Sprinklers set to save lives

LIFE-saving sprinkler systems will be installed in as many flats and bedsits across Suffolk as possible following the deaths of two teenagers in an horrific fire.

LIFE-saving sprinkler systems will be installed in as many flats and bedsits across Suffolk as possible following the deaths of two teenagers in an horrific fire.

Work is now under way to tighten fire regulations at the vulnerable properties, which are often used by youngsters, and improve safety.

A new project – unveiled by the Evening Star in November last year and officially launched today – sees councils across the county teaming up with the Suffolk Fire Service.

A campaign for sprinklers was launched by Felixstowe Town Council following the deaths of Robert Giles, 18, and William Stokes, 19, in a fire in Holland Road, Felixstowe, two years ago.

The pair died in a blaze caused by a candle or a faulty TV set. Smoke engulfed their top-floor room and teenagers never woke up.

Councillors were concerned that people living in shared student accommodation – where they had individual rooms but shared a living room and kitchen – were in danger should a fire break out.

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They are still campaigning for new national laws to ensure all shared student rooms, flats and bedsits are protected by sprinkler systems as well as fire wall and doors and alarms.

District and borough councils have now signed a protocol with Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service to make sure there are consistent fire safety standards across the region in these types of premises.

It will also encourage landlords to fit a sprinkler system in bedsits and flats, which will help them to meet strict fire laws as well as giving firefighters a head start when tackling any blaze.

County council portfolio holder for public protection, Peter Monk, said: "The agreement will help to save lives and reduce the damage done to property by fire and smoke. Our figures show that where a house fire occurs, there is a high probability that within six months another fire will occur in the same vicinity. With flats and bedsits the chance of this is even greater."

Graham Smith, assistant chief fire officer, said: "It will result in a consistent approach and working relationship between our fire safety officers and all seven local district councils within Suffolk. I am confident it will result in improved safety within these premises."

Sir George Pigot, chair of the Residential Sprinkler Association, added: "These sprinkler systems can dramatically improve fire safety in flats and bedsits. In the United Kingdom, no-one has ever died as a result of fire in a building protected by a working sprinkler system.

"One of these systems will detect, give warning and contain or extinguish a fire. It will give residents vital warning and buy them time to get out of the building. The way these sprinklers work will also reduce fire damage to the property and its contents."

n What do you think? If you are a landlord, do you think sprinkler systems are needed? Write to Your Lteters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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