To sprinkle or not to sprinkle...

Sprinkler close up     Water storage with blue sky


Should records management centres use sprinkler systems?

The question we posed in our website poll last month, and a debate that has surfaced time and time again in our industry, is whether or not records management companies should use sprinkler systems.  It is also a question raised frequently by people who view and tour our records management centres nationwide.  We’re pleased to report the results from our first poll are in and it appears that the majority of people who voted agree that sprinkler systems should be installed in case of fire.


68% of voters agree that sprinklers are a good idea

Some 68% agreed that fitting sprinkler systems is a good idea and this is the viewpoint shared by us at Wincanton Records Management. If there is one thing that you learn in the records management industry and that history has taught us, it is that the worst can and does happen.  A fire is amongst one of the worst disasters to be had at a records management storage facility. There is of course the obvious problem of recovering damaged documents or dealing with the loss of irretrievable ones, but even when the fire is over it can have far-reaching commercial and reputational consequences, both to the customer and the records management company. 

Many in our industry believe a sprinkler system is actually just as hazardous to the contents of their facility as a fire would be. They argue that if a fire is isolated, the sprinkler system could easily destroy records outside of the fire area which would otherwise be safe.

Like us, they would employ a very early fire detection system that is connected to an alarm system. Monitored 24 hours a day, smoke detectors located throughout the building will alert the monitoring service of any potential issue. The fire department will be called and they will come and check the building even if no fire is readily apparent. However, companies without a sprinkler system need to accept that in any areas of the building where a fire has reached paper documents stored in cardboard boxes will burn – and when burned, they’re gone – there is no rising from the ashes or piecing together the charred remains.


Using vacuum freeze drying for recovery

On the other hand a wet document is still in existence, however soggy it might be. Wincanton Records Management has all the precautions in place to ensure they never experience a fire; however, they are realistic that very occasionally distaster happens and they have chosen to install sprinklers and have a vacuum freeze drying recovery method on hand to bring wet documents back to life. This recovery method freezes the water damaged documents and using a very slow temperature-controlled recovery process, very slowly brings them back to an ambient temperature, and therefore retaining the vital information stored within the document. This belt and braces approach eliminates all elements of risk.  Should the very early smoke detection system fail then there is the back-up of a highly sophisticated sprinkler and recovery system.  Without this in place then you are purely relying on fire alarms. 

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