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Adam Bannister is a contributor to IFSEC Global, having been in the role of Editor from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam also had stints as a journalist at cybersecurity publication, The Daily Swig, and as Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
October 12, 2018

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Dartford warehouse fire another indictment of UK’s lax sprinkler regulations, says FM Global

Dartford warehouse fire another indictment of UK’s lax sprinkler regulations, says FM Global

An effective sprinkler system would have made the Dartford coffee warehouse fire “a non-event”, according to an expert in international fire regulations at FM Global.

Tom Roche, senior consultant for international codes and standards at the commercial property insurer, said damage caused to UCC Coffee’s roastery in Riverside Industrial Estate and health risks posed to surrounding residents highlighted the folly of the UK’s lax approach to sprinkler regulation.

The blaze broke out on the ground floor of the building, in Dartford, Kent, on Thursday morning. Around 45 firefighters were called to the site after a member reported the fire at around 5.45am.

Nearby flats were evacuated and some residents were advised to keep doors and windows closed because of smoke. Roads in the area were closed. No employees are reported to be hurt.

Height vehicles were used to douse the fire from above and drones deployed to check if the blaze had spread.

“An effective sprinkler system would have made this a non-event.” Tom Roche, senior consultant for international codes and standards, FM Global

“Not for the first time this year are we seeing the major damage that fire can cause to a commercial or industrial facility,” said Roche. “Once again, this damage is very severe and brings to the fore the need for effective automatic sprinkler systems in such premises.

Pointing out that English fire and rescue services attend around one fire an hour in commercial buildings, he added: “An effective sprinkler system in this building would have made this a non-event. Instead the impact of this fire is being felt across the local community and impact on the business will be felt for some time to come.”

He recommended that businesses with warehouses should consider doing more than the bare minimum to comply with fire regulations. “For those businesses who believe that by following regulation they will be safe it is important to understand that the UK ranks well behind many European countries.”

Guidance in England only stipulates the use of sprinklers for warehouses over 20,000m2 – “the size of two Wembley football pitches – compared to most of Europe which starts at a tenth of this at around 2000m2!”

Roche suggested the costs of installing sprinklers must be seen in the context of myriad costs resulting from all too frequent industrial fires.

“At FM Global we have been well aware of the efficacy of sprinklers for a number of years – in the food and drink industry, for example, facilities with sprinklers typically suffer 15 times less damage than those without – and we would implore businesses to take heed to protect their property, protect jobs and reduce the burden on our emergency services.”

The cause of the fire has yet to be determined.

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