A series of investment programmes to install new sprinkler systems and fire safety upgrades across Portsmouth City Council’s portfolio of high-rise buildings is set to get underway after partnership work alongside Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service

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Following on from the collaborative work with the fire service, the council’s funding will see their 40 high-rise blocks across the city become even safer.
The two organisations will once again come together to host joint engagement events with residents, as they did prior to the pandemic, at high-rise blocks where the sprinkler installations and impacts of the fire safety programme will be felt, to reassure residents of the upcoming works.
The strong links between the council and HIWFRS has benefitted firefighters already, who have been able to use the soon-to-be demolished Leamington House, as a training venue. Portsmouth crews have participated in 16 exercises at the high-rise block, providing them with valuable familiarisation time and the opportunity to recreate and experience realistic high-rise fire conditions.
Jason Avery, Assistant Director for Prevention and Protection at HIWFRS said:
“Due to our relationship with Portsmouth City Council, Cosham, Havant and Southsea firefighters have benefitted from being able to replicate high-rise incidents, practice their response procedures in a realistic setting and familiarise themselves with the layout of high-rise structures across the city.”
Ahead of Sprinkler Week beginning on 17 May, the council has announced they are set to spend £9.5m over the next five years retrofitting high-rise blocks across Portsmouth with sprinkler systems, with work set to start this autumn at Ladywood House and Handsworth House, prioritising 10-storey or more buildings.
Steve Groves, Head of Building Maintenance at Portsmouth City Council said:
“Our priority is to ensure that residents are safe in their homes. The work to retrofit sprinklers is part of our strategy to improve the safety of our high-rise blocks and further reduce the risk of a major fire incident.”
The benefits of sprinklers have been demonstrated in recent months with HIWFRS crews responding to a flat fire in Southampton in which the blaze was successfully suppressed by the installed sprinkler system. The fire was confined to one room, no one had to be evacuated and, as is standard practice for sprinkler systems, they only activated in the affected flat.
Jason Avery said:
“Sprinklers are designed to control and quickly suppress fires prior to the arrival of the fire service, keeping firefighters and the community safe by stopping fires from spreading.”
“Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service has worked hard to highlight the impact sprinklers can have to prevent small fires becoming much more significant incidents, drastically reducing the threat to life.”
Engagement teams across the council and HIWFRS will now host events at council-owned high-rise buildings to ensure residents are suitably informed and prepared for the works in their blocks. This is expected to include a sprinkler demonstration as well as pilot flats set up to show where they would be fitted in each room.
As well as the sprinklers, the council has committed to a programme of fire safety improvements including replacing fire doors and external panelling, which has already begun. Over the course of the next five years, the council has vowed to spend £10m on new fire doors, coordinated in a way to minimise disruption for residents.
Steve Groves said:
“The council has committed to improve fire safety in our high-rise buildings over the next five years. We will be working with residents to ensure that we can minimise disturbance and that they are fully informed of our plans. We will be utilising the programme to coordinate resident community engagement events to publicise and promote fire safety advice.”
The regular conversations and meetings between the council and HIWFRS, have allowed the council to identify the blocks which need prioritising and ensure that the programme will be effective.