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Express & Star comment: Price can't be put on saving lives

By Star Comment | Opinions | Published:

It is remarkable that so few council-managed flats across the country are fitted with potentially life-saving sprinklers.

There is no legal requirement to fit sprinklers in buildings

This is despite the fact that the Grenfell Tower fire was more than two years ago, a tragedy so devastating that you would have thought it would have forced our local authorities into action.

Across parts of the Black Country no additional safety measures have been put into high rise blocks since Grenfell.

It is a picture that is repeated up and down the country, with efforts to improve safety in tower blocks either sidelined or laid out as part of long-term plans rather than top priorities.

Yet the advice from safety experts is very clear: sprinklers save lives.

Chief fire officers say they are akin to having a firefighter in the room, meaning that should a blaze start it can be immediately put out.

Interestingly, there is no legal requirement to fit sprinklers, so councils are left to make their own decisions on safety measures.

So in many ways the Government’s inaction when it comes to legislating in recent years has put local authorities in a difficult position.

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The main reason behind many councils’ reluctance to fit the infrastructure is financial constraints.

With local authority budgets cut to the bone, town halls with a spare £50 million lying around to improve the safety of tower blocks are few and far between.

We can understand these concerns about cost.

To retrofit sprinklers would mean that other services would invariably suffer – a serious problem at a time when so many of our councils are just about hanging on to vital services.

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However, the cost of having a serious blaze on a building is far greater than those listed above.

In recent weeks we have seen a devastating blaze completely destroy the Holiday Inn in Walsall – a site where sprinklers were not fitted.

It is also worth considering the fact that nobody has ever died in a fire in a home fitted with residential sprinklers.

There is no doubt that our councils require financial assistance from government regarding this issue.

But action needs to be taken as soon as possible.

You cannot put a price on people’s lives.

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