Council to install water sprinklers in 6,400 homes in 100 high rise blocks

Published: Friday 23rd June 17

More than 100 high-rise housing blocks in Wandsworth are to be fitted with sprinkler systems in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster it was announced today (Friday).

The council has taken the decision to retro-fit this additional fire safety measure in all its tower blocks of ten storeys and above.

This work will commence as soon as possible. 

The sprinkler systems will be fitted inside each flat in the 100 blocks, covering some 6,400 properties in total.

Wandsworth Council leader Ravi Govindia said: “The dreadful and tragic events at Grenfell House have brought this issue into sharp focus and although we do not believe there is a specific risk to any of our high rise properties we are simply not prepared to take a chance.

“We will therefore be fitting water sprinklers to every home in these 100 blocks as quickly as possible so that our residents can be reassured that everything that can be done is being done to protect them, their families and their homes.”

Wandsworth Borough Fire Commander Darren Munro added: “I very much welcome this announcement. This is a big commitment from Wandsworth and we will continue to work closely with the council to make sure the borough and its residents are as safe as possible.” 

Until sprinklers can be fitted the council is to step up fire safety measures at two high rise blocks in the borough which have been fitted with the type of external cladding that has now come under scrutiny. 

These are Sudbury House and Castlemaine Tower. Both have experienced serious fires in recent years and in both cases the fires were contained within individual flats and did not spread anywhere else, suggesting that the design of the building, the method of installing the cladding and the materials used, stood up to the fire and prevented its spread to other parts of the building.

Sections of the cladding have been taken from both buildings and sent to Government labs for testing. 

Until the results are received back from the Government’s scientists, the council will deploy two fire marshals who will remain in these two blocks 24 hours a day as an additional safety measure.

These fire marshals will be able to react immediately if there is an emergency. They will also carry out regular six hourly checks of all stairwells, corridors and other communal areas to ensure they remain free of any combustible materials and also free of any obstructions that could hinder evacuation and escape.

They will conduct regular checks of fire safety equipment such as dry-risers and make sure self-closing fire resistant doors are in full working order.

Every property will also be visited to make sure that residents have working smoke alarms. If they do not the council will provide these free of charge.

The marshals will also ensure people know and understand the fire safety procedures for their blocks and in particular their routes to fire exits. 

They will also ensure that fire safety posters and signage in communal areas remain clear and free of graffiti and arrange their immediate replacement if any are defaced or damaged

And in conjunction with the London Fire Brigade, the council will regularly inspect parking areas to make sure there’s sufficient access for firefighting vehicles.

Residents will be kept up to date of any further development through the issue of a regular newsletter.

Director of Housing Brian Reilly said: “We do not yet know the exact cause of the terrible scenes we witnessed at Grenfell House. These facts will start to become clear as part of the police investigation and Public Inquiry and we are absolutely committed to quickly learning any lessons that may emerge. 

“We are taking absolutely nothing for granted, which is why we have made the decision to install sprinklers in all our high rise blocks. The safety of our tenants and leaseholders is of paramount importance.”

The council is also repeating its earlier advice to residents of high-rise blocks:

• Make sure you have a working smoke alarm in your home – these will be provided at no cost
• Check your smoke alarm is working every month
• Keep balconies free from clutter
• Don’t leave rubbish or bikes in communal areas or obstruct escape routes
• Make sure you know where your nearest fire exit is 
• Do not smoke in common areas of the block
• Always fully extinguish cigarettes smoked in your home and dispose of them carefully and safely

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Recent comments

As a Leaseholder of one of the affected properties in the borough, I am concerned about the decision to install sprinkler systems in the individual flats but not the communal areas- our block only has one set of stairs- surely the priority should be to protect our only exit route. There is also a wider question about whether the council's building insurance would cover any water damage caused by the system initiating.
Cameron Young

19 October 2017

@SPRINKLER TECH LTD. If system is connected to domestic supply and property is water metered will owner we charged for water? Are there any stats on the amount of water that could be released when a sprinkler goes off? Thanks

