2014 Euralarm Conference Report: ‘Focusing on a safer Europe for all citizens’

Euralarm held its Annual Conference on 13 May 2014 in Juan les Pins, France, with this year’s theme being ‘Safe and Secure Solutions for Smarter Cities’.

Smart Cities have become a popular topic for debate, although the focus often addresses only energy, communication and infrastructure issues. This conference sought to explore the many fire safety, security and services issues that contribute towards a safe environment for citizens in the growing urban areas of today and tomorrow.

The number of citizens living in cities around the world is expected to nearly double over the next few decades, putting increased strain on the infrastructure needed to support these rapidly growing urban areas. Besides energy, health and environmental topics, a focus on life safety is also of central importance.

A platform is needed to accompany the ‘Smart Cities Initiative’ that includes life safety requirements, regulations and the establishment of a technical infrastructure to achieve the goals set for Smart Cities.

For its part, Euralarm is the European platform designed to bridge European political goals and the possibilities offered by the security and safety worlds. Over the past years, Euralarm has broadened its scope from pure regulatory duties to lobbying in Europe and, indeed, worldwide. This has brought a more public light on Euralarm and offers possibilities to submit solutions in balance with the interests of Europe’s citizens, the European Parliament and European industry.

Euralarm’s 2014 Annual Conference aimed to line up the life safety issues related to Smart Cities, bring together and share technical knowledge, inform stakeholders about the ongoing process of European standards/regulations and, last but not least, allow interaction between professionals responsible for the life safety of citizens.

Public Emergency Alarm and Response

Enzo Peduzzi (chairman of Euralarm’s Services Section) kick-started the event by presenting a brief overview of the situation around public warning systems on a European level. A video presentation about Public Emergency & Alert Response Systems (PEARS) brought all delegates up-to-speed on the latest developments.

Enzo Peduzzi: chairman of Euralarm's Services Section

Enzo Peduzzi: chairman of Euralarm’s Services Section

Christina Párraga Niebla (co-ordinator for the Alert4All project at the German Aerospace Centre) then took the opportunity to present the PEARS-Alert4All concept. Alert4All was an EU-FP7 funded project successfully completed in December 2013 proving that a satellite-based communication system could be the basis for informing citizens via various media and mobile channels.

The Euralarm PEARS concept is perfectly complimentary to the Alert4All approach as it reaches many areas where mobile notification might be inoperative and is capable of informing a broad public in their own language. PEARS would be able to inform people by using the existing fire safety, security and voice alarm equipment installed in hundreds of thousands of buildings. Of course, it’s of major importance to have EU standards (particularly in the area of communication protocols).

Christina Párraga Niebla (co-ordinator for the Alert4All project at the German Aerospace Centre)

Christina Párraga Niebla (co-ordinator for the Alert4All project at the German Aerospace Centre)

The PEARS project has demonstrated that fire and security product can – and should – be integrated as part of PA systems. The extensive installed base could be easily upgraded to receive alert signals which might then be used to activate audible and/or visual warnings.

More sophisticated systems can convert public alert messages into intelligible voice messages or show the same message on PCs and displays. Integrating existing safety and security systems into a public alert concept could be a cost-effective and rapid alternative for reaching out to large parts of Europe’s population.

Paul Kubben (policy advisor at the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice) explained the development, implementation and roll-out of a complimentary approach in the Netherlands.

Paul Kubben (policy advisor at the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice)

Paul Kubben (policy advisor at the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice)

NL-Alert allows end users to send out a warning to mobile phones to alert people in close vicinity to an emergency situation. The nationwide launch across 25 designated safety regions took place in November 2012. The number of citizens who’d been reached come February 2013 was 1.4 million (about 9% of the population) and increased to 3.9 million citizens nine months later (about 25% of the population).

Around 92% of the population in the Netherlands owns at least one mobile phone, and more than 80% of the population is aware of NL-Alert. NL-Alert has been used 30 times since its inception, mostly for large fires but also for heavy weather warnings and bomb detonations.

Fire Safety and Security in Hotels

Dirk Gesenhues, Euralarm’s general secretary, gave a brief introduction on the topic of ‘Hotel Fire Safety and Security’ and the ongoing ‘struggle’ to provide efficient and guest-friendly solutions, most notably in larger venues.

This segment of conference proceeded with a focus on three major aspects: consumer needs, the incorporation of safety and security within hotels and similar accommodations and the introduction of an EN Directive.

ANEC president Arnold Pindar was a special keynote speaker at the event

ANEC president Arnold Pindar was a special keynote speaker at the event

ANEC president Arnold Pindar was a special keynote speaker at the event. ANEC is the European consumer voice in standardisation and serves to defend consumer interests in the process of standardisation and certification. In his keynote, Pindar referenced the European citizen as a starting point.

Most important for consumers is the assurance that they’ll be able to sleep safely in a hotel and leave the building safely and quickly in the event of an emergency. In relation to new regulations and standards, two points of interest should be taken into account: demographic changes (a large proportion of Europe’s future population will have a disability, while the number of elderly people is increasing) and the free movement of EU citizens (people are free to go wherever they want and there is no need to inform the authorities).

