Tag Archives: Fire and Rescue Services

Euralarm outlines content of upcoming new study on false fire alarms in Europe

Fire and Rescue Services collect facts and figures during responses to alarms from fire detection and alarm systems. Now, Euralarm has reviewed the different approaches for data collection and analysis in England, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and Austria.

A key observation is the differences noted between the examined countries. These differences hamper comparisons, although a view of the European norms would suggest the opposite. Euralarm is therefore calling for more co-operation between the stakeholders involved which would enable new insights into fire alarms in general.

Buildings are safer today because of the fire detection and alarm systems installed within. Indeed, without these systems, fires would go undetected and spread. Exit routes would be impassable due to smoke and fire, resulting in injuries and even fatalities, aside from damage caused to the building(s).

EuralarmFireAlarmReport

As is the case with any system, though, there are conditions that can lead to false alarms binding public and private resources as well as hurting the reputation of fire alarm and detection systems. False alarms can be reduced, for example, through the use of modern multi-sensor fire detectors as well as the regular application of correct maintenance requirements, making the systems reliable and dependable for building occupants.

In spite of such existing solutions, the market is lacking sufficient data that would outline the potential to reduce false alarms even more. An initial study by Euralarm in 2012 showed that data sources were missing and existing sources not comparable. Reliable details (eg data pools) on the range of false alarm difficulties and their causes are needed. At the moment, lack of such detail is hindering the development of a suitable basis upon which to define and deploy effective countermeasures.

The new study focuses on investigating data collection and analysis processes in order to achieve a better understanding of what needs to be done and, hopefully, will provide momentum for changes to be made.

Key observations

The review of the data collection process of transmitted alarms from fire detection and Alarm systems has been carried out by the Euralarm Task Group for False Alarms.

The project’s objective has been to analyse the specific methodologies by taking an empirical approach, with the aim of deriving a common understanding of the facts and figures collected during Fire and Rescue Services’ responses to fire alarms.

From the existing data pools, members of the Task Group then attempted to calculate the false alarm ratios based on four different models. In doing so, they then took the step of attempting a comparison between the investigated countries.

One of the observations of the review is that comparison of fire alarm figures in the respective countries is hampered by “missing alignment” in terms of common terminology and processes. A view towards the European norms would suggest the opposite, but the fact is that the application guidelines are national and these are the basis for any data collection. The analysed material recorded and collected by experts during responses to fire alarms is handled quite differently from country to country.

Lack of proper information leads to narrow or wrong measures being implemented, which is clearly detrimental to society and must be changed.

A fundamental understanding of fire alarms – and specifically false alarms – is a requirement for any attempts towards betterment. Since a common approach would (in principle) be possible, Euralarm proposes that the fire safety industry, Fire and Rescue Services and building owners work far more closely together on this matter.

*The full report will be published in Q4 2017

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Hochiki Europe launches fire system logbook to support customer compliance

According to Government figures, the UK’s Fire and Rescue Services have attended nearly a quarter of a million false alarm incidents throughout the last two years, with the majority caused by faulty fire system apparatus. Yet maintaining thorough records of testing and maintenance of a property’s fire safety system has been a legal obligation for domestic premises and houses with multiple occupants in England and Wales since the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 (RRFSO) was introduced. 

In response, Hochiki Europe has launched “the industry’s most comprehensive fire system logbook” for its customers. The new logbooks provide guidance in line with the UK’s most recent legislation to help those responsible for the upkeep of fire safety systems to accurately record false alarms as well as required maintenance and testing processes, in turn ensuring compliance.

The RRFSO is supported by BS 5839, a Code of Practice published by BSI which recommends any owner of a fire detection system records all system events in a suitable logbook.

The Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 is supported by BS 5839

The Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 is supported by BS 5839

Hochiki Europe’s new logbooks have been compiled by a team of BAFE consultants. The logbooks allow customers to monitor system activity, abide by UK legislation and have their records to hand in the event of a Health and Safety audit.

The A4 logbooks contain 36 pages of fire system-related forms and checklists in which end users can record false alarms, tests and maintenance work, panel access codes and battery capacity.

The new logbooks also provide written guidance for users around their responsibilities when facing false alarms, changes to the building, routine system attention, pre-alarms and recommendations on how to properly investigate fire safety systems.

