Children’s lives are being put at risk by the “appallingly” low number of sprinkler systems installed in Barnet’s schools, according to a London Assembly member.
Labour GLA member for Barnet and Camden Andrew Dismore this week accused Barnet Council of “cutting corners” over fire safety after it emerged just ten of the borough’s 210 schools featured sprinkler systems.
Despite just 4.7 per cent of schools being covered, the authority is a long way short of the lowest in London – some boroughs including Camden are less than two per cent - but Mr Dismore believes the issue is one that needs addressing.
All of Barnet’s schools comply with fire safety legislation but the low number of sprinkler systems goes against London Fire Brigade’s recommendations to local authorities.
Mr Dismore said: “This is an appalling statistic, and shows real false economies. Sprinklers may not be cheap to fit, but if there is a school fire, they are very effective in limiting the danger and the damage safely, quickly and effectively.
“At a time when the Mayor is imposing fire brigade cuts across the capital, the need for sprinklers is even more serious, yet the council has not recognised the risk.
“Barnet’s usual penny pinching is potentially going to cost far more in the long run, if a school catches fire.”
London Fire Brigade says it encourages local authorities, developers and builders to install sprinkler systems where there is a risk case base for doing so.
A spokesman said: “As well as the huge financial cost, a fire that destroys a school or college causes massive disruption to students, teachers and families and can have a devastating effect on the wider community.
“Sprinklers are not only a potentially lifesaving tool, they can dramatically reduce damage by stopping fires from spreading so quickly.”
Mr Dismore says the issue lies with the local authority that signs off the buildings. Of the ten schools in Barnet that have sprinkler systems, all are newly built schools.
He said: “The low number did surprise me. They are cutting corners in my opinion – it may cost to put the sprinklers in but it is cheaper than the school burning down. I hope, as they are building new schools, these systems will be included.”
A council spokesperson said: “All of Barnet Council’s schools comply with fire safety legislation and have had a fire risk assessment in the past year.
“There is no legal requirement for existing schools to fit sprinkler systems, but they are required to carry out fire risk assessments.
“If a fire risk assessment has identified a need for sprinklers, this would be given due consideration.”