Lack of sprinkler systems a job for Government and insurance industry

Article date: 11 May 2007

The need for stronger building regulations and the problems of soft market insurance practices are hampering the wider use of sprinkler systems, according to Norwich Union.

Property risk manager Allister Smith says: "We are seeing increasingly large fire losses and current building regulations - under which sprinkler systems are not mandatory - are falling short of providing adequate property protection.

"If the Government acted on this anomaly, it would give the UK a better protected environment, save lives, reduce the cost of property damage and prevent the kind of post-fire disruption faced by surrounding communities and businesses."

The comments come in the wake of serious fires in commercial premises in Manchester and London.

Smith also highlighted the approach of some insurers, willing to underwrite some property risks where sprinkler systems should be in place, but are not.

"The fact that sprinklers put out fires seems to be our industry's best kept secret and insurers providing cover for significant property risks without insisting on a suitable fire protection system is sending the wrong message to UK businesses."

Norwich Union's own claims experience has revealed the value of sprinkler systems. For example, a furniture manufacturer that it insures installed sprinklers on the insurer's insistence.

When a fire broke out, the fire was contained and kept under control by two sprinkler heads. The outcome was a business interruption claim for £10,000.

The attending fire office said that without the sprinkler protection the entire factory's buildings and contents factory could have been destroyed at a cost of approximately £14million. In addition this would also have had a detrimental effect on the local community and jobs.

According to the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association, losses from fires in buildings protected with sprinkler systems are estimated to be 1/10 of those in similar unprotected buildings. In buildings fully protected by sprinkler systems, 99% of fires were controlled by the sprinklers alone, in addition, 60% of fires were controlled by no more than 4 sprinkler heads.


For further information, please contact:
Jon Clements at Staniforth or 0161 919 8022/07989 414486 or Sally Leeman at Norwich Union on 01603 684225/ 07800 699670.

Notes to editors

  • Norwich Union is the UK's largest general insurer with a market share of around 15%, with a focus on insurance for individuals and small businesses.
  • It is a leading provider of life, pensions and investment products and one of the largest Financial Adviser (FA) providers.  FAs provide over 70% of the company's long-term savings business in the UK.
  • Norwich Union's news releases and a selection of images are available from Aviva's internet press centre at

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