’ Association, the Association of British Insurers, the Business Sprinkler Alliance, RISC Authority, the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety & Rescue Group, the Local Government Association, Fire & Rescue Services, the Fire Brigades’ Union, the Sprinkler Coordination Group, British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association, the European Fire Sprinkler Network, the National Union of Teachers, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and the Childrens’ Burns Trust are just some of the partners which have made this success possible).

 

In the past year the NFSN has met four times, with representatives from the fire sector and from the majority of Fire & Rescue Services, its meetings are held across the length and breadth of the Country – Scotland, the Midlands, Merseyside and South Wales last year, with the remainder of this year and next year’s meetings programmed for Norfolk and Wiltshire.  This level of activity is necessary as the Network is just that – a network of committed men and women in the public and private sectors seeking to overcome the misinformation about fire sprinklers which is still sadly prevalent.  By sharing their successes and frustrations the network acts as a clearing house allowing us to identify issues at an early stage and to mobilise the members to take the correct action.  Perhaps the best example of this is the provision of information on sprinkler stops to the secretary, Steve Mills, allowing the Network to make the most of good news stories that previously have gone unremarked.  Another example is where the NFSN collates the cases where schools are being built without sprinklers, contrary to the recommendations of BB100, and to the expectations of the previous Government under it “Building Schools for the Future” programme. (now the priority schools building programme under the coalition Government).

 

Another local example was in Berkshire, where a local Fire Authority member enlisted the help of the network to provide evidence to local council officers that Heritage buildings can be (and are) successfully fitted with sprinklers.  The Network is working toward changing the mindset of key players and it maintains what has now become an established event held at the Houses of Parliament every year to ensure that the UK’s legislators are aware of fire sprinklers and know who to approach for further information. 

 

The practice of contacting a Member of Parliament whose constituency has suffered a serious fire loss in a school, residential home, factory or commercial building pays dividends as, when they see the human and economic consequences of an unsprinklered fire, it convinces them of the benefit of sprinklers in a way that other advocacy, however fluent, cannot match.  The Network is also an active participant in the Sprinkler Co-ordination Group, which brings together the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association, The Business Sprinkler Alliance and other sprinkler lobby groups to ensure that all these bodies, with very similar aims, work together to challenge the myths and improve the understanding of the effectiveness of fire sprinklers.

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