Sprinklers to fight school arson battle.
Schools facing fire damage running into millions of pounds are being urged to install sprinkler systems to help in the battle against arson.
Most school blazes are started deliberately, usually at night, and the North East suffers some of the worst problems in the country.
But leaders of the Tyne & Wear Fire Authority say that an automatic sprinkler system will stop a fire spreading, greatly reducing the risk of serious damage.
Several North East authorities install sprinkler systems when new schools are built but fire chiefs believe all schools should have them.
Arson attacks on schools have been falling in recent years, thanks to fire prevention initiatives but the problem remains serious and installing sprinklers would reduce damage and improve safety.
There were 30 school fires in Tyne & Wear last year, 18 of them malicious. This compares with 39 in 2002, 29 malicious, 52 in 2001, 29 malicious and 40 in 2000, 30 malicious.
One school, Dunn Street Primary in Jarrow, was burned down last year following an arson attack which cost pounds 1.3m.
Headteacher Stewart Reader, said: "If the school had been fitted with a sprinkler system the financial costs and disruption suffered by the pupils and staff would have been greatly reduced."
Mr Reader says he hopes the new Dunn Street Primary, due for completion within the next two years, will by protected by a sprinkler system.
Figures from the Local Government Association reveal that schools in the UK suffer on average 20 arson attacks each day with an estimated pounds 100 million loss.
Attacks are putting the safety of pupils, staff and firefighters at risk, and causing devastating disruption to school life.
The LGA says a sprinkler system takes up around 1.8% of the total building cost which can be clawed back by reducing damage and insurance premiums.
As part of their community safety programme, officers from the Tyne & Wear Fire Service visit schools and talk to children about arson, anti-social behaviour, home safety plans and how to call the fire service.
Chairman, Coun Peter Young, said in Sunderland new schools are fitted with sprinklers and declared: "It is something we would like to see rolled out in all areas."
Newcastle councillor, Bob Renton said he knew of one school being built which does not have a sprinkler system. Coun Ian Macaulay said sprinkler systems are being installed in new schools in North Tyneside.
Coun Mary Carr, a former Lord Mayor of Newcastle, said: "We have to bang heads together. It's the children's safety I'm concerned about."
Tyne & Wear chief fire officer Richard Bull said sprinkler systems in schools and homes save lives and property. "We have to get the message through to local authorities and developers," he said.
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|Publication:||Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)|
|Date:||Mar 8, 2004|
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