Shetland Islands Council has no plans to retro-fit sprinkler systems to any of its care homes for the elderly which do not have them installed.
The authority says adequate safety procedures are already in place, despite calls from one elected member to have the key safety device retrospectively fitted.
Councillor Allison Duncan, the SIC fire board representative, said newly-built care homes must have the systems.
But there is no provision in law to have the sprinklers installed in existing homes. Most of the registered care homes in the isles were built before the changes in legislation were brought forward.
Mr Duncan stressed he was “completely satisfied” regulations were adhered to by care home staff. He insisted “training is absolutely spot on”. However, he said care home staff may face mounting and potentially deadly challenges if faced with having to evacuate elderly residents from a blazing building.
His comments follow discussions with the fire service’s local group manager Myles Murray over fire safety concerns in light of the Grenfell disaster in London earlier this year.
Mr Murray, meanwhile, says more sprinklers would provide a “positive enhancement” – particularly given the rural locations of many care homes for the elderly.
“My concern is that if there was a serious incident arising – because the demographics have changed dramatically in care homes in Shetland over the last 15 years,” Mr Duncan told The Shetland Times.
“For example, Overtonlea [in Levenwick] – and I’m completely satisfied the regulations are adhered to and the training is absolutely spot on – but imagine if the fire alarm system went off. How can two or three people on the night shift get 15 people outside in a short time?
“Imagine somebody with dementia there. The fire engine has to come from Sumburgh, and Sandwick would be activated as well. That will take 10 to 12 minutes.”
An email to Mr Duncan from Mr Murray highlighted 10 registered care homes – nine of which belong to Shetland Islands Council.
Of these, only Newcraigielea and Montfield Support Services in Lerwick have full sprinkler systems. Edward Thomason and Taing House has had a system installed – although that is only in the small new extension.
“As you are aware, current legislation does not require residential sprinkler systems to be retrospectively installed,” Mr Murray said.
“Only new builds and any extensions requiring building warrant approval are required to install residential sprinkler systems.”
He said the question had been put to health and safety and fire lead officer at the SIC, Fiona Johnson, over whether the council had any plans to retro-fit sprinklers in adult and elderly care homes.
“We were advised that they didn’t have any current plans to do so,” Mr Murray said.
“SFRS has no legal authority to require these systems to be retrospectively installed. However, given the remote location of many of them it would, in my opinion, be a positive enhancement to both life safety and resilience of the buildings should Shetland Islands Council retrospectively install residential sprinkler systems in all their premises.”
SIC estate operations manager Carl Symons stated: “Shetland Islands Council has no current plans to retrofit sprinklers to any care homes in Shetland.
None are ‘high rise’ buildings and we already have adequate procedures and alarm systems in place.”