Tag Archives: FIA

New date announced for free-to-attend BSIA/FIA-supported cyber security seminar

A free-to-attend, half-day seminar which aims to help security buyers and installers alike to navigate the complex world of cyber security is being held in Solihull on Thursday 2 November.

Organised by the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) and supported by the Fire Industry Association (FIA), the event will include presentations from a wide range of cyber security experts, with a particular focus on the potential vulnerabilities of ‘connected products’ – meaning any security product that can be accessed or operated remotely via the Internet (eg intruder alarms, video surveillance systems and access control solutions) – and how these vulnerabilities can be combated.

Delegates will be informed about the potential cyber risks facing their business, with presentations from the West Midlands Police’s digital cyber crime team and the Scottish Business Resilience Centre’s team of ‘ethical hackers’.

BSIACyberSecurity

Attendees will also find out how the BSIA’s ongoing work in the field of cyber security is helping the security industry to protect itself and its customers.

Finally, delegates will benefit from a summary of the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation, which is set to come into force in May 2018.

The seminar is open to security and fire solutions buyers and installers, or indeed anybody from either industry with an interest in improving their business’ cyber security and data protection policies.

Registration for the event will be open from 9.00 am, with presentations starting at 9.45 am and the event expected to finish at around 1.30 pm.

*A full programme and online booking forms for both delegates and exhibitors are available from the BSIA’s website

Leave a comment

Filed under Risk UK News

Free seminar set to help buyers and installers improve cyber security

Helping security buyers and installers to navigate the complex world of cyber security is the aim of a forthcoming event organised by the British Security Industry Association (BSIA). Supported by the Fire Industry Association (FIA), the event takes place in Solihull on Wednesday 4 October.

This free-to-attend, half-day gathering will include presentations from a wide range of cyber security experts and offer a particular focus on the potential vulnerabilities of ‘connected products’ – meaning any security product (ie intruder alarms, video surveillance systems and access control) that could be accessed or operated remotely via the Internet – and how these vulnerabilities can be combated.

Delegates will be informed about the potential cyber risks facing their business, with presentations from the West Midlands Police digital cyber crime team and an engaging and surprising demonstration from the Scottish Business Resilience Centre’s team of ‘ethical hackers’.

Attendees will also find out how they can combat the cyber threats they face, with presentations outlining the benefits of the Government’s Cyber Essentials accreditation and introducing the BSIA’s ongoing work in the field of cyber security.

BSIACyberSecurity

Finally, delegates will benefit from a summary of the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is set to come into force in early 2018.

The event is open to security and fire solutions buyers and installers, or indeed anybody from either industry with an interest in improving their business’ cyber security and data protection policies.

Registration for the event will be open from 9.00 am, with presentations kicking off at 9.45 am and the event expected to finish at around 1.30 pm. A full programme and online booking forms for both delegates and exhibitors are available on the BSIA’s website at: https://www.bsia.co.uk/events.aspx

Leave a comment

Filed under Risk UK News

What does the future hold for Fire and Rescue Services?

Everyone engaged in the Fire and Rescue sector will be acutely aware that fundamental changes are already taking place to the UK’s Fire and Rescue Services, prompted largely by the need to deliver a more cost-effective service, reports the Fire Industry Association.

What’s clear is that the Fire and Rescue Services’ collective mode of operation will be very different in just a few years’ time than it is now, and that several key strands of this evolution will be determined by a co-operative partnership between the Fire and Rescue Services and the suppliers to the sector.

Following the publication of Sir Ken Knight’s ‘Facing The Future’ report in 2013, which highlighted a number of options for change, central Government has made clear its support for some strands of the thesis detailed including collaborative procurement, infrastructure sharing, mergers and a greater proportion of on-call fire fighters.

Material support has come from Government in the form of a £75 million ‘transformation fund’ that has been apportioned towards 37 efficiency-generating projects and, within this, £5.5 million to help fund the forthcoming merger of the Wiltshire and Dorset Fire and Rescue Services.

What has been apparent for some time, however, is that change is to be sector-driven and delivered and that this truism will require fire-fighting equipment suppliers to be fully engaged in relevant aspects of the evolution.

Sir Ken Knight

Sir Ken Knight

A Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) and FIRESA Council earlier this year has proven timely. Among the commitments that have already been realised was the convening of a joint seminar that has provided an indispensable focal point for the collaboration of fire and rescue practitioners with their product and service providers.

