In the wake of the devastating fire at Luton Airport, where a single diesel car triggered a massive inferno destroying over 1,500 cars, the need for sprinkler systems in parking facilities across the UK has never been more evident.

According to the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association1: “Following major fires in car parks around the world, it is now recognised that designers should seriously consider sprinkler provision to avoid multiple vehicle fires, resulting in huge insurable losses and the possible loss of life”.

In response to this, our risk management team has provided some compelling reasons below highlighting why installing sprinkler systems could be crucial to increasing fire safety in such settings:

  1. Rapid Fire Suppression: Sprinkler systems are designed to react instantly to a fire outbreak. They can extinguish or significantly control flames before firefighters even arrive, dramatically reducing the extent of damage.
  2. Protection of Lives: Fires in parking facilities can pose a significant risk to the people inside, not just the property. The installation of sprinklers can provide crucial time for occupants to evacuate safely and avoid the dangers of smoke and flames.
  3. Economic Savings: While the cost of installing sprinkler systems might seem high initially, it's a mere fraction of the expenses incurred in recovering from a fire. Insurance claims, property damage, and business interruptions can be financially crippling, while sprinklers act as a first line of defence.
  4. Deterrent to Arson and Vandalism: The presence of sprinklers can discourage criminal activities in parking facilities, as potential arsonists will recognise that their actions are more likely to be foiled before they can cause significant harm.
  5. New Vehicle Technology: Whilst a standard fire sprinkler system won’t necessarily extinguish a fire caused by an electric vehicle fire, it can supress it and prevent it from spreading to other areas of the car park2.

In conclusion, the devastation at Luton Airport is a stark reminder of the need for sprinkler systems to be installed in parking facilities. According to experts3, had the car park been equipped with a functional sprinkler system, the fire might have been contained, resulting in only localised damage. Chief fire officer Andrew Hopkinson pointed out that the Luton car park seemed to lack sprinklers, stating that they "may have made a positive impact on this incident." These sentiments find agreement with Paul Trew, a technical advisor at the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE), who suggests that it's time to re-evaluate safety regulations in parking facilities.


The sole purpose of this article is to provide guidance on the issues covered. This article is not intended to give legal advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. We make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein or in the links which were live at the date of publication. You should not act upon (or should refrain from acting upon) information in this publication without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Limited accepts no liability for any inaccuracy, omission or mistake in this publication, nor will we be responsible for any loss which may be suffered as a result of any person relying on the information contained herein.