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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

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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.

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‘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

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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.”

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Independent review on firefighters’ conditions of service opened by the Government

Fire minister Penny Mordaunt has launched an independent review to ensure that firefighters’ conditions of service support their front line work of preventing fire and protecting the public.

The review will be led by Adrian Thomas, an expert in the field of personnel management and staff resourcing. Thomas will now consult extensively with fire and rescue authorities, firefighters and representative bodies and report back in February 2015.

A report written by former fire chief Sir Ken Knight – entitled: ‘Facing the Future’ and published last year – outlined how improvements could be made to front line services if firefighters’ conditions of service were reviewed.

This review will consider whether the current Terms and Conditions are conducive to building the fire and rescue service of the future and look at national arrangements for agreeing conditions around:

*management practices and crewing arrangements
*collaboration and integration with other emergency services
*the use of on call firefighters
*clarity of process in the fair recruitment and remuneration of chief fire officers and fire officers

Penny Mordaunt MP

Penny Mordaunt MP

Official national statistics show that fire deaths in England have continued to fall, with 5% fewer deaths than last year continuing a trend that has witnessed a near 40% drop since 2004.

The figures also show that, last year, fire and rescue services attended 170,000 fires – the second lowest number of fire incidents ever recorded.

Launching the review, Penny Mordaunt MP commented: “Firefighters put their lives on the line every day and deserve a workplace that’s fully focused on fire prevention and protection. We have a responsibility to each and every firefighter to make sure their conditions of service, some of which are decades old, fully support the challenges modern firefighters face every day.”

Mordaunt added: “This review will involve a massive piece of evidence gathering, in particular from firefighters themselves as they have the expertise and ideas to take the service forward. I hope as many firefighters as possible will contribute. The process will give fire chiefs an up-to-date assessment of the workplace around which they can then implement lasting improvements so that firefighters may continue to serve the needs of their communities to the best of their abilities for years to come.”

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Guidance documents issued to assist fire risk assessor selection procedures

The task of selecting a competent fire risk assessor has been made easier thanks to the publication of two key guidance documents, as the FIA’s general manager Martin Duggan reports.

The Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council is a work stream that operates within the wider Fire Sector Federation. The Council has now published a set of criteria against which the competency of those undertaking fire risk assessments can be judged.

There’s no legislative requirement for the fire risk assessment procedure to be carried out by a competent person. This is to avoid an implication that, under the legislation, every duty holder needs to employ the services of a fire safety specialist (such as a consultant) to carry out their fire risk assessment.

However, for many premises the duty holder seeks the services of an external consultant (‘a fire risk assessor’). In the case of larger, more complex or high risk premises, this is often appropriate as the task might well be beyond the abilities of the duty holder.

Some members of the business community feel that it would be helpful to be able to access information on fire risk assessors with an appropriate level of competency to help them comply with the legislation. There has been growing concern regarding the competence of those who provide fire risk assessments on a commercial basis (ie for a fee).

Data from the English Fire and Rescue Services suggests that the main compliance failure leading to enforcement action is a failure by duty holders to carry out a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment. This is coupled with the emergence of inadequate fire risk assessments for premises that have suffered multiple fatality fires.

The Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council has published a set of criteria against which the competency of those undertaking fire risk assessments can be judged

The Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council has published a set of criteria against which the competency of those undertaking fire risk assessments can be judged

As a result of these concerns, the Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council (which is made up of a broad range of relevant fire sector stakeholders, including the Fire Industry Association) emerged with the encouragement of Government. Its objective has been to establish agreed, industry-wide criteria against which the competence of a fire risk assessor may be judged. It’s anticipated that these criteria will be used by professional bodies and third party certification bodies who register or certificate fire risk assessors, and also by commercial companies providing fire risk assessment services. The ‘competency criteria’ was published in December 2011.

In February last year, the Competency Council published ‘A Guide to Choosing a Competent Fire Risk Assessor’. This document is provided to help those with this responsibility decide who should carry out a fire risk assessment so that the premises comply with the applicable fire safety legislation.

