The British economy has lost £1 billion and 5,000 full-time jobs through fires in warehouses that could have been prevented by sprinklers.
A new report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research has revealed the cost of these fires is equivalent to the yearly productivity of the UK’s soft drinks industry. The research was commissioned by the Business Sprinkler Alliance (BSA).
Preventable fires caused a direct financial loss to businesses of £230 million a year and £190 million annually in productivity and impacts to the supply chain.
Approximately 1,000 direct and indirect jobs were lost through disruption and business failure annually. The Treasury also made a loss of £160 million in tax receipts over the last five years, a figure which is equivalent to the budget cuts that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is facing in the next few years.
In addition, 135,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere annually as a result of preventable fires – equivalent to the emissions resulting from the yearly domestic electricity consumption by a city the size of Portsmouth. Carbon dioxide emissions and water use to fight these fires came in at £11 million every 12 months.
The knock-on effects of each fire included an average of 21 local businesses being impacted by road closures and air and water contamination.
BSA chairman and former chief fire officer of Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service Iain Cox said insurance alone was not enough to protect companies fully from the long-term impacts of fire.
“We urge the government to do more to encourage the installation of fire sprinklers in commercial premises and promote a better understanding of the positive impacts of physical resilience.”
President of the Chief Fire Officers Association Paul Fuller said businesses needed to consider how they protect their properties to make them more resilient to fires.
“Installing fire sprinklers brings peace of mind for businesses and they can reap all the benefits that come with them. Sprinklers do much more for the UK than people know.”
Commercial buildings, non-domestic and multi-occupancy premises in England and Wales are already forced to undertake a ‘suitable and sufficient’ fire risk assessment carried out under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
While the overwhelming majority of premises do this, if the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the Responsible Person can face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.