In the UK residential and commercial property has to abide by a code for fire safety; these building codes set out the standards for fire suppression and for fire extinguisher equipment requirements. One of the determining factors that distinguish between methods used is the occupancy and use of the building. Usage is split between two main groups: residential and commercial, and the codes for each are very different according to the expected capacity of people.
Where water based fire suppression is appropriate, there are two dominant methods use: the wet riser system, which is used primarily for sprinkler systems, and the dry riser system, which is a system of pipes and valves placed in strategic positions in the building that carries no water, so has very low cost of maintenance, but can be pumped with water from the fire services engines or from standpipes connected quickly in the roads.
Dry riser systems are specifically for use by professional fire fighters at the scene of the fire, and these systems allow a very rapid facilitation of water to the scene of the fire without dragging pipes all the way through the building. It is a system of strategically placed inlets on the ground floor of the outside of the building and a system of pipes that run to each floor and to strategically placed outlets on the inside of the building. The idea is simple but very effective: one team connects water hoses to the outside inlets, while another team carry just one or two hoses to connect to the inside outlets; it saves an enormous amount of time getting the water to the fire, and the flow once there is far more reliable and is less subject to the various ways that can damage or kink a pipe winding up a stairwell, etc.
Only professional firms that are compliant with the British standards and who have demonstrated a solid understanding of the fire fighting process are allowed to do the installation of such a system in the UK. These firms would be compliant with the British Standards, and as such should be a member of the BAFSA (British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association) and their workforce needs to be certified with CSCS and be BS9990 compliant.
The BASFA regularly report on the benefits of fire sprinkler and dry riser systems, and they proudly boast that there has never been a case of multiple fatalities where there has been a sprinkler system installed. They also report that dry riser systems reduce considerably the risk to life of the firemen that respond to these emergencies.
In an emergency situation, made worse by smoke and perhaps flames, the dry riser system vastly reduces the time to respond, and time in a fire situation is critical. It also allows for the safe relocation of the firemen and their hose if the fire moves around or underneath them, by simply disconnecting the hose from the outlet and moving to the next outlet source. Water pressure is maintained consistently because all the pipes are housed in fire resistant partitions within the walls.