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26May94 UK: MOVE TO FORCE STORES TO FIT FIRE SPRINKLERS.

By Mark Court.The Department of Environment has taken the first step towards making sprinkler systems compulsory in superstores.A Government working party will now investigate the issue in the first stage of the lengthy process of changing the Building Regulations.The move comes amid mounting pressure from the fire brigade, insurers and contractors after a series of dramatic fires destroyed supermarkets around the country.Compulsory installation of sprinklers would be a big boost to mechanical and electrical contractors.They stand to win a larger slice of work from the supermarket industry, which spends around £2 billion a year building new stores. Sprinklers add 1.5 per cent to a supermarket's cost.The decision to set up the working party came last week at a meeting of the Fire Advisory Panel, which brings together Department of the Environment officials and representatives of the fire brigade and construction and insurance industries.A DoE spokesman said: 'The Fire Advisory Panel helps to shape the DoE's thinking on any changes that may be needed. The DoE then gets its thoughts together on the Building Regulations Advisory Committee.'After that ministers will consider the options.'Fire fighters have been campaigning for the compulsory installation of sprinklers after a spate of supermarket fires.The fires were characterised by the intensity of the flames and the incredible speed with which the stores were destroyed.The financial cost has appalled the insurance industry.The Fire Protection Association has attacked retailers for not installing sprinklers.FPA director Stewart Kidd said: 'It is difficult to see why, when sprinklers can significantly reduce the threat to life and property from fire, retailers are so reluctant to put them in all new stores. One is forced to draw the inevitable conclusion that profit is being put before shoppers' safety.' CONSTRUCTION NEWS