Appointing a specialist

No matter who carries out the fire risk assessment, the duty holder retains the responsibility for ensuring the adequacy of that assessment. If you’re employing a specialist to undertake your fire risk assessment, while you are not expected to be an expert in fire safety you should make reasonable checks to ensure that they’re competent to do the job properly.

It’s important that the person who carries out the fire risk assessment is competent. There are two principal methods by which people can demonstrate their competence:
• Professional body registration schemes
• Certification by a certification body that is UKAS accredited for the activity

It’s also important that the company for whom the fire risk assessor works has adequate management systems in place, even if the fire risk assessor is self-employed. Competence of a company to deliver fire risk assessments can be demonstrated by third party certification of the company courtesy of a UKAS accredited certification body.

Martin Duggan: general manager at the FIA

Martin Duggan: general manager at the FIA

The Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council recommends the use of fire risk assessment companies (including sole traders) which are third party certificated to appropriate schemes and operated by certification bodies which have been UKAS accredited to certificate against such schemes.

With two documents already published, the work of the Competency Council may be over – or is it? The proof of competency of fire and rescue services’ inspecting officers is now being discussed. What criteria should be used to check and how will this be measured are obvious questions to pose.

Could the Competency Council rise again to help?

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Fire risk assessments in schools: could we be sleepwalking into a disaster?

Government statistics show a steady downward trend in fires in schools from approximately 1,300 incidents in 2000-2001 to 700 in 2011-2012. However, we shouldn’t become complacent – arson in schools still accounts for nearly 180 fires every year. The Fire Industry Association’s technical manager Philip Martin explains the fire risks facing modern schools and what can be done to keep these locations safe.

Schools are changing places. They’re facing budget cuts and increasing demands to accept students of all abilities. For their part, secondary schools are being pressured into concentrating more on vocational studies, which could suggest an increase in laboratory and workshop activities.

Budget cuts could result in a reduced investment in fire safety measures, just as there’s an increase in the number of vulnerable people and hazards. It’s a potentially dangerous combination.

We need to bear in mind that fire safety legislation, which requires a fire risk assessment to be carried out in all schools throughout the UK, is focused on life safety. However, the biggest concern for many school governors may be the risk of arson. The life safety fire risk assessment isn’t concerned with property protection, but any measure taken to preserve life will tend to protect property.

The Fire Risk Assessment

The first question you should consider when carrying out a fire risk assessment is: ‘How can a fire start?’ The answer naturally falls into one of two groups: accidentally or deliberately. Not all hazards can be eliminated but they can all be managed. The Government’s guidance on educational premises covers this quite thoroughly.

When considering measures to prevent arson it helps to use your imagination. Stand outside the premises when it’s locked and empty and ask yourself how you would start a fire. Remember, most arsonists come prepared with nothing more than a lighter. That bin full of paper or pile of timber against the wall will start to look very appealing.

The life safety fire risk assessment isn’t concerned with property protection but any measure taken to preserve life will tend to protect property

The life safety fire risk assessment isn’t concerned with property protection but any measure taken to preserve life will tend to protect property

We need to think about physical security and removing or securing combustibles away from the school buildings, particularly away from overhanging eaves. We then need to think about intruder alarms and CCTV, both as deterrents and response mechanisms. Finally, we need to consider fire detection and sprinklers. BB100 offers some very sound advice on these matters.

As the fire risk assessor, you will need to look at the physical fire safety measures, the hardware and the management of fire safety, the software. Oddly, the hardware is probably the easier to assess as you can see and touch it. The software can be a puzzle.

You may have detailed procedures and comprehensive records but you need to be confident that they will work if put into practice. It could be useful to ask members of staff specific questions about what they’re supposed to do and what they would actually do. Ask them direct questions about what they know in relation to fire safety and who is responsible for what on site.

Taking responsibility: who’s in control?