5 August 2017

A convicted arsonist was setting numerous fires in my block, and it was recommended that sprinklers be fitted. The council refused to fit sprinklers and did nothing to catch the arsonist who was living in this block. The residents had to set up their own CCTV to finally have the evidence to get a conviction. According to the council, we didn't need sprinklers even when an arsonist was setting fires. Why do we need sprinklers now? Also, we don't have cladding here, so how has the danger increased? The leaseholders in my block have recently paid £4000+ each for refurbishments (which were done to a very low standard), hopefully we won't have to pay for these sprinklers.
Mr Lee

6 July 2017

@MR HOLMES, If you had actually read our comment, we said sprinklers ONLY in corridors and stairwells would not be a good idea, implying that the flats should ALSO be protected. We would always recommend full sprinkler coverage in ALL area's.
Sprinkler Tech Ltd

2 July 2017

I'm am very interested in the safety of all residents, for the company that said it would not be a good idea to put sprinklers in corridors and stairwells, I hope wandsworth council will be made aware that there are gas pipes in some corridors in some blocks, so I think it is very much needed in the corridors as well. To be truthful I think it would be dangerous in a event of a fire to run down stairs and gas pipes burning without the aid of sprinklers, also water would give people a chance against smoke particles. So for everyone's safety it would be wise to have sprinklers especially near gas pipes in the corridors.
Mr holmes

2 July 2017

Hi All, we are a company that designs and installs fire sprinklers and would just to put the record straight about the common misconceptions with fire sprinklers. 1. Fire sprinklers only operate from the HEAT from a fire and NOT smoke. Burning the toast would NOT activate a sprinkler. 2. Only the 1 or 2 fire sprinklers nearest to the fire would activate and control the fire. NOT all sprinklers would activate. 3. Sprinklers can often share the water from the domestic water supply therefore large tanks are often not required. 4. Sprinklers fitted ONLY in corridors are typically not a good idea as stairways and corridors typically have little combustible material, but sprinklers in flats would be imperative.
Sprinkler Tech Ltd

1 July 2017

@sheila gilbert - my advice in your situation would be to move somewhere else. It doesn't sound as though the place you've chosen to live is well suited to you in the event of an emergency exit?

29 June 2017

They are concrete shells, they were designed to keep the fire in each dwelling. The fire sprinklers should be in the passage ways and stairs only. The cladding of plastic running up a building is the true danger. To have pipes running through each flat would unneeded and stupid. With electric light bulbs near them. Who knows what could happen.
Mr holmes

27 June 2017

i live in sheltered accomodation, we only have oneset of stairs to use, i am unable to walk down them, and i live on the second floor. please can you advise, as i am aware you must never use lifts. thank yo
sheila gilbert

26 June 2017

Can we please have transparency on how these improvements are to be funded? Specifically, what %age of the improvements will be paid by the beneficiaries of the upgraded property, ie. those living in the properties, and what %age will be paid by other people who will not benefit at all from this?

26 June 2017

I'ts a shame that these measurements have to be taken only after a tragedy like Grenfell Tower happened. All Wandsworth residential homes should already be fitted with CCTV cameras and sprinklers in all the lifts and communal areas. It should be common sense. I have already insisted twice to different managers on my tower (Sparkford House) to install them. Last time I got this answer: ''Although the issues of rubbish being left in the lifts and people and dogs urinating in the lifts are understandably frustrating for residents, these problems would not be at such levels that would necessitate the installation of CCTV cameras'' I am extremely concerned and will keep on insisting.

26 June 2017

Sprinkler systems are being discussed. A sprinkler system surely requires a rather large tank next to the building - are you not talking about dry risers where the fire brigade connect to the ground floor inlet and put out the fire? This is the practical solution which achieves the aim, without everyone being soaked if someone burns toast!
Fredrik Sudmann

25 June 2017

This is to be commended, but it also begs the question: "Why weren't sprinklers fitted as standard when the tower blocks were built?"
Susan Jones

25 June 2017

A classic knee-jerk over-reaction to a tragic event designed to protect the political class from further criticism at the expense of everyone else, yet only serving to demonstrate how incompetent that class is. Sound decision making is based on an analysis of the available EVIDENCE not political calculation. The EVIDENCE available points to the flammability of the cladding on Grenfell as the primary factor, though there are questions about evacuation advice and smoke control within the building including the effectiveness of the fire doors to the central escape stairwell. These are the issues that need to be answered before a rational decision can be made. Panic driven, ill-considered measures are likely to be worthless, but expensive.
Joe Cairns