Taking place at the Fire Service College on 2 December, the seminar allowed delegates to enjoy an informative and thought-provoking agenda that brought the salient issues into focus and will empower both Fire and Rescue Service personnel and industry suppliers to be active participants in the future of our Fire and Rescue Services.

Chaired by CFOA president Peter Dartford, the programme began with a welcome from the host, Fire Service College CEO Jez Smith, who set the background for the day, duly noting the need for avoidance of duplication among the Fire and Rescue Services and the creation of economies of scale wherever possible.

The Fire Service College itself has a vital role to play in partnership with other stakeholders, and Smith called for bold leadership within the Fire and Rescue Services that will challenge existing disparate practices.

New ways of thinking and resourcing

Fire Minister Penny Mordaunt provided the Keynote Address, welcoming the CFOA/FIRESA Council Memorandum of Understanding before stating that the public sector has to exist within its means and that there must be new ways of thinking and resourcing.

Mordaunt is adamant that the need for change is overwhelming and that the pace of change must gather momentum and address issues such as product standardisation, collaborative procurement and equipment testing through the CFOA/FIRESA Council axis.

Penny Mordaunt MP

Penny Mordaunt MP

The MP also touched on Fire and Rescue Service personnel issues such as on-call fire-fighters and volunteers, and also looked to the fire protection industry to continue driving down the number of unwanted automatic fire alarm signals.

CFOA vice-president Paul Hancock encapsulated the theme of the day in his presentation entitled ‘The Importance of Working Together’, voicing strong support not just for Fire and Rescue Service collaboration but also for ‘Blue Light’ cross fertilisation (which we know to be a longer term vision of the present coalition Government).

Hancock suggested that, with less than half of the austerity measures currently implemented, the way ahead will require close working partnerships that promote a clear vision with or without direct Government involvement.

CFOA Board member Ann Millington offered a strident and entertaining view on procurement in the future, conceding that the Fire and Rescue Services need to be better clients and grasp opportunities to work together. The Fire and Rescue Services, said Millington, must achieve reward for collaboration rather than for separatism.

Importantly, Millington welcomed the creation of a ‘national back office’ that presently enjoys representation from 30 Fire and Rescue Services.

Ann Millington is firmly behind product standardisation, greater visibility of equipment innovation requirements and a whole new approach to procurement that begins with agreed specifications and proceeds towards tender with sufficiently flexible contracts via a lead authority for each product type.

In Anne’s words, repetition of these processes over 46 Fire and Rescue Services is immoral. Indeed, Millington was especially scathing of the ever-growing number of contract providers and the duplicate frameworks that emerge which are so costly and time-consuming for suppliers to address.

Creation and development of strategic partnerships

Pivotal to the proceedings was the presentation from the suppliers’ perspective given by FIRESA Council’s chairman Derek Gotts and vice-chairman Ian Callaghan. Following an introduction to the composition and work of Council, Gotts noted its primary objectives which focus on strategic partnerships with CFOA and the Fire and Rescue Services, the Fire Sector Federation, the Fire Service College, central and local Government in addition to a range of event organisers.

Gotts then moved on to the suppliers’ experience of the market over the last ten years which has seen the ultimately failing National Procurement Strategy (introduced by the then ODPM in 2005), through the austerity measures since 2010 and via Sir Ken Knight’s report to the present time of tangible moves to make substantive changes that must preserve Fire and Rescue Service capabilities with less financial resource in play.

The National Procurement Strategy brought uncertainty and a hiatus in orders and, contrary to its intentions, led to a market that sees a growing profusion of frameworks and tenders, mini competitions and framework call-offs that are as onerous as new tenders. What remains is a disjointed approach comprising elements of regional and local procurement. There’s clear evidence of duplication in many aspects of the Fire and Rescue Service/supplier interface and unnecessary waste in terms of both personnel and financial resource that must be rectified.

Graham Ellicott: CEO at the Fire Industry Association

Graham Ellicott: CEO at the Fire Industry Association

Ian Callaghan went on to detail the FIRESA Council/CFOA Memorandum of Understanding and some specific issues that Council wishes to address, among them support for product innovation, collaborative procurement (including visibility of medium-to-long term requirements), equipment specification and standardisation and remaining influential in coalition and opposition fire safety policy stretching to proposals for joint ‘Blue Light’ operations.