This raises another question: ‘Who’s in control?’ Getting everyone in academic institutions to work together can be difficult. However, to make the premises safe someone has to take control, both generally and in an emergency. Legally, the organisation has to appoint an individual or individuals to be responsible for all aspects of fire safety. If more than one person is given responsibility, they should be co-ordinated and share information between them. Everyone in the organisation must be clear about their part in maintaining fire safety.

It may seem obvious that fire protection equipment such as fire alarms, extinguishers and emergency lighting should be serviced on a regular basis. Also needing a system of inspection and maintenance are elements such as fire-resisting walls, floors (ceilings) and doors, along with fire exits, extract systems (such as cooker hoods), ducts (especially fire dampers in ducts), fire safety signs and notices, fixed electrical systems and portable appliances (to name but a few).

Much of this maintenance isn’t costly or time-consuming. A simple walk around can be sufficient for inspecting and maintaining systems, and could be combined with a check on security systems and general housekeeping. There are two key points to note. Maintenance has to be planned and it has to be recorded. A simple logbook can help. The FIA has developed a new logbook which is available from FIA member companies.

Philip Martin: technical manager at the FIA

Philip Martin: technical manager at the FIA

The management of fire safety also needs periodic review looking at various aspects such as who is responsible for the management system, staff training, procedures (and not just the emergency procedures), records of maintenance supplier contracts and, of course, the fire risk assessment itself.

Fire drills will prove that the evacuation strategy works. Government guidance recommends that such a drill is carried out at least once a year and, preferably, every term. To be effective the drill needs to be planned, people informed and the drill monitored to avoid unnecessary risks (such as accidents on stairs).

The results of a drill can give valuable information on planning, training and the effectiveness of the facilities like alarms and escape routes.

Occasionally, a full evacuation isn’t desirable for safety reasons. In this instance, some form of simulation or desk top exercise may be sufficient – but only in exceptional circumstances.

Safe escape for everyone?

Naturally, schools should be open to students of all abilities. The premises should be adapted to ensure students can get into the premises and access all its amenities.

However, everyone must be able to get out in an emergency. We need to consider people with mobility and sensory impairment as well as those with intellectual and emotional impairment and how they may respond in an emergency. Think about both the hardware and the software when you ask yourself these questions…

*Can we use lifts in an emergency?
*Do we have procedures in place?
*Do we have properly trained and equipped staff?
*Can individuals with special needs be accommodated within the general evacuation procedure or will they require a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP)?

Guided by Government, the Fire Risk Assessors Competency Council (a stakeholder group supported by the fire safety industry) drafted a set of competency criteria and signposted ways of assessing the competency of fire risk assessment organisations

Guided by Government, the Fire Risk Assessors Competency Council (a stakeholder group supported by the fire safety industry) drafted a set of competency criteria and signposted ways of assessing the competency of fire risk assessment organisations

In the past, schools used to employ simple fire alarm systems comprising a few call points and bells. False alarms were rare and the consequences minor. Now, most buildings will have an alarm system with automatic fire detectors, mostly smoke detectors that will often be monitored by operators at an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC). Smoke detectors respond equally to the smoke from fires as well as dust, steam and smoke from burning toast in the staff room, for example, which has led to more false alarms.

The FIA has a website dedicated to false alarms. Visit: http://www.fia.uk.com/en/cut-false-alarm-costs for more information.

Understanding your Fire Service

Over the last few years, the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) across England and Wales has been under severe pressure to reduce costs. Stations are being closed and the number of fire fighters reduced. Automatic calls to the FRS are frequently ‘challenged’ and, depending on where you are, an automatic signal relayed to the FRS via an ARC would be classed as ‘unconfirmed’. This may result in fewer fire fighters attending on an initial basis, with the crew arriving at normal road speed (no sirens or flashing lights) – or, in some cases, not at all.

It’s important that you find out about your local FRS’ policy. Also, give the ARC instructions to call key holders as well as the FRS. When the premises are occupied, someone should make a 999 call rather than relying on the ARC in the event of a real fire.

Most people assume the fire brigade will rescue everyone and save the building. This needs to be examined a little more closely. Legally, and morally, if we are responsible for premises and the people on/in them, that responsibility includes being able to get everyone to safety in an emergency. If fire fighters have to rescue people it indicates we have failed.

