Uncertainty

“The culprit was caned and lessons carried on as usual”.

“Generation snowflake”.

I can’t even imagine the “sheet of flame” scenario ridiculous as it sounds. Just what kind of fire is that and how was it suppressed?

Before going any further, you might be best to refer to this interesting article and readers comments at the end.

I think I can see the correlation in this reader’s comments between a complete disregard for people’s health & safety and that of the now fashionable post-Brexit, criticize-if-you-dare,”back in the day”, inward-facing mentality. Health and safety of today is built on the basis of lessons learned and on risk assessment thank goodness, however in terms risk management it is obvious that risks change over time, all thanks to shifts in technological and social trends which is a result of our appetite to improve our lives and well-being in every way possible.

Thankfully, the school had an automatic fire suppression system installed which not only acted in the interests everyone’s safety, in particular the pupils, but it also ensured the continuity of business. I don’t mean business in the sense of the perverse anti-capitalist mindset but rather that of uninterrupted provision of education . Although a day had been lost the students had returned to class the following morning as opposed to a maximum loss scenario (i.e.. complete destruction, as seen in those schools in Essex and Sussex last summer) which would have ultimately guaranteed uncertainty as to when the school would reopen again.

Thanks to effective risk management, and in insurance terms, a probable maximum loss scenario is what occurred here, nevertheless what is startling to see in the news article is that the sprinklers appear to have contributed to the inconvenience and because of this the decision was taken to close the school. Yes, in this real-life event water has created a flood which is the inevitable result when extinguishing a fire but what is remarkably downplayed is the efficiency in the way the automatic fire protection system operated. Even the head teacher has gone as far as comment that “the smoke and water caused by a small fire” was the main reason instead of pointing out that the proximate cause, the fire, if uncontrolled can actually destroy schools completely. The reason why the fire was so small was thanks to the sprinkler activation – this is what it does, it keeps small fires small and extinguishes them using water. Had firefighters been on the scene a minute from the fire inception and sprayed water all over the place would the head teacher have mentioned the problem of water damage? Most probably not, and quite the opposite perhaps, given firemen do brave things all the time when called into action and are warmly congratulated, medals, photo opportunities etc. etc. I am being cynical of course but is still fact. In contrast, we have sprinkler engineers who install and maintain systems and just get on with the job of ensuring and continuing the trend of zero lives lost in a sprinkler protected building.

Once again sprinkler systems are downplayed and this doesn’t help to raise society’s awareness of their importance. It could be argued that this article builds on the fallacy that all sprinklers are activated since it seems we have a case of a school being flooded with smoke damage. Yes, OK a slight exaggeration, however I have had a discussion before with asset managers where the understanding was that in the event of a “small fire”, say, in the corner of a open-plan office floor, that all sprinklers heads across the floor would activate.

We have seen it right before our very eyes with the Government’s approach to curtail the requirement for new schools to invest in this highly beneficial protector of lives and buildings. My recommendation, in this cold bitter austere economic climate, is to simply calculate the payback period on investment because there will be savings on the insurance premium in the mid to long run. Surely this would be a sustainable approach whilst providing a robust defence in every sense of the word. Failure to do so only creates more risk in an already uncertain environment whilst 2016 has already proven alone that uncertainty in Political, Economic, Social and Environmental terms is just around the corner…in fact, right….this…..moment…now!

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Fire at Marks & Spencer, West Quay Shopping Centre, Southampton

The news report on the day doesn’t really describe the impact sprinklers had in controlling the fire prior to the firefighters arriving and Hampshire Fire & Rescue’s comments seem to construe that` sprinklers worked alongside the fire crew as opposed to the alternative. Only the one head was activated but could the fire have been doused before the fire crew’s arrival?

BAFSA bring a bit of balance to the media coverage by highlighting the importance of sprinklers with their report which provides some tangible consequences were it not for the activation of the automatic fire suppression system.

Media reports, hollywood movies, even the fire brigade (on the back of their PR) seem to really underplay the sprinkler’s importance in my opinion. It certainly begs the question, how does the public perceive the importance of sprinklers in buildings?

What is your perception?