In particular, Callaghan emphasised the equipment evaluation scheme which seeks to eliminate what is a frankly ludicrous situation, and a prime example of duplication whereby each Fire and Rescue Service carries out its own independent assessments. Backed by output-based national specifications, suppliers envisage an open and transparent model that’s divorced from any specific procurement processes and, importantly, is dynamic, in turn enabling modified and new equipment to be evaluated as required.

Perhaps headed by a Technical Committee and with work carried out by product type by appropriate lead organisations, the aim is to establish a library of rigorous test reports that, rather than promoting a ‘winner takes all’ link to procurement, enables each Fire and Rescue Service to reach its own judgement on its preferred product from a technical and users’ standpoint.

Perspective from local Government

An Open Forum following the morning session proved lively and impassioned. While it’s not possible to recount the discussions in detail here, what became evident to all in attendance is that if, being in the real world, there will be significant challenges in getting to that better place we anticipate, there’s both the will and the vision to lead us there.

The agenda for the afternoon began with Councillor Mark Healey of the LGA Fire Services Management Committee offering a local Government perspective and a fascinating view on the realities of what the Authorities have to do in response to funding cuts. He suggested that a lack of central Government direction has created a policy vacuum that’s being filled with individual solutions.

Healey’s Devon and Somerset Fire Authority enjoys a good relationship with its Fire and Rescue Service and has already made a number of changes, including moving towards more on-call fire fighters, investing in light rescue pumps and, following the merger, making long term revenue-generating use of its unoccupied sites.

Given the likelihood of further Fire and Rescue Service mergers in the future, the address from ACO Robert Scott of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service proved an invaluable insight into the amalgamation of the previously separate services north of the border.

While its capital budget has grown from £15 million to over £22 million (although VAT can no longer be reclaimed), there were significant criteria attached to the merger including no front line redundancies or station closures, no alterations to personnel Terms and Conditions and no carry-over of financial reserves.

Scott was able to report, however, that many duplications have been eliminated and that the combined Fire and Rescue Service is proceeding with future business planning and restructuring that will achieve further efficiencies. His message to the audience was that, while the positions of the English and Welsh Fire and Rescue Services were their own to evaluate and respond to as they see fit, they would do well to shape their own futures before Government imposes its will upon them.

David Matthews, a renowned expert in the field of global standards in fire and rescue, offered an appraisal of the current position and called vehemently for greater Fire and Rescue Service involvement in the various Standards Committees.

The formal programme was completed by CFO Paul Fuller who spoke of the work of the Fire Sector Federation (which is achieving notable outputs through its various work streams).

Leave a comment

Filed under Risk UK News

BAFE supports Scottish Fire and Rescue Service research on causes of false fire alarms

A multi-agency partnership is set to study the causes of false alarms from fire alarm systems in buildings and their frequency of occurrence which will result in proposed solutions being developed to prevent recurrences in the future.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is teaming up with partners from the Association of British Insurers (ABI), British Approvals for Fire Equipment (BAFE), the Building Research Establishment (BRE), the CBRE Group, CS Todd & Associates, the Fire Industry Association (FIA) and Glasgow City Council to undertake this groundbreaking research.

Due to the universal nature of fire alarm systems, the outcomes of this work will have the potential to impact within the UK and across Europe, including the possibility of influencing future standards and Codes of Practice in respect of automatic fire alarm systems.

Fire-fighters throughout the UK are frequently called to attend incidents resulting from false alarms generated by fire detection and suppression systems usually installed within commercial premises and often monitored remotely. The cost of these unwanted false alarm signals to both businesses and Fire and Rescue Services is estimated to be around £1 billion per annum.

Assistant Chief Officer (ACO) Lewis Ramsay, director of prevention and protection at the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Unwanted false alarm signals are a significant issue for Fire and Rescue Services so it’s important we join with our partners to see them reduced. The scale of the problem is clear. Over the past three years Scotland’s fire-fighters have been called to in excess of 100,000 such incidents, which equates to over 40% of all the incidents we attend. Not only is there a substantial financial cost attached to this but attending needless incidents also means fire-fighters and resources are taken away from their communities.”

