The Fire Service says a sprinkler system failure during the Spring Hill Prison riot is a wake-up call for the Department of Corrections on how it approaches fire safety design.
It says sprinklers at the Waikato jail failed to deal with fires during a weekend riot because the pipes could not deliver enough water to douse the flames.
Twenty-nine inmates went on a 10-hour rampage in two high security cell blocks, destroying property and setting fires on Saturday.
Fire engineering manager Simon Davis says Spring Hill's sprinkler systems were designed only to put out one area of fire at a time and were overwhelmed by the demand from multiple fires. In sprinklers furthest from the water supply, the pressure would have slowed to a dribble.
Mr Davis says he understands that other jails have the same system and wants Department of Corrections consultants to consider addressing the problem in other high-risk prisons.
The Public Service Association, which represents a third of prison officers, says an urgent audit is needed at all prisons.
National secretary Richard Wagstaff says it is remarkable the possibility of a fire happening in more than one room at a time in a prison was not considered.