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Sprinkler systems – are they essential?

Managing your companies’ records in-house might seem like the most sensible and cost effective solution for facilities management professionals. However, more often than not, facilities managers decide to outsource their records management when space to store them in-house depletes. With the recent news ringing in our ears about fires breaking out at industrial estates, it seems that the fire detection and prevention methods that facilities management professionals utilise in-house may not provide adequate levels of protection for vital business information.

Should a fire break-out, it isn’t just a question of records being damaged or destroyed completely – an event of this magnitude can also lead to detrimental consequences to the reputation of your business.

Whether you store records on-site, or use an outsourced supplier, having a sprinkler system installed is one way of protecting documents in storage from fire. Some organisations (including records management companies) believe that a sprinkler system can do more damage than good, especially in areas of the building where the fire does not spread. Yet, a damp document that has been exposed to water from a sprinkler can be brought back to life, an impossible task with charred remains. Companies without sprinkler systems installed need to be aware that their documents will burn if a fire reaches them – and once they’re burned, they’re gone for good.

To ensure maximum document safety, Wincanton Records Management (WRM) has in-aisle and in-racking sprinkler systems installed, as well as a Very Early Smoke Detection System (VESDA). Should there be a need for the sprinklers to engage, then firstly they will only do so on a zonal basis where the incident has occurred. If the documents have got wet through protecting them from fire, a sophisticated process is implemented preventing any irreparable damage as WRM uses a vacuum freeze recovery method to bring wet documents back to life. The water-damaged documents are frozen and, using a very slow, temperature-controlled recovery environment, they are brought back to an ambient room temperature maintaining any vital information within the document.

It appears that WRM’s client base also agrees, in an online poll they were asked what their customers would prefer – sprinkler system or no sprinkler system – and over 68% polled in favour of the former.

Gerald Cootzee of Lark insurnace said, “We moved our documents off-site to create more space and to make way for our business to expand a number of years ago. It’s really important to know that they are kept in a secure building – not just away from prying eyes, but protected from disasters such as fire and flooding too. WRM has a very high level of security and a series of fire prevention methods in place – including their very advanced sprinkler systems – to stop any records they have at any of their sites from being taken or destroyed. Knowing they have these systems in place gives me peace of mind.”

WRM has facilities equipped with some of the highest standards of security and fire detection in Europe. Very early fire detection systems are installed at all ten of their sites, connected to an alarm system. Smoke detectors are located throughout the buildings and monitored 24 hours a day. If any potential threat is detected the fire department are called immediately and will come to check the building.

There is also the option of high-security gas suppression custom built vaults, which protect highly-sensitive information, including media back-up tapes, crime records and property deeds. Each vault has environmental controls to manage the temperature and humidity levels, controlled to BS4783. They also contain multiple air conditioning units that maintain temperatures to between 20

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