Ramsay outlined: “In a real emergency every second counts. The time taken for fire-fighters to travel to a house fire, a road traffic collision or any other incident can be absolutely crucial when it comes to saving the lives of people in danger. By working together with our partners we can gather information on the common causes of false alarms and identify approaches to reduce the number that occur.”

Each unwanted false alarm signal costs businesses around £2,900 with an estimated £300 burden also falling on the Fire and Rescue Service.

A multi-agency partnership is to study the causes of false alarms from fire alarm systems in buildings and their frequency of occurrence

A multi-agency partnership is to study the causes of false alarms from fire alarm systems in buildings and their frequency of occurrence

Benefits of automatic fire alarm systems

As well as researching false alarms, the project will also promote the benefits of having automatic fire alarm systems installed in buildings. This will be done by studying fires where systems have detected them and raised the alarm. Such occurrences will be used to highlight the benefits of automatic fire alarm systems in alerting people to safely evacuate buildings and summoning assistance from the Fire and Rescue Service such that fires can be tackled in their early stages, thereby reducing the damage caused.

The project will involve two Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Watch Managers seconded from Glasgow’s group of Fire Safety Enforcement Officers who will work alongside a fire alarm industry expert to gather live intelligence on incidents that involve the actuation of fire alarm systems. In this regard the project is unique, as previous studies have involved the use of historical data.

Glasgow was chosen as the focus area for the project as the city is considered to be geographically suitable and has a sufficient number of incidents to enable data to be captured relatively quickly.

ACO Ramsay continued: “This is a joint project overseen by an executive sub-group of the Business Engagement Forum, bringing us together with Glasgow City Council and other partners including representatives from the insurance and fire protection industries. Our designated officers and the researcher will attend incidents in the city to gather data and gain an accurate understanding of false alarm causes which is crucial for developing effective strategies to prevent recurrences. Where appropriate, the team will also attend incidents where fire alarms have detected an actual fire. This will enhance the understanding of potential consequences had the alarm system not been in place, in turn demonstrating where such systems do provide value.”

When the team has completed its research a formal report will be produced by the Business Engagement Forum sub-group. It’s expected to include recommendations useful to businesses, the fire protection industry, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and other Fire and Rescue Services as they develop practical measures to reduce the problem caused by unwanted false alarm signals.

ACO Ramsay added: “The project involves the same partnership that helped develop the new Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Unwanted False Alarm Signals Policy which will replace the eight different policies used by the antecedent services. Under this single nationwide approach, fire-fighters across Scotland will engage with duty holders and advocate a multi-stage action plan in response to the actuation of a fire alarm system.”

The cost of unwanted false fire alarm signals to both businesses and Fire and Rescue Services is estimated to be around £1 billion per year

The cost of unwanted false fire alarm signals to both businesses and Fire and Rescue Services is estimated to be around £1 billion per year

Ramsay asserted: “Cutting the number of unwanted false alarm signal incidents will reduce financial costs to ourselves and businesses, and also cut the demand placed on a community’s fire and rescue resources. One clear and immediate benefit will be to reduce the number of times our appliances have to travel under blue lights, which will lower the risk to our crews and other road users. We want to build on this work, and the research project will help Fire and Rescue Services and businesses to tackle the issue.”

Main objectives to be addressed

There’s no fixed timescale for the research to be completed, although it’s anticipated that the project may take around a year to produce a report.

The main objectives are:
• The collation of comprehensive data in relation to unwanted false alarm signal incidents
• Identification of the common causes of unwanted false alarm signal incidents, including appropriate classification
• Improved engagement between the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, the fire industry and businesses in relation to unwanted false alarm signal incidents
• A reduction in the volume of unwanted false alarm signal incidents within the Glasgow city area
• Provision of intelligence to help reduce the volume of unwanted false alarm signal incidents across Scotland

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Unwanted Fire Alarm Signal Policy ‘go live’ date was 1 December 2014. It replaces existing policies which varied between the eight Fire and Rescue Services that operated in Scotland prior to April 2013.

A previous study undertaken by the BRE entitled: ‘The Causes of False Fire Alarms in Buildings’ is available at: http://www.bre.co.uk/podpage.jsp?id=1752

Leave a comment

Filed under Risk UK News

FIA calls for additional fire protection in key-critical community buildings

Isn’t it high time that all businesses were required to carry fire insurance on their buildings? Fire Industry Association (FIA) CEO Graham Ellicott reviews this key issue and explains why the FIA believes designers and building owners should consider the use of additional fire protection in buildings that are critical to local communities.