We should not have to rely on the brigade to evacuate people, and that includes those with special needs. Moreover, they – ie the brigade – will not risk fire fighters’ lives trying to save your property. This means that once a fire becomes established in a building the brigade will tend to attack the fire from outside. Sadly, this often results in the total loss of the building.

Listen to the experts

Many hold the view that, in all but the simplest of premises, a lay person – even supported by the Government guides – wouldn’t have the knowledge and skills necessary to carry out a thorough fire risk assessment. Many Boards of Governors and local authorities are so concerned about this that they only use consultants to do the work. Whether they use a staff member or employ a consultant, how do they know the assessor is competent?

Guided by Government, the Fire Risk Assessors Competency Council – a stakeholder group supported by the fire safety industry – drafted a set of competency criteria and signposted ways of assessing the competency of fire risk assessment organisations. These two documents are available on the FIA’s website at: http://www.fia.uk.com

The FIA maintains a strong position, advocating that anyone carrying out work of a specialised nature should work for an organisation which is third party accredited to a UKAS-accredited scheme such as BAFE SP205.

Could we be sleepwalking into a disaster? The answer very much depends on you. We haven’t had a fatality in a day school in many years. Let’s keep it that way.

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100 in 100 2014: creating new apprenticeships for UK security

The official launch of 100 in 100 2014 – the fourth annual drive to energise more brand new apprenticeships across the security world – took place at a special presentation held in the IFSECGlobal.com Centre Stage Theatre at IFSEC International 2014 on Wednesday 18 June.

100 in 100 aims to energise 100 or more new apprenticeships in the UK security sector within a 100-day timeline starting at IFSEC International 2014 (which ran from 17-19 June at ExCeL, London).

“Last year, the 100 in 100 campaign exceeded its target and even caught the eye of the Government with a personal letter of congratulations from Prime Minister David Cameron,” said Simon Banks, Group Managing Director at the CSL DualCom Group and the co-founder of 100 in 100.

“This publicity is crucial in order to keep employers’ minds focused on apprenticeships as a credible recruitment source. Employers must engage with apprenticeships and recognise how valuable an apprentice can be within their company in a relatively short time frame.”

Simon Banks: co-founder of 100 in 100

Simon Banks: co-founder of 100 in 100

Banks also stated: “In just three years, the right candidate can become integral to the team and a great source of fresh ideas and skills. When you also factor in the potential skills gap predicted in the UK by 2020, it really is very important for employers to act now. Put simply, there has never been a better time to hire an apprentice.”

The political will is also there to make apprenticeships work. Matthew Hancock MP – the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning – is once again supporting the 100 in 100 campaign.

New apprenticeship opportunities in the UK security sector

Supporting the 2014 campaign are CSL DualCom and Skills for Security as well as the major inspectorates – the National Security Inspectorate and the Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board.

Also backing the apprenticeships drive are the British Security Industry Association, the Fire Industry Association and the Fire Protection Association.

Matthew Hancock MP: supporting this year's apprenticeships drive in the security sector

Matthew Hancock MP: supporting this year’s apprenticeships drive in the security sector

As always, UBM Live’s Security and Fire Portfolio (with http://www.IFSECGlobal.com at its heart) is the campaign’s official media partner.

100 in 100 focuses on all types of apprenticeship, among them installation engineers, manufacturing engineers, business administration, Human Resources, marketing and PR.

Apprentices usually take around 18 months to gain Level 2 qualifications, with a further 18 months required to take the apprentice to a Level 3.

Employers embracing the opportunities on offer will be responsible for paying employment costs of at least the minimum wage (for 16-18 year-olds and 19-year-olds in the first year of their apprenticeship). Employers will also be required to provide work-based training within their companies.

Skills for Security has again committed to look after paperwork for those organisations willing to employ new apprentices, right from initial sign-up through to appointing the college or training provider.