24 June 2017

Well done wandsworth council, your commendable decision shows respect for human life and a desire to listen to your residents. I am however concerned for those of us on the Newlands estate and similar buildings, as Barringer Square for example has double glazed windows that only open a crack (few inches from ceiling height) and can't be opened enough for escape or rescue in a fire emergency situation. Is the council willing to consider ALL aspects of fire safety in flats or just those that failed Grenfell Tower? We residents have often complained about this risk, which can easily be rectified by fitting windows which can be opened wider with a safely stored key such as my mum has in her Mitcham flat. Well done so far, but more please.

24 June 2017

I'd rest easier if you moved out my grandchildren of 2yrs and 4yrs old from the 15th floor of Kintyre Hse and all families with children under 10yrs, the elderly and disable from living higher than a sixth floor.If Grenfell had have been their block I would be in mourning now, their other would not have been able to get two little ones down 15 floors of stairs thick with fumes and smoke, Pls pls rethink. A loving Nana
Sara Denny

24 June 2017

I hope the sprinklers are isolated to a flat otherwise when some burns toast or dilibreatley sets off the system if the flats are linked then another problem will have been created ie soaking beds' carpets and more uninhabitable living conditions
Christine O'Brien

23 June 2017

I would like to thank Wandsworth Council for your commendable decision to install sprinkler systems in all Wandsworth Council tower blocks. It is an outstanding example of your humanity and your willingness to value human life. I am so grateful. Thank you.

23 June 2017

"Smoking and the use of candles should be banned in all these tower blocks flats". Don't be ridiculous, Simon. Would you also ban gas hobs at the same time? That'll go down well with anyone who likes to cook seriously The Grenfell fire started with a refrigerator - should we ban them, too, along with any other electrical equipment that can malfunction and overheat...computers, mobile phones, TV sets? You can't remove all risk from human life - only so much can be done before it becomes repressive. However appalling the recent fire was, in general fatalities from fires are happily far, far rarer than they were even 50 years ago.
Osmund Bullock

23 June 2017

In the Alton estate we are already paying a massive 7K in 2017 for unnecessary renewal of balcony windows. There is no way leaseholders can afford to be charged another large amount for this major work!
Mr Neville P Churchill

23 June 2017

Sections of the materials under the cladding - insulation panels and material, have now been shown to be flammable too. Is Wandsworth checking those too - and if not WHY NOT?
Celia Blair

23 June 2017

Swift, decisive action by Wandsworth Council for which you should be commended for. Well done. Lives > cost.
Phil Pienaar

23 June 2017

Smoking and the use of candles should be banned in all these tower blocks flats

23 June 2017

Each council high-rise should have these items under review; 1. Sprinkler systems - I am so glad to hear that this is being addressed. 2. Working and properly-rated fire doors, and residents taught to self-check and police their functioning. 3. Positive-pressure evacuation stair wells, to keep smoke out. 4. Emergency lighting along all evacuation routes. 5. Lifts that can be set to firemen's mode to disable use during emergencies, and restrict their use to firefighters 6. Dry-risers and working hoses / extinguishers, etc. for very floor 7. TRAINING - Residents should be required to attend safety training. 8. STRONG FIRE and SAFETY codes for buildings, coupled with personal liabilities for company and building directors.
Richard Lo

23 June 2017

Good news. The last upgrade cost me over £6k. Who is paying for this?
Debbie Graves

23 June 2017

i welcome the sprinklers however id like to know what your going to do about me being disabled in a wheelchair on 7th floor when you cant use a lift if you need to evacuate and i cant walk down 7 floors of stairs? im sure im not only one in this situation do you intend to move me?
james parson

23 June 2017

I welcome your action. Which budget is the cost coming from
n baybutt

23 June 2017

Well done! The sprinklers are important and will help save lives and put out fires in the future. Money well spent by the Council.
Helen Clough

23 June 2017