At a fire seminar that I recently attended, a risk manager from an insurer commented that fire losses continue to increase with those from larger fires leading the way. Currently, these losses stand at approximately £4 million per day. The risk manager went on to state that insurers are now dealing more with buildings on fire rather than fires in buildings.

The rationale of the UK Building Regulations is that ‘in an emergency, the occupants of any part of a building should be able to escape safely without any external assistance’ (Approved Document B to the Building Regulations). However, in many cases the designers of buildings/structures or the owners of an existing building may want to go further and increase the level of fire protection installed in the building so as to give the fire services more time to extinguish any fire that might occur. This could lead to a reduction in the amount of damage caused and, in turn, influence the subsequent insurance claim.

Added fire protection will provide extra comfort for insurers and also fire-fighters who may have to enter a fire-ravaged building after the occupants have escaped. Surely, in buildings that are critical to the community such increases in the amount of fire protection are to be applauded as nobody wants to see a school destroyed or a hospital badly damaged, do they?

Increased levels of fire protection in buildings don’t all have to be red, unwieldy and ugly on the eye. For example, many building users are concerned about excessive use of wiring for alarm systems and unseemly trunking and conduit. They’ve no need to be. Those days are gone as wireless systems with stylish multi-detectors that are easily hidden may be quickly and economically installed.

Graham Ellicott: CEO of the Fire Industry Association

Graham Ellicott: CEO of the Fire Industry Association

Indeed, it’s not just fire detection systems that may be sympathetically incorporated within any design. In general, most modern fire protection products (for example recessed sprinkler heads, flush control panels, bendable fire-resistant partitions and concealed door closers) are designed to blend in with the background.

Fire insurance on buildings

This is all good and sound advice, but isn’t it time all businesses were required to carry fire insurance on their buildings? Even very small companies are required to hold Employers Liability Insurance, so why no requirement for even a basic level of fire insurance, particularly so when many businesses experiencing a major fire cease to trade within a year of its occurrence? Too many buildings key-critical to communities, such as local Government buildings, carry no fire insurance at all.

While it’s all very well specifying an increased level of fire protection for a building, it’s equally necessary to ensure those protection systems are properly installed and maintained. At the end of the relevant phase of construction, the fire protection installer will issue a Certificate of Conformity which will claim that the product has been installed in accordance with the terms of the contract. What does the Certificate of Conformity mean? Is it really worth the paper it’s written upon?

From the FIA’s point of view, the Certificate of Conformity’s worth is greatly enhanced if it’s issued under the auspices of a third party certification scheme. Such schemes mean that competent operatives have correctly installed the specified products and that independent inspectors have randomly inspected the work.

Another good reason to make sure that the fire protection systems in buildings are properly installed and maintained is the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. This states that an organisation will be guilty of the offence of corporate manslaughter if the way in which its activities are managed or organised causes a person’s death and amounts to a “gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased”. An organisation that’s found guilty of corporate manslaughter will be liable for an unlimited fine.

Importantly, the Act also allows the court to call for a publicity order that requires the offending organisation to publicise details of its conviction.

The FIA believes that designers and building owners should consider the use of more fire protection in buildings that are critical to the community, such as public buildings including schools, hospitals and community centres. The value to the country of keeping these buildings operational far outweighs the small additional cost of an extra level of fire protection.

Not just a ‘nice to have’ exercise

Extra fire protection is not just a ‘nice to have’ exercise. It could mean the difference between a community-critical building either surviving or not in the event of a blaze. Third party certification breeds good practice and means worthwhile Certificates of Conformity are issued. This will give confidence to the specifier, client and the enforcer that the job has been carried out to the highest standard.

Should a disaster occur, lawyers will come looking for the person with the biggest pockets. It’s highly likely that the use of a third party certificated company would be seen as the basis for a sound defence in the event of a lawsuit concerning the performance of fire protection systems.

In the worse case scenario wherein somebody is killed in a fire, the possibility of a breach of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act becomes real and, again, the use of a third party certificated company could be highly beneficial to the accused organisation defending such an action.