The training and skills body will also draw down Government funding on each participating company’s behalf.

Why should your company take on apprentices?

According to the National Apprenticeship Service research undertaken in 2010, 77% of employers canvassed believe apprenticeships make them more competitive. The research also showed that 80% of employers believe apprenticeships reduce their staff turnover, while over 80% of consumers favour using those companies that take on new apprentices.

That’s why your company should take on apprentices NOW!

Richard Jenkins – CEO at the National Security Inspectorate (NSI) – commented: “It’s vital to engage with young people and encourage them to view our industry as a credible and rewarding career choice. The NSI’s mission is to raise standards in the industry and, to help achieve this, young enthusiastic talent must be nurtured in order to carry the industry forward in a professional manner. The NSI wholeheartedly supports the 100 in 100 initiative and encourages employers to seriously consider the many benefits that apprenticeships can bring to their businesses.”

Richard Jenkins: CEO at the NSI

Richard Jenkins: CEO at the NSI

Geoff Tate – Chief Executive of the Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB) – added: “We’ve supported the 100 in 100 initiative since its inception and we’re delighted that it has been so successful. To ensure that the industry continues to service the market well, we need to make certain that the skills base of those just starting to work in the security sector is as good as it possibly can be. The success of this project is testament to the enthusiasm of all those involved, and to the resilience of the sector overall.”

Geoff Tate: CEO at the SSAIB

Geoff Tate: CEO at the SSAIB

What the employers have to say

Speaking from the perspective of an employer fully committed to taking on apprentices, Anthony King – Managing Director at Kings Security – explained: “Kings Security has always believed in apprentice investment and, over the last 30 years, we have increased our intake each year. At the moment we average 50 apprentices every 12 months, and we’re proud to host an onsite Learning Centre.”

King continued: “By training an apprentice you’ll nurture an employee with the exact skill-set required by your business so the initial time spent training them pays dividends in the future. Many former apprentices now head up our teams of engineers. Kings Security is committed to continue our apprentice investment for future years.”

Kings Security's managing director Anthony King

Kings Security’s managing director Anthony King

Another keen supporter of 100 in 100 is Lucy Banham, Director at The Banham Group. “At the Banham Group, we use the apprenticeship scheme to bring into the business young individuals who are keen to learn. It’s important for any company to safeguard their future by nurturing a variety of experience and ages within their workforce.”

Importantly, Banham added: “The fact that a potential apprentice has sought out an apprenticeship with your business shows an immediate level of commitment. They are prepared to go through training and college work in order to prove to us as an employer that they really want a job at the end of the process. We also find that apprentices are good, mature candidates as they have made this important career decision so early on.”

Telephone Skills for Security’s Customer Relations Team on 01905 744000 TODAY and play your part in the UK security apprenticeships drive for 2014.

For further information visit: http://www.csldual.com/uk/news/get-apprentice-aware-in-2014.html or e-mail: TheApprentice@csldual.com

About IFSEC International 2014

IFSEC International 2014 showcased effective and efficient security solutions across a wide range of product areas, among them: Access Control, Integrated Security, Smart Buildings, Intruder Alarms, Perimeter Protection, Physical Security, Safe Cities and Video Surveillance.

IFSEC International is the largest security event to showcase a range of solutions for the entire security buying chain. Visitors are able to attend the IFSEC Academy and experience the wealth of education on offer from many industry leaders and experts in chosen disciplines.

IFSEC International 2014 is part of UBM’s Protection and Management 2014. Registration for IFSEC International is open and gives badge holders access to all the shows within Protection and Management 2014 including: FIREX International, The Facilities Show, Safety & Health Expo, Energy & Environment Expo and Service Management Expo.

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100 in 100 2013: Statistics Update 16.8.2013

The latest statistics for the 100 in 100 2103 apprenticeships drive have been communicated to campaign supporters by Skills for Security.

The 100 in 100 campaign aims to place at least 100 new apprentices across the security sector between IFSEC International 2013 (which ran at the NEC in Birmingham from 13-16 May) and the Security Excellence Awards, which take place at the London Hilton Hotel, Park Lane on Wednesday 23 October.

