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Install residential sprinklers and save lives, new research suggests

By Tim Neary
22 January 2018 | 10 minute read

A new research into effective and affordable fire sprinkler protection of residential buildings could lead to a significant improvement in people safety.

In a new report released by Fire & Rescue NSW (FRNSW), titled the Residential Sprinkler Research Report, researchers found that fire sprinklers significantly improved the safety of occupants in residential buildings under 25 metres, preventing 90 per cent of fires from spreading to other rooms.

The research was conducted by a partnership between FRNSW, Fire Protection Association Australia (FPA Australia), the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and industry partners.

It addresses a gap in fire protection of residential buildings under 25 metres, classified as Class 2 and Class 3 shared residential accommodation, which are not required (currently) to be fitted with sprinklers under the National Construction Code.

The research report also covers testing of two innovative new sprinkler system designs that offer high levels of protection while reducing cost and complexity.

Based on the findings of the study, the partners have submitted a proposal for change calling for sprinklers be fitted to all new Class 2 and 3 buildings.

FPA Australia’s deputy CEO and general manager for technical services, Matthew Wright, said that these are some of the most vulnerable buildings in the country.

“Because there is no automatic suppression,” the GM said, adding that they are also becoming increasingly common as city housing density increases.

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“Automatic sprinklers have been shown time and again to be one of the most effective ways of improving life safety in a fire.

“This research identifies new fit-for-purpose sprinkler designs that can greatly improve the safety of the large proportion of Australians living in these vulnerable buildings.”

Mr Wright said that the danger to these buildings was illustrated in the tragic death in 2012 of 21-year-old student Connie Zhang, who jumped from a fifth-floor balcony after being trapped in a fire in her Bankstown apartment.

The deputy CEO said that Ms Zhang’s apartment building was just 10 centimetres short of 25 metres, and therefore hadn’t been installed with sprinklers.

Mr Wright also said that the residential sprinkler research was begun following recommendations made by the NSW deputy coroner after an inquiry into the fire.

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