Leave a comment

Filed under Risk UK News

‘Fire risk management systems should be formalised’ urges FIA’s Fire Risk Assessment Council

In the wake of prominent multi-fatality fires, organisations have spent considerable sums of money on fire safety but not necessarily achieved an improved level of fire safety assurance. Having spent a number of years undertaking fire risk assessments on the same portfolio of buildings, Ben Bradford states that it’s noticeable some organisations are beginning to wonder if the current practice is sustainable.

It has been almost nine years since the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 prompted many organisations to undertake fire risk assessments within the premises under their control. Several have spent significant financial resources on consultant fire risk assessors (a person who carries out and documents the significant findings of a fire risk assessment) only to discover that, although the advice they received may have been offered with the best of intentions, it was not wholly appropriate. Indeed, it may also have differed from the advice of a ‘competent’ fire risk assessor.

At the same time, the fire industry has itself spent a considerable amount of time in the last few years deciding how to define a ‘suitable and sufficient’ fire risk assessment and also how to tackle the ‘cowboy’ market. It would appear that, at long last, there’s now at least a ‘defined’ competency criterion for fire risk assessors and guidance for those charged with delivering fire risk assessment programmes on how to seek the services of a competent fire risk assessor.

Following a recent enforcement review around the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which was undertaken by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills, the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) is now committed to promoting the use – and acceptance – of recognised professional certification and accreditation for commercial fire risk assessors.

Fire risk management is evolving both as a discipline and a practice

Fire risk management is evolving both as a discipline and a practice

Fire risk assessments are the very cornerstone of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, yet the value of such an assessment – even when conducted by a competent fire risk assessor – is largely dependent on the organisation’s ability to manage the outcomes.

A fire risk assessment is a means to an end but not the end in itself. When reviewing the high profile prosecutions that have hit the headlines over the past few years, one quickly realises that failure to undertake a ‘suitable and sufficient’ fire risk assessment (under Article 9) is not the only compliance obligation imposed by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. There are numerous other duties by which the responsible person is bound.

Cost of fire at an all-time high

Enter the concept of ‘fire risk management’. With very few fire fatalities arising in commercial premises, fire risk management is not just about life safety or the risk of injury or death in the event of fire occurrence. Rather, it encapsulates life safety, property protection, mission continuity and sustainability in the face of fire.

In today’s global and interconnected marketplace, issues such as Corporate Social Responsibility and reputational risk are extremely prominent. News headlines travel fast via both traditional and new media forms. The cost of fire is at an all-time high and, in these tough economic times, organisations need to be frugal with finite financial resources. In essence, they require to build resilience and ensure that fire risk assessment programmes deliver the intended outcomes.

Many organisations have a policy in place setting out an overarching statement of intent (signed by the CEO) and firmly establishing the ‘What’ and ‘Why’. Less common, yet essential, is the Fire Risk Management Strategy – a document which defines an organisation’s fire risk management system and method of implementing the overarching policy, and which firmly establishes the details of ‘How’, ‘When’ and ‘Who’.

These two pieces of documentation form the backbone of an organisation’s fire risk management system (a set of interrelated or interacting elements within an organisation designed to establish policies, objectives and processes to achieve those objectives and manage fire risk) and are generally underpinned by operational procedures.

The practice of fire risk management within our built environment is a much broader discipline than many give it credit for. It’s often delegated to the Health and Safety manager or the security manager within an organisation and, while I’m not suggesting that all companies should have a dedicated fire specialist responsible for fire risk management, they must acknowledge that fire safety is not just a sub-discipline of Health and Safety.

With very few fire fatalities arising in commercial premises, fire risk management is not just about life safety or the risk of injury or death in the event of fire occurrence. It encapsulates life safety, property protection, mission continuity and sustainability in the face of fire

With very few fire fatalities arising in commercial premises, fire risk management is not just about life safety or the risk of injury or death in the event of fire occurrence. It encapsulates life safety, property protection, mission continuity and sustainability in the face of fire

Fire risk management is a discipline in its own right with its own set of competencies. It does not always sit neatly in the Health and Safety Department due to the need for interaction with property, estates or facilities management functions. The old adage about ‘Jack of all trades’ most certainly applies. Too many fire safety manager roles are advertised with the essential qualifications stated as a NEBOSH Diploma, which merely emphasises the confusion often found in organisations regarding the scope of the Health and Safety manager’s role.

When undertaking fire risk management system audits, my experience is that those organisations recognising fire risk management as a discipline in its own right – regardless of which department the function sits – are in a far better position to maintain governance over organisational fire risk than those that do not.