The campaign is orchestrated by Skills for Security and CSL DualCom with support from the British Security Industry Association, the National Security Inspectorate, the Fire Industry Association, the Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board and – in its capacity as Media Partner – UBM Live’s Security and Fire Portfolio (organiser of IFSEC International and the Security Excellence Awards).

Importantly, the campaign is fully endorsed by skills minister Matthew Hancock.

The 2013 100 in 100 campaign logo

The 2013 100 in 100 campaign logo

Last year’s campaign resulted in 320 new apprenticeships, and the aim is to beat that total in 2013.

The latest set of statistics produced by Skills for Security in relation to the current campaign are hugely encouraging. To date, 39 new apprentices have already been signed up by Skills for Security while 88 apprentices are signed up for non-Skills for Security schemes. Appointments are booked to sign up a further 26 apprentices for the systems/locksmiths apprenticeships.

At present, 120 companies have expressed an interest in recruiting 173 apprentices.

Jayne Sale – head of commercial services at Skills for Security – commented: “We will be issuing a further e-bulletin in the next couple of weeks and have sent dedicated bulletins to organisations in the South West and Essex, as well as surrounding counties, to generate interest in the new venues.”

Sale added: “In terms of the locksmiths apprenticeship, we’re starting to make progress and we;re ready to begin booking appointments to sign learners up from mid-September onwards. There’s a significant amount of interest in this apprenticeship.”

Taking on new apprentices is a great way of developing your security business. To find out more about employing an apprentice as part of the 100 in 100 campaign for 2013, call Skills for Security’s Customer Relations Team on 01905 744000

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“Support the 2013 100 in 100 campaign” urges the National Security Inspectorate

This year’s ‘100 in 100’ campaign was launched at IFSEC Internation on 15 May and has already received tremendous support. The initiative aims to place 100 new apprentices in the security sector in 100 days – the time between IFSEC International and the Security Excellence Awards in October.

Since the scheme began, the target of 100 apprenticeship placements each year has been exceeded and, last year, over 550 apprenticeships were secured – a fantastic result.

So far in 2013 a fabulous total of 88 companies have registered their interest in recruiting 121 apprentices. This is over 50% more than at the corresponding time last year – a great response from the sector.

The official 100 in 100 logo

The official 100 in 100 logo

The National Security Inspectorate (NSI) is once again encouraging all security and fire companies to consider the rewards of taking on an apprentice. Companies should bear in mind the following incentives for doing so…

• Government funding for training costs
• Additional support for SME employers in the form of grants
• More college access than ever before as well as e-learning options if you don’t have a college nearby
• Even easier administration procedures, with Skills for Security fully committed to taking care of all paperwork, right from sign up through to appointing the college or training provider
• Skills for Security is also providing qualified assessors to guide and monitor progress, and will draw on Government funding on behalf of participating companies

The initiative covers all types of apprenticeship, including installation engineers, manufacturing engineers, locksmiths, business administration, Human Resources, marketing, PR and customer services.

The National Apprenticeship Service research conducted in 2010 highlights the real value which can be derived from apprenticeships:

•“83% of employers rely on their apprenticeships programme to provide the skilled workers that they need for the future”
•“88% believe that apprenticeships lead to a more motivated and satisfied workforce”
•“77% of employers believe apprenticeships make them more competitive”

Jeff Little OBE: CEO at the National Security Inspectorate

Jeff Little OBE: CEO at the National Security Inspectorate

Jeff Little OBE, the NSI’s CEO, stated: “Yet again, the momentum which the ‘100 in 100’ campaign has generated is extraordinary and proves beyond any doubt the genuine interest and value which the industry places on apprenticeships. I would encourage all security and fire organisations to consider the significant benefits which apprentices can bring. This is a real investment in the future.”

For more information about the 100 in 100 campaign and/or employing an apprentice, please call Skills for Security on 01905 744 000 or send an e-mail to: info@skillsforsecurity.org.uk

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