Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom, is calling for fire sprinkler retrofit of all social housing tower blocks in the wake of the June 2017 Grenfell fire disaster. In a November 9th speech in London alongside the party’s shadow housing minister, John Healey, Corbyn suggested that the government set aside £1bn in the forthcoming budget to begin the effort.
Noting that only 2% of all tower blocks are currently protected with fire sprinkler systems, Corbyn has suggested the retrofit project should begin with tower blocks exceeding ten stories in height, but eventually be extended to all council and association tower blocks. He pointed to the reduction in the nation’s ability to manually fight fires as helping to create the need, stating that 10,000 frontline firefighter jobs, one in six, have been eliminated over the past seven years as part of austerity measures. Corbyn’s remarks included some very positive statements with regard to automatic fire sprinkler systems:
“The retrofitting of sprinklers in all high-rise social housing is something that could make a vital difference to people's safety. The evidence is clear: where sprinkler systems have already been fitted, injuries sustained from fires have been cut by approximately 80% and deaths from fires have almost been eliminated entirely.
“When almost every authoritative source on the matter is saying the same thing - that retrofitting of sprinklers is necessary in high-rise housing - this measure is just common sense and will protect thousands of lives. Grenfell was an avoidable tragedy. It did not have to happen and it would not have happened if adequate precautions, including sprinklers, were in place.”