The facts and figures make it clear that, beyond any doubt, action is needed. In the UK, while only around 1,000 fire incidents take place yearly in hotels (and similar types of accommodation), only a minor number of hotels (<10%) are inspected on a yearly basis. There is potential for improvement. Indeed, a similar pattern is seen throughout the whole of Europe.

Based on the European administration of incidents in hotels, it’s not possible to determine the true levels of hotel fire safety. That’s why ANEC is calling for a Pan-European ‘Accident and Injury’ data system.

Another ‘missing link’ is a legal framework for consumer services safety. That’s why the ANEC also calls for an EU legislative framework on the safety of services. The ANEC proposes to introduce an EU Directive to guarantee a minimum safety level in hotels.

Marc Chenevoy, technical manager at Euralarm, explained the complex situation between hotel safety versus security. The safety and security industry offers the required solutions, but risk assessments and defining the operational criteria are of major importance to acquire the level of safety and security that must be achieved. Euralarm calls for the incorporation of electronic security into the standards underpinning a future Directive on hotel safety and security.

Marc Chenevoy: technical manager at Euralarm

Dominique Taudin, chairman of Euralarm’s Fire Section, focused his attentions on the importance of the hotel sector as a key driver behind European economics and reflected the industry viewpoint.

Arout 20 million people in Europe work in the tourism sector. More than 220,000 establishments and 13 million bed places are available in the European community. Europe needs world class tourist accommodation to keep and maintain its leadership in the sector, which accounts for 4% of total GDP.

The main target for the life safety industry is to develop a policy in which hotel guests experience a guaranteed level of security and safety as an added value and not as a limitation.

Emphasis for any Directive

Euralarm calls for world class products and systems, harmonised fire safety policies in place of regional regulations, enforcement by local authorities, fire safety management and continuous risk assessment.

A Directive would be the most effective means of ensuring an adequate level of safety in all hotels across the EU. This Directive should emphasise:

• Product/system compliance to EN standards demonstrated by third party, EU-wide approvals

• Qualified companies for installation, commissioning and maintenance complying with relevant European standards (or national standards/Codes of Practice)

• Risk assessment as a significant aspect towards maintaining safety and security (in some countries requiring third party expertise)

Smart Safety and Security in Cities

Rolf Sigg, chairman of Euralarm’s Security Section, stated: “As the world changes and technology advances, the demands for additional security and services will increase as the population increases, bringing with it additional needs. How can we integrate safety and security concepts into other Smart City approaches?”

Anton Dörig, head of corporate security at a Swiss cantonal hospital, was the first keynote speaker on this topic. He explained the major importance of procedures and conventions with authorities in charge in case of an incident. From his own experience, Dörig explained what really happens when a situation occurs (for instance, a fire in a hospital with 830 beds, 87% utilisation and 5,400 employees).

Anton Dörig: head of corporate security at a Swiss cantonal hospital

Anton Dörig: head of corporate security at a Swiss cantonal hospital

In case of an incident, a huge number of expected and unexpected internal and external stakeholders will demand attention. By default, the first responders need information. The medical staff need to know what to expect and which evacuation measures are required.

Families need to be informed. Hospital management needs to know what policy and what kinds of alternatives they have to decide on. Local residents will be concerned and the press needs to be informed. These are the most important aspects. Last but not least, there will inevitably be considerations focused on recovery.

That’s why Anton Dörig calls for a strategy based on Protect, Respond and Recover. Protect (prioritised activity and additional tasks), Respond ( continuity, reduction, interaction, damage handling) and Recover (re-establish normal operation).

Jean Felix , chairman of the co-ordination group on Smart and Sustainable Cities and Communities, offered his views around the value of standardisation and certification in planning and managing Smart Cities. He presented different regulations pending to develop Smart Cities.

Jean Felix: chairman of the co-ordination group on Smart and Sustainable Cities and Communities

Jean Felix: chairman of the co-ordination group on Smart and Sustainable Cities and Communities

CEN CENELEC ETSI proposes a generic approach:
• To consider jointly ‘Smart’ and ‘Sustainable’
• To consider smart and sustainability purposes as being defined in the future ISO TC 37101
• Not to promote rating or certification systems
• To consider communities instead of cities

In addition, a context-setting framework model for identifying investigation gaps and needs in standardisation is under construction.

Large-scale solutions like Smart Cities are only possible if all stakeholders are prepared to work together. All stakeholders must be aware of the various different approaches relating to domains, objectives, systems, infrastructures, shareholders and interested parties and scale.

Closing statements by Marc Chabaud (Euralarm president)

“As we learned today, cities – preferably called ‘communities’ – will become bigger,” explained Euralarm’s president Marc Chabaud in his closing remarks. “Where people are living and working together, the need for security and safety solutions is paramount. As the main representative of the European Life Safety and Security sector, Euralarm will take on the responsibility to develop, propose and promote frameworks by which the industry is capable of creating smart solutions for Smart Cities within economical borders. On that basis, continuous improvement of our influence in the European politics of Brussels is an important topic for Euralarm as a whole.”

Marc Chabaud (Euralarm president)

Marc Chabaud (Euralarm president)

Chabaud concluded: “As I declared during our General Assembly, it’s of major importance to create an equal playing field for life safety and security in all European countries and to accept third party approved trade rules. An equal playing field offers the possibility to develop and maintain Smart Cities throughout Europe with equal functionality, comparable quality and, first and foremost, a safer Europe for its citizens.”

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