SOUTHAMPTON’S council-owned high-rise buildings could be fitted with sprinklers after a coroner urged the life-saving systems be installed following the death of two city firemen.
Civic chiefs are considering the £2m fire safety overhaul of up to 19 tower blocks in the hope of avoiding a repeat of the 2010 tragedy at Shirley Towers that claimed the lives of firefighters Alan Bannon and Jim Shears.
As reported, Southampton coroner Keith Wiseman has now urged all social housing providers in the country to retrospectively fit sprinklers in all buildings over 30 metres tall, bringing them into line with legislation for new-builds.
The call came as part of a raft of safety measures he wants introduced, including a review of all the training given to firefighters in the UK, who he said should also be given extra equipment to avoid them getting tangled in falling cables.
Southampton City Council has 16 tower blocks that are more than 30m tall, as well as three on the city centre Holyrood estate that are very close to that height.
The authority’s housing boss Cllr Warwick Payne said it will cost at least £100,000 to install a sprinkler system in each high-rise, although that price could rise if there are difficulties with the set-up in an individual block.
He said the council is looking to ensure all properties, which comply with existing rules, are as safe as possible – but warned spending cash on sprinklers would mean there is less to spend on other improvements.
He said: “Obviously, we will be taking the coroner’s recommendations on board and we will look into whether installation of sprinklers is feasible and we will be pricing up how much it would cost to introduce them.
“We’re already working with Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service to ensure our blocks are as safe as possible, and most of what the coroner has recommended would fit into the category of already being done or we’re taking steps to achieve.
“We’re looking to see if we can retro-fit and replace plastic clips with metal ones that would stand up to extreme temperatures, for which we’re talking thousands of pounds rather than millions, and I would imagine that that will probably be taken forward.
“The money can be found for the scheme, but if we spend £2m or more, that’s £2m we’re not spending on new kitchens or bathrooms, or new council housing.
“That has to be balanced with what price do we put on a firefighter’s life?”