Competency criteria to be considered

The Fire Sector Federation has recognised that, having established the Competency Council and published the competency criteria for fire risk assessors, the next logical step is to consider the competency criteria for those actively engaged in fire risk management.

Following an initial meeting of key stakeholders, organised jointly between the Fire Sector Federation and the Fire Industry Association, there’s now a proposal afoot to reform the Competency Council and really tackle this issue.

Some organisations have formalised their fire safety policy, strategy and procedures and are now in the process of gaining fire risk management system certification via a third party certification body. Those organisations that already hold certification of their Health and Safety management system to OHSAS 18001 or business continuity management system to ISO 22301 are well placed to integrate their management systems and streamline the internal or external audit process.

Fire risk management system certification via a UKAS-accredited third party certification body will provide a means to reduce the burden on enforcing authorities and significantly support the Primary Authority (or Fire Authority) partnership schemes.

Fire risk management is evolving (both as a discipline and a practice) as an integrated or holistic approach to understanding and managing the risks posed by the threat of fire which enables an organisation to optimise its underlying processes and achieve more efficient results.

Those responsible for fire safety in organisations would do well to consider formalising their fire risk management system, and not focus solely on the process of documenting fire risk assessments.

Ben Bradford BSc MSc MBA CEng FCIBSE FRICS FIFireE is a member of the FIA’s Fire Risk Assessment Council and the founder/managing director of BB7

Leave a comment

Filed under Risk UK News

Home Secretary announces intention to merge blue light services

The need for further public sector spending cuts by the Government will mean integrating the police, fire and ambulance services such that the ‘still large fiscal deficit’ can be reduced, Home Secretary Theresa May has announced.

In a speech made at Think Tank Reform on 3 September, the Home Secretary stated: “With a still large deficit and a record stock of debt, there will need to be further spending cuts. In the policing landscape of the future, I believe we will need to work towards the integration of the three emergency services.”

May said that the next and “even tougher” challenge is “how we can reduce demand for public services through smarter policy. The need to go on reforming will not end with this Parliament.”

It’s thought that while front line services may not change, there could be ways in which to share back office functions and be located on the same site.

Some localities have already started to merge services. Theresa May referred to Northamptonshire, where Police and Crime Commissioner Adam Simmonds has launched joint operations planning teams involving both the police and fire services. Indeed, Simmonds has been a great supporter of integration and has spoken about the future possibility of sending just one emergency vehicle to the scene of an accident which would be equipped to deal with a variety of situations.

Earlier this year, (then) fire minister Brandon Lewis outlined some examples of where plans to share blue light services have been put in place in order to save money. These included a predicted saving of £4 million in Hampshire where the police service, fire service and Hampshire County Council are sharing offices and a potential £3.5 million saving in Merseyside, where the fire and police services are planning to share a Control Room.

Home Secretary Theresa May MP

Home Secretary Theresa May MP

Cautious but firm approach needed

In an editorial following the Home Secretary’s announcement, The Guardian reported: “Although there are many successful examples of local collaboration – fire officers administering emergency First Aid, or police travelling in the same vehicle as firemen – the prospect of real integration sheds a cold light on existing management structures. The ambulance service has been (painfully) consolidated into ten regional trusts which would not lightly be levered out of the NHS in the name of integration. However, there are still 43 resolutely unconsolidated police services and 46 fire and rescue services, with 46 different governance, organisational and operational structures. While deaths from fire in the home are, happily, at a record low, the number of fire-fighters and the cost of running the fire service remains the same.”

Graham Ellicott, CEO of the Fire Industry Association (FIA), commented: “Any integration or consolidation of the blue light services will undoubtedly be difficult and a cautious but firm approach will likely be needed. However, before any approach is attempted the FIA believes that it would be prudent to try and bring more consistency to the operation of English Fire and Rescue Services.”

Graham Ellicott: CEO at the FIA

Graham Ellicott: CEO at the FIA

Elaborating on this last point, Ellicott explained: “For example, each of the 46 services operates a different attendance policy when it comes to automatic fire alarm systems. Surely in the 21st Century there could be more consistency brought to this situation, particularly so given that Primary Authority Schemes have now been extended to fire. Such schemes offer assured advice from one Fire and Rescue Authority to a business that operates across more than one local authority area.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Risk UK News