Croydon Council has completed work to retrospectively fit fire sprinklers in the first of 26 of its tower blocks, with support from London Fire Brigade.
A week after the Grenfell tragedy last June, Croydon was the first council to announce it would retrofit sprinklers in its high-rise blocks, approving a £10 million programme in its 25 tallest blocks of 10-12 storeys, plus an eight-storey sheltered block.
The 10-storey building’s sprinkler system in College Green, Upper Norwood, became operational today, and council contractors have already begun work on three more council blocks, including a second block in College Green. Work on the next five high-rises starts in the coming weeks for tenants in South Norwood.
The council decided to invest in sprinklers without waiting for help from Government, which pledged in a letter to councils on 31 July it would help fund essential works on advice from local fire brigades.
“We invested in our sprinkler programme because we feel it is essential to our residents’ safety in response to the Grenfell tragedy, so it is a real boost to have finished the first of 26 Croydon Council blocks.”
Councillor Alison Butler, deputy leader and cabinet member for homes, regeneration and planning
Kevin McKenzie, London Fire Brigade borough commander for Croydon, visited the first College Green block during testing, and praised Croydon Council’s 26-block sprinkler programme.
He said: “Sprinklers play a significant role as part of an appropriate package of fire safety measures in reducing the impact of fire on people, property and the environment, so we welcome this because it gives residents reassurance. London Fire Brigade has long been campaigning about the benefits of sprinklers, which save lives and property and also improve firefighter safety.
“Croydon Council proves it’s possible to retrofit sprinklers, and more boroughs and housing owners should follow its lead to protect their most vulnerable residents, including those with mobility issues.”
Each flat getting the upgrade has around six sprinklers hidden near ceilings behind a flat white disc. These pop off when the room temperature hits 57 degrees Celsius, then at 67 degrees they spray a fine water mist at a wide angle. The sprinkler will only be triggered in the room affected by fire. This kind of targeted sprinkler reduces the risk of false alarms and water damage, coupled with fire breaks in place that limit spread between neighbouring flats and floors. The systems also have alarms that mean London Fire Brigade is alerted when sprinklers are activated.
Teresa Cox, a College Green resident who lives at one of the first flats where council contractors retrofitted the sprinklers, said: “Anything that saves people’s lives has got to be worth the hassle. They were very quick, efficient and polite people, and they did it really well.”
As with the first blocks, residents in the next batch of blocks next due to get sprinklers are being sent update letters and an invitation to coffee mornings so they can view sprinklers already installed and talk with the project team.
Residents wanting to know more about the project can view a Frequently Asked Questions page on the council website, and a time-lapse video of the sprinklers being installed – both are available here.