Hochiki's Fire Detection and Fire Alarm System Logbook

Hochiki’s Fire Detection and Fire Alarm System Logbook

 

Paul Adams, deputy marketing manager at Hochiki Europe, said: “Understanding the history of a fire safety system and recognising patterns in its activity can be a crucial element in preventing fire incidents. As shown by the BS 5839 Code of Practice, logbooks play an important role in fire safety and are required by law. By giving our customers the option to buy logbooks directly from us at the same time as their system components, they can save time and ensure that they’re following the most up-to-date compliance practices.”

 

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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).

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Fire minister calls for smarter procurement across Fire and Rescue Services

Fire and Rescue Services across the country could save millions of pounds in taxpayers’ cash by improving the way in which they source and purchase fire-fighting equipment and clothing. That’s the verdict of the latest research published by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Research findings in the 82-page Fire and Rescue Procurement Aggregation and Collaboration document highlight examples of Fire Services buying identical kit at vastly different prices, with the report stating that, across the country, the 46 Fire and Rescue Services could save millions by streamlining processes and standardising ways in which they buy clothing and equipment.

Prices for the same kit can vary by as much as 200%. For example, a fire helmet can cost between £105 and £131 but even when the same contract is used there can still be a significant price range of 66%. A typical fire protection coat can cost anywhere between £220 and £366.

The report concludes that Fire and Rescue Authorities could achieve savings of no less than £18 million from a total spend of £127 million per annum. Indeed, those savings could be even greater if applied to all purchases made by all Fire Services. On a collective basis, the Fire and Rescue Services spend an estimated £600 million each year on buying equipment and fire engines.

Fire and Rescue Procurement Aggregation and Collaboration was funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government and jointly commissioned with the Chief Fire Officers Association through PA Consulting to identify how Fire and Rescue Services currently procure, where there are opportunities to buy more efficiently and highlight a range of strategic options on how these opportunities may be taken forward.

Penny Mordaunt MP:  Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government

Penny Mordaunt MP: Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government

Best value for taxpayers’ money

Speaking about the report, fire minister Penny Mordaunt MP said: “It cannot be right that the price of the same piece of kit or protective clothing varies so much for different Fire Services. This report clearly shows that the 46 Fire and Rescue Services must come together to maximise the buying power of the £600 million they spend and realise the best possible value for money for taxpayers.”

Mordaunt continued: “In the last decade, there has been a 46% reduction in call outs and incidents, while accidental deaths from fires in the home have reached an all-time low. However, expenditure and fire-fighter numbers have remained broadly the same. The case for change, then, is compelling. Taxpayers are right to expect the most cost-effective purchases so Fire and Rescue Authorities must seize this opportunity to make changes and drive better procurement.”

Fire and Rescue Procurement Aggregation and Collaboration recommends that Fire and Rescue Authorities seize the opportunity to deliver significant potential savings by:

*agreeing a common classification of goods and services for the 46 Fire and Rescue Authorities
*producing an index of prices paid on kit to avoid paying more for the same product
*securing internal sponsorship and partnership arrangements
*managing supplier relationships and contracts on a better basis
*developing a strategy for buying common non-fire goods and services together
*developing a national procurement pipeline plan that documents existing contract periods, future tendering exercises and large-scale procurement opportunities

The report determines it’s likely that standardisation of products will deliver even greater savings. Alongside greater volumes through collective procurement, this could add to the wider economies of scale. For example, if more Fire and Rescue Authorities bought the same vehicles then they would not only save on the vehicles themselves but also on the parts, maintenance and training.

Collaboration means the same procurement is not repeated time and time again in different services, in turn saving time as well as money. All of these findings make the case for collaborative procurement stronger than ever.

Sir Ken Knight

Sir Ken Knight

The Knight Review – Facing the Future

These findings follow last year’s report by former chief fire-fighter Sir Ken Knight which highlighted the scope for finding £200 million in savings while safeguarding emergency operations and protecting public safety.

The Knight Review revealed that huge variations exist between how the 46 different Fire and Rescue Authorities operate, with the cost per head of providing a service almost double in some areas to that of others.

Sir Ken identified that the 46 Fire and Rescue Authorities across England each had their own management structures, senior leaders and operational differences. Between 2008 and 2012, total reserves held by stand-alone Fire and Rescue Authorities increased from just over £200 million to more than £400 million. Ultimately, this highlights the potential for investing in spend-to-save type projects.

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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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