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Sprinklers in Warehouse Fire Safety Planning

Iain Cox, Chair of the Business Sprinkler Alliance, explains how sprinklers can minimise injury and damage caused by fires in warehouse facilities.
Firefighters were called to what was reported as “a huge fire” at a warehouse near Wakefield in Yorkshire, Northern England The devastating blaze tore through a car workshop and a concrete factory on an industrial estate close to residential housing.
The fire on January 19th broke out around 8pm and required 80 firefighters, 14 appliances and specialist equipment including aerial ladder platforms and high-volume pumps from West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to tackle the blaze. Local residents reported hearing loud explosions and the fire sent plumes of toxic black smoke over this congested area.
While workers escaped unharmed, considerable resources were used by the fire and rescue service to control the fire. The impact on the local community and environment was significant with local road closures, power cuts, residents forced to keep their windows and doors closed due to harmful smoke and a number of measures employed to minimise the impact of pollution to the local environment.
History shows that fire can have an impact on business and in this case two separate businesses will need to recover from the effect of the blaze. In the worst case scenario, the effect of the fire is the closure of the business.
It is interesting to note that this fire took place in a modestly sized building. The fire service worked hard to protect surrounding properties yet the intervention of 80 firefighters could not stop the fire in a building of this size. Industrial fires impact far larger premises with similar results and with potentially larger impacts.
Preventing large costly fires is possible through a combination of strategies. One of the most effective methods is the use of sprinkler systems which contain and control fires before the fire and rescue service arrives. They therefore minimise the wider impact of unmanageable fires, reducing costs to business and the economy as a whole. Importantly, by limiting any fire damage, they allow businesses to resume operations quickly, often within hours of the incident.
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Iain Cox

Iain Cox is Chair of the Business Sprinkler Alliance (BSA), the National Fire Sprinkler Network (NSFN) and the Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council. Iain retired from the Fire Service in June 2013 after 34 years, the last ten of which he served as Chief Fire Officer of Royal Berkshire Fire & Rescue Service. From 2009 to 2011 he was a Board member of the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) with responsibilities for Prevention and Protection. He was awarded the Queen’s Fire Service medal in 2009. He holds a BSc in Physical Geography from the University of Reading and an MA in Management from